Photo Essay: An intimate look at the 2020 Presidential election
Annie Klusendorf - Managing Photo Editor
In early February, I found myself in a high school gym in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, watching an energetic Elizabeth Warren bop around the stage in her textbook blue cardigan and black pants. She spoke of her days as a teacher, her husband Bruce and her dog Bailey, as well as her plans for the country.
The crowd, made up of mostly women and young girls, sat tightly packed together, every eye focused on the Senator. I was in Iowa for 48 hours weeks before the Democratic caucuses — and before the pandemic began. At the time, the crowd’s worry was focused on the caucus less than two days away, not their job security, healthcare, the Supreme Court or social distancing guidelines.
We went to three campaign rallies that weekend — Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden — and stopped at a myriad of other events. I drove back to Michigan hopeful, after watching Warren kneel down to pinky promise a little girl, talking with a family who brought their newborn to see Bernie speak and listening to John Kerry stump for Biden. Iowans are proud of their place in politics — being “first in the nation” isn’t something they take lightly. I left the weekend exhausted, but I also remember feeling confident that our democracy was alive and well.
Allison Engkvist - Managing Photo Editor
Flash forward a month from the Iowa caucus: Senator Warren has dropped from the race and Senator Bernie Sanders takes a trip to Ann Arbor.
It’s the week of the Democratic presidential primary election, or informally known as the week our world went straight to hell. Students begin to express concern over a pending pandemic, but life still feels normal.
We gather on the Diag, cheering for Bernie, not a mask in site.
We wait in line outside of our polling location without standing six-feet apart.
We sit around the TV with friends waiting for the primary results, exceeding the ten person limit.
We go to class. We hug our friends. Then suddenly, we’re packing our bags and heading home.
Well, we all know how the rest of the story goes.
But here we are, back on campus for one of the most important elections of our lives thus far. Everything looks different this year. It’s the distanced lines.
The face masks.
The posters, begging people to vote.
While everything may look different, the meaning of election day holds true: using our voice to help guide our country’s future.
This is Election Day 2020 through the eyes (and lenses) of the Michigan Daily photo staff.
Maddie Fox - Staff Photographer
2020 is truly an unreal reality. The world has never felt more uncertain, eerie and bleak. We have faced a series of unexpected events this fall, adding to the chaotic election season. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Sept. 18, allowing President Trump to both nominate and confirm three Justices over the course of his term, a legacy that will outlast his presidency for decades to come.
On Oct. 2 the president, his wife, his son, his press secretary, his campaign manager, the chair of the Republican National Committee, White House housekeeping and military staff, members of the vice president's staff, Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, and Hope Hicks all contracted coronavirus. Even though COVID-19 cases are at an all-time high and on the rise, CDC guidelines for socially distanced crowds and mask-wearing are not being followed.
The chaos on the season further ensued locally on Oct. 7 when a domestic terrorist group plotted to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Perhaps the eeriest feeling of all was watching the Oct. 15 presidential debate that was originally planned to take place here, right on campus. Uncertainty has triumphed.
As we barrel into an election that is preemptively contested based on false claims of voter fraud, the United States could find itself in the midst of a national meltdown, regardless of the candidate you support. Our democracy as we know could slip into utter chaos, or perhaps not and everything will be fine. That is the reality of 2020.
Emma Mati - Assistant Photo Editor
On Tuesday, Oct. 27, on assignment for The Daily, I attended one of President Donald Trump’s final campaign events in Lansing, Mich. My expectations for the rally were largely formulated by late-night shows mocking events like this one and clips of the President’s most notable — and most outrageous — moments that appeared on my social media feed. In the final few days of the campaign, I wanted to see a Trump rally for myself.
The rally, unique in its own right, was much like a concert of a musician mostly adored by my parents’ generation. Devoted fans waiting in a seemingly never-ending line for hours just to see their idol from afar. Unattractive merchandise being sold outside the venue, indicating that you were there. When I arrived at the rally at 6:30 a.m., Trump supporters had been camping outside the venue for hours. It was cold and raining. You could find just about any piece of MAGA merchandise available.
I realized that Make America Great Again is not just a rally cry, but a manipulating marketing technique as well. Shirts that read “Jesus is my savior, Trump is my president” and “Talking to you reminds me to clean my gun” seemed to reflect Christian evangelicalism and free speech that had been made “great again” by Donald Trump.
Inside the rally, few in the crowd were wearing masks, although it is important to note that volunteers were taking temperatures and trying — albeit unsuccessfully — to get people to wear masks. Nevertheless, some may think that the photographs I took at the rally were taken a year ago given the large crowds, lack of social distancing and minimal mask wearing.
A prayer kicked off a series of speakers intended to hype up the crowd. Celine Dion’s greatest hits, a selection of Broadway classics and CeeLo Green’s “Crazy” seemed to keep the crowd in good spirits. Trump danced to the Village People’s hit “YMCA” which I thought was an exaggeration made by the members of Saturday Night Live on a recent Weekend Update bit. They were not joking.
Not a naturally gifted orator compared to his predecessor, it was clear when Trump would abandon the teleprompter to rally the crowd. He dropped an F-bomb. At one point, Trump berated his son-in-law Jared Kushner, calling him “Mr. Inside” because he didn't want to stand in the freezing cold rain listening to his father-in-law’s speech. It seemed that Trump supporters didn’t come to the rally to hear his plans to end the COVID-19 pandemic or revive our nation’s economy, but rather to see a show, the Trump show.
But politics aside, Trump's rallies are going to go down in history. Trump is a populist president and the way in which he rallies his supporters is indicative of that. And whether Trump wins or loses the election, it is important to keep in mind that his supporters aren't going anywhere. I saw many families with young children donning MAGA hats and plenty of people my age expressing their support for Trump’s message in other ways.
They are Americans, just like us. I don’t think that the majority of the people at the rally are bad people. Yes, they may have adopted some negative beliefs propagated by social media and the Trump presidency, but they are humans. Things aren’t going to change overnight.
Becca Mahon - Assistant Photo Editor
Attending rallies for both Joe Biden and Donald Trump within a 24 hour period made the differences in the two candidates plainly clear.
To me, the starkest contrast was in the interactions between the candidates and their respective supporters. Biden’s Detroit event was attended by a couple hundred people, who were encouraged to stay in their cars and honk in lieu of applause. The next day at a rally in Macomb, Trump spoke to a crowd of a few thousand people packed tightly around the stage.
When he pointed out the media area behind them, referencing what he called the “fake news”, the crowd turned and chanted “CNN lies!” at the press, while Trump watched silently from the stage. Being on the receiving end of this was unsettling to say the least.
Visually, this year’s election day certainly looks different. However, the importance of voting and being present during trying times is something that drove this election and will continue to drive every election to come.