Jul 18, 2020

Axios AM

😷 Situational awareness: 19 states set new records this week for the number of coronavirus infections recorded in a single day — and 11 of those records had been set just the week before, Orion Rummler reports. See our new cartogram.

1 big thing: John Lewis "convinced you by his life"

Rep. John Lewis in 2007. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

John Lewis of Georgia, who died yesterday at 80, lived and led through America's two great leaps toward racial justice:

  • As a 23-year-old in 1963 — 57 years ago — John Lewis was already one of the civil rights movement's Big Six leaders. He spoke at that summer's March on Washington. In 1965, as he led 600 peaceful protesters across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., white state troopers attacked the marchers, turning Bloody Sunday into an emblem of segregation's senselessness.
  • Last month, there was Congressman John Lewis — the highest ranking Black official in the land, after having lived to see an African American president, Barack Obama — walking through Black Lives Matter Plaza in downtown Washington, D.C., with the city's Black mayor, Muriel Bowser.

The arc of history, embodied.

  • "He didn't convince you by his arguments. He convinced you by his life," Andrew Young, his friend, fellow Atlantan, and the former U.N. ambassador, told his hometown network, CNN.
  • "He believed what we talk about, and he lived it every day of his life," Young continued. "And he didn't have a violent streak in his body. And he was always forgiving, always loving, always understanding. And he never made you feel guilty. But he made you feel responsible."
President Obama bestows the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. Photo: Larry Downing/Reuters

John Robert Lewis died after a battle his cancer, spokeswoman Brenda Jones told his hometown paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

He was honored and respected as the conscience of the US Congress and an icon of American history, but we knew him as a loving father and brother.
He was a stalwart champion in the on-going struggle to demand respect for the dignity and worth of every human being. He dedicated his entire life to non-violent activism and was an outspoken advocate in the struggle for equal justice in America.

His legacies include the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, opened in 2016 in a rare addition to the National Mall.

  • "Starting in 1988," the museum's official history says, "bills were introduced annually ... by Rep. John Lewis to create a National African American Heritage Museum and Memorial within the Smithsonian Institution."
  • After 15 years of persistence, he won.

Just 10 days ago, Congressman Lewis posted this evocative flashback — one frame that tells so much about America, sent from the official account of a United States congressman:

Via Twitter

Go deeper: More tweets, tributes.

2. This American life ... Interviewing John Lewis

David Nather, Axios managing editor, remembers interviewing Rep. John Lewis for a CQ profile in 2002:

I was struck by something you don’t always hear in the tributes. He said he was shy as a boy, but put his inhibitions aside to join the civil rights movement — figuring that if others were putting themselves on the line, he should too.

  • He said he was still shy, but that his political life drew him out. "I think the movement liberated me," he said at the time, "and I think being in Congress liberated me more."

My thought bubble: He struck me as dignified, gentle and soft-spoken — not at all what you'd expect from the thundering presence you saw in his speeches.

  • He gave you his full, undivided attention. And when he thanked you for your time, he seemed sincere and humble about it, even though you knew how many demands he actually had on his own time.

The bottom line: There aren't a lot of genuine heroes in the crises we’re facing now. That’s probably making the grief over his passing even more intense.

  • He left some awfully big shoes to fill.

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Photo: AP

On March 7, 1965, a state trooper swings a club at John Lewis, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, to break up a civil rights voting march in Selma, Ala.

  • As the journalese put it: Lewis sustained a fractured skull.
Photo: Tami Chappell/Reuters

Hillary Clinton, then presidential candidate and U.S. senator, greets Congressman Lewis at Paschal's soul food restaurant in Atlanta on Oct. 12, 2007.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Congressman Lewis thanks anti-gun-violence supporters following a rally with fellow Democrats on the East Front steps of the House in 2017.

  • Go deeper: A timeline of the life of John Lewis.
3. John Lewis wept when he watched video of George Floyd
Rep. John Lewis looks over the section of 16th Street NW that's now Black Lives Matter Plaza. Photo: Khalid Naji-Allah/Executive Office of the Mayor, via AP

Jon Meacham — whose biography, "His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope," will be out Oct. 13 (including an afterword by Congressman Lewis) — tells me:

Our last conversation was by telephone in the days after the killing of George Floyd. We discussed how he'd wept when he watched the video from Minneapolis, and then we had a piece of historical business to conduct:
I needed his response to unfounded speculation in old FBI files about Communist Party influence in the civil rights movement — a perennial obsession of J. Edgar Hoover's. So I had to ask: Had Lewis ever flirted with Communism? "Never. Never." As he put it, he didn’t need the Communists to tell him segregation was wrong. 
He was full of hope at the end. Remember: His vision of the world was theological more than political — he was a preacher from his teen years —and redemption was forever possible if enough of us would follow the commandment to love one another as we love ourselves.

"Redeeming America" ... David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, writes in "John Lewis’s Legacy and America’s Redemption," which (remarkably) will appear in the magazine out Monday:

[T]here were times when Lewis ... might have felt the temptation at times to give up, to give way. But it was probably his most salient characteristic that he always refused despair; with open eyes, he acknowledged the darkest chapters of American history yet insisted that change was always possible.

Keep reading.

4. The big picture: It's about to get a lot worse

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

For months now, American workers, families and small businesses have been saying they can't keep up their socially distanced lives for much longer, Erica Pandey writes from New York.

  • We've now arrived at "much longer" — and the pandemic isn't going away anytime soon.
  • The relief policies and stopgap measures that we cobbled together to get us through the toughest weeks worked for a while. But they're starting to crumble just as cases are spiking in the majority of states.

Next week, the extra $600 per week in expanded unemployment benefits will expire. And there's no indication that Congress has reached a consensus on extending this assistance or providing anything in its place.

  • Nearly half of the U.S. population is still jobless, and millions will remain jobless for the foreseeable future.
  • Nearly a third of Americans missed a housing payment in July — and that was with the additional $600. Plus, most Americans have already spent the stimulus checks they received at the beginning of the pandemic.
  • "We should be very concerned about what’s going to happen in August and beyond" — starting with a spike in evictions, Mathieu Despard, who leads the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis, tells Axios.

Expect more furloughs and layoffs as more small businesses are pushed off the pandemic cliff:

  • By economists' estimates, more than 100,000 small businesses have permanently closed since the pandemic began.

Ever since schools sent kids home in March, and most summer camps didn't open, working parents have been dealing with a child care crisis:

  • They're trying to do their jobs, care for their kids and homeschool all at once — and hoping that the stress will be temporary.
  • The situation is more dire for low-income families who rely on school lunches, and for single parents who juggle work and parenting without help.

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5. Scoop: Biden's new plan to troll Trump
Via YouTube

Joe Biden's campaign bought ads in swing states tomorrow during Chris Wallace's feisty "Fox News Sunday" interview with President Trump.

  • The minute-long ad, "Tough," will air in the major markets in the six core swing states — Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida and North Carolina.
  • "I will not abandon you," Biden says in the ad. "We're all in this together. We'll fight this together. And, together, we'll emerge from this stronger than we were before we began."

Between the lines: The ad never mentions Trump's name, but the intention is a stark, dramatic contrast in approach to the virus ("Wear a mask. Wash your hands"), laced with a positive, hopeful message.

📺 In a clip from the hourlong "Fox News Sunday" interview on the steamy patio outside the Oval Office, President Trump tells Chris Wallace that Democrats "want to defund the police, and Biden wants to defund the police."

  • "Sir, he does not," Wallace counters firmly.
  • "Look, he signed a charter with Bernie Sanders ..." Trump begins.

Wallace interrupts: "It says nothing about defunding the police."

  • Trump responds: "Oh, really? It's says 'abolish.'" He slaps his knees. "Let's go! Get me the charter, please."

The clip ends there. But Wallace told Fox News' Bill Hemmer that Trump "couldn't find any indication — because there isn't any — that Joe Biden has sought to defund and abolish the police."

6. 1 pic to go
Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

In 2015, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. ... Laura Bush, Michelle Obama, President Obama, Congressman Lewis and President Bush mark the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday historical civil rights march.

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