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Plowy McPlowface has a chance in the naming contest. “Abolish ICE” does not.

Suggestions came in by the thousands, with the inevitable puns and nods to Prince, Minnesota Twins legends and, of course, snow.

There was Raspberry Brrr-et, Road Carew, and Minnesota Nice, all credible options as smart names for state snowplows.

When the Minnesota Department of Transportation recently asked the public for help in nominating eight snowplows in a competition, an even more popular suggestion was the phrase “Abolish ICE,” according to an analysis by The Minnesota Reformer. , an independent news site, which obtained all 24,000 entries in a public records request.

The wintry-sounding slogan, a play on the rallying cry of critics from the Federal Immigration and Customs Agency, ranks second among entries, The Reformer determined.

But Minnesota transportation officials have drawn a line in the snow, excluding it from a list of 50 finalists who are part of an online poll that ends Friday. The winners will be used to nominate a plow in each of the state’s eight regional transportation districts.

“It was supposed to be a fun, light-hearted contest,” Jake Loesch, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said in an interview Sunday night. “There is certainly a time and a place for political expression. A snowplow naming contest might not be the right place for this. “

Mr Loesch hinted at the fuss around the name Abolish ICE on Friday Twitter.

“I love our @MnDOT lots of snowplow naming contests, but I also didn’t foresee that by creating it, I would condemn myself to a life of apologies that the submission of people’s favors was not on the last 50, ”he said. said Mr Loesch, adding that prepared me very well for this #opesorry. “

Plowy McPlowFace and variations like Snowy McSnowface and Plowy McPlowerson were the most popular submissions, and Plowy McPlowFace made the list of 50 finalists. This seems to be a nod to Boaty McBoatface, the name British internet users overwhelmingly preferred for a $ 287 million polar research vessel in 2016. The UK Department of Science ultimately ignored the 124,000 votes and named it instead. the ship for naturalist David Attenborough.

Other nominees on the list have hinted at the culture, places, or people of Minnesota: The Truck formerly known as Plow, Purple Snow, F. Sel Fitzgerald, Lake Snowbegone, Plowin ‘in the Wind, Mary Tyler More Snow, Flake Superior and Tator Tot Hotdish. A few were allusions to “Star Wars”: Snowbi Wan Kenobi, Luke Snowalker, C-3pSnow and Darth Blader.

Not all submissions were jokes. The list of 50 choices includes Giiwedin, the Ojibway word for “North Wind”, and Ičamna, the Dakota word for “blizzard.”

The name “Abolish ICE” has been suggested in a December tweet by Kanad Gupta, a software engineer from Minneapolis who is in his twenties.

“I think it was a clever pun more than anything,” Mr Gupta said in an interview on Sunday night, adding that he made the suggestion jokingly, although he supports the elimination of the ICE. “I would love for them to reconsider, but I’m not losing sleep.”

Although President Biden has called for an overhaul of the immigration system, he stopped before seeking to dismantle the ICE, as urged by some on the political left. During Mr. Biden’s first month in office, ICE moved away from some of the contentious policies of former President Donald J. Trump’s radical “America First” agenda.

It might make Plowy McPlowFace look like a shoo-in, but not necessarily. Minnesota transportation officials will make the final decisions, Mr. Loesch said, which won’t be based solely on popularity in the online poll.

Once the names are chosen, they will appear on the back or sides of the plows, with one assigned to each of the state’s eight regional transport districts, officials said.

The state has more than 800 snowplows in its fleet, Mr. Loesch said.

He said the idea of ​​naming the snowplows was inspired by Scotland, which gained wide attention in December with its names for its plows, called gritters. Names there include William Wall-ice, License to Chill, Sled Zeppelin, and Sweet Child O’Brine.

“We’ve gotten a lot of questions from people about why Minnesota doesn’t appoint plows,” Loesch said.

The idea is gaining ground (sorry). Along with Minnesota, which announced their competition in December, South Dakota and Michigan are also seeking public assistance in naming snowplows. The same goes for the cities of Scandia, Minn., And Syracuse, NY

In Minnesota, names could not exceed 50 characters. That left room for a few features: Oh Snow You Did, Edward Blizzardhands, Duck Duck Orange Truck, and Princess Kay of the Snowy Way all made the finalist list.

Mr. Loesch said the range of submissions was wild. “There was no way I could have found all of this on my own,” he said.

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As Biden lifts ban, transgender people have long sought-after chance to enlist

Among the roughly 200,000 transgender Americans of recruiting age is James Wong, an engineering student at Carnegie Mellon University who, while in Girl Scouts as a child, became an ace at survival skills, including including lighting a fire using only a flint and an ax.

“I like leading people, I like solving problems, I want to serve my country,” Mr. Wong said in an interview from his home in Los Angeles, where he takes distance education. “The army is a natural fit for me.”

Mr. Wong, 20, initially considered applying to one of the United States’ service academies, but the ban prevented him from entering. Instead, he joined the ROTC, hoping that politics would change by the time he graduated and could be made an officer. Before the virus finished school, he would wake up at 4:30 a.m. several times a week to go to physical training, but he knew that, under the ban, he would have to leave the ROTC when the time came to do a workout. military physical examination. Now he hopes to continue with ROTC this summer.

“I have met all the standards,” he says. “None of the cadets or commanders have a problem with me.”

When President Trump announced the ban, many legal scholars thought the courts would eventually find that the courts violated the constitutional right to equal protection of laws. But the legal process evolved so slowly that it effectively denied many young people the opportunity to join the military, according to Shannon Minter, a civil rights lawyer and legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco, who continued. the Department of Defense on behalf of Mr. Talbott and other transgender recruits.

“It was a ban based purely on discrimination, and we all knew it would be overturned, but maybe not in time to help,” he said.

Mr. Minter has spent years fighting Pentagon lawyers. Now that the Biden administration has overturned the settlement, his lawsuits are moot. But he added that the ban had an unlikely silver lining.

“Before Trump’s ban, most people had no idea transgender people were even in the military – they were stereotyped,” he said. “I think it raised acceptance. It has forced people to realize that there are some really talented and committed transgender people who want to serve.

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Michèle Flournoy finds her chance again at the elusive Pentagon summit

Instead, she became a senior advisor to the Boston Consulting Group, then co-founded WestExec Advisors, a consulting firm. Her second shot at the post was scuttled when Hillary Clinton – who was widely supposed to name her – lost the presidential election in 2016.

Ms Flournoy was known to move seamlessly between the civilian and active sides of the Pentagon, bridging the often impenetrable gap between those in uniform and those in costume – a skill some fear losing with a retired general in the role. She did so, her fans said, by translating the political imperatives of civilians in the military world to active duty and by carefully helping the civilian side understand the practical needs and limitations of the military to see through the objectives. policies of elected officials.

“She’s incredibly talented, and the last thing I think about is she’s a woman,” said Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time of the build-up. of Afghanistan, which she helped defend to Obama. White House. “From my point of view, that’s a good thing.”

Yet among the women who toil in the national security trenches, an area where men – and what Ms. Flournoy often calls their “mini-mes” who succeed them – have historically dominated, Ms. Flournoy is widely seen as a mentor. essential.

“An entire generation of women in national security used her as a role model to handle a male-dominated job,” said Representative Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan, who also worked for Ms. Flournoy. “The lesson she taught women is to always be the best prepared in the room. I learned this literally from her, and now I pass it on to the young women who work for me.

Celeste Wallander, president of the American-Russian Foundation, is one of dozens of women who see Ms. Flournoy as essential to their professional success. Ms Wallander recalled a time in 1989 when the two were both academics at Harvard, where Ms Wallander, a very junior, was typically left off the invitation list for dinners and other events with major players in her field. Ms. Flournoy quietly added it to the lists. “I got to meet people because I was at the table now,” said Ms. Wallander.

Ms Flournoy was also popular for her decision, after studying business literature in the workplace, to give exhausted Pentagon staff a ‘scheduled time off’, each covering each other as they took breaks for s ” looking after kids, visiting parents, training a marathon, scheduling dates or whatever they wanted.

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Trump administration passed on chance to further secure Pfizer vaccine

The federal contract signed in July called for Pfizer to deliver 100 million doses by March at a cost of $ 19.50 per dose. It gave the government the ability to request an additional 100 to 500 million doses. It was one of six contracts the Trump administration signed with vaccine makers in a strategy to hedge its bets and maximize the chances of success.

Accounts differ on the nature of discussions between Pfizer and federal officials over whether to lock in additional doses. Several people have said that in late summer or early fall, Pfizer officials repeatedly warned the Trump administration that demand could far exceed supply and urged it to pre-order more doses, but were refused.

A senior administration official, who spoke to reporters on Monday on condition of anonymity, said that any company offering hundreds of millions of doses before they had proof their vaccine worked “was not going to be right. just not get the government money ”.

Another person close to the negotiations said discussions about possible additional doses began in early October. Michael Pratt, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, declined to comment on the discussions, but said “an important part of any negotiation is setting deadlines for delivery and production quantities.

In a statement, Pfizer, a US company headquartered in New York City, said that “any additional dose beyond $ 100 million is subject to a separate and mutually acceptable agreement” and that “the company does not is not able to comment on confidential threads. it can take place with the US government. “

The White House’s decision to issue the executive order was reported by Fox News.

So far, only Pfizer has obtained emergency approval from a Western government. British regulators cleared it less than a week ago, after results from advanced clinical trials showed the vaccine to be around 95% effective. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to follow suit in the United States this weekend.

The agency may also soon approve another vaccine developed by Moderna, a small company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But doses provided by Pfizer and Moderna will initially be extremely scarce – enough to vaccinate about 22.5 million people by the end of the year – and federal officials have said vaccines will not be widely available to Americans. before the start of next year, even as the daily death toll continues to climb with more than 280,000 dead to date.

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Biden called on Republicans to give him a chance. They are not interested.

MASON, Texas – The change to the Sunday prayer service was so subtle that it went unnoticed by many worshipers. Nestled between appeals for divine health and wisdom, Reverend Fred Krebs of Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church, who rarely discusses politics, fleetingly referred to this month’s presidential election.

“We pray for a peaceful transition,” he told his congregation of 50 people. The carefully chosen words underscored the political reality in Mason, a rural and conservative town of around 2,000 residents, following Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory over President Trump. Not everyone thought the election was over and not everyone said they would respect the results.

“My Democratic friends think Biden is going to heal everything and unify everyone,” said Jeanie Smith, who attends the more conservative Spring Street Gospel Church in Mason, which is about 100 miles west of Austin. “They are deceived.”

“Now you want the healing,” she added. “Now you want to get together. You didn’t deserve it. “

This is the harsh reality that Mr. Biden faces, even after winning a race in which he has won a larger share of the popular vote than any challenger since 1932. In front of him stands a wall of Republican resistance. , starting with Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede, extending to the reluctance of GOP lawmakers to recognize his victory and extending, perhaps most importantly for long-term US policy, to ordinary voters who firmly deny the result of the election.

Everything is a far cry from how Mr Biden framed this election, from the race for the Democratic primary to his victory speech last weekend. He presented the moment as a chance for the country to break down the political divide that Mr. Trump has fueled, promising to mend the ideological, racial and geographic cracks that have turned into abysses since 2016. Announcing his campaign, he did so. called an opportunity to restore “The Soul of the Nation.” Last weekend he said, “May this dark era of demonization in America begin to end here and now.”

But on election day, Republican turnout rose across the country – especially in rural areas like Mason, which, along with his surrounding county, had some of the biggest percentage increases in voter turnout in Texas. Democratic dreams of a landslide were thwarted as Republicans grabbed surprise victories in the House and became favorites to retain control of the Senate. In the days that followed, thousands of Mr. Trump’s most staunch supporters gathered across the country, including in Texas, to protest Mr. Biden’s triumph as illegitimate.

“We are ready to accept the results, as long as they are fair, correctly executed and correctly certified,” said Sherrie Strong, another supporter of the president. She, like others, took Mr. Trump’s position that it was odd that he had led in so many places because of in-person votes on election day, only to be passed once the ballots were cast. by correspondence were counted on election night and day by day. Who followed. (The delay in counting mail-in ballots in several states was due to restrictions imposed by the Republican state legislatures.)

“It’s just a little overwhelming when you go to bed at night, and all of a sudden, four days later, those votes magically appear,” Ms. Strong said.

Mr Biden’s message had political appeal, motivating a crucial slice of voters who helped him bring Democrats back to power.

Ann Mahnken, a 72-year-old conservative who attends the Lutheran church, said the prospect of her coming closer to the country was the reason why, after voting for Mr Trump in 2016, she chose the Democratic candidate this time around.

“I couldn’t stand the way our country is,” she said. “I didn’t want to go through four more years, not in my senior life. I didn’t want to go through another four years of chaos and division.

Mark Lehmberg, a fellow parishioner who voted for Mr Trump this year after stepping away in 2016, said he had given up on the concept of unity – and he advised Ms Mahnken to do the same. He supported the president because he didn’t want the economy to shut down because of the coronavirus.

“Relations are already in jeopardy,” said Lehmberg. “It’s going to be difficult – impossible – to get people to come together.

On Monday in Dallas, hundreds of Mr. Trump’s supporters gathered outside the city’s election office for a “Stop the Steal” protest promoted by the state’s Republican Party. The message from speakers and attendees went beyond expressing fears of electoral fraud, amounting to a massive rejection of a Biden presidency and Republican elected officials who recognized it. One speaker said of Republican lawmakers who called Mr. Biden the president-elect: “Remember who they are when you go to the polls next.”

“It’s a contempt of half the country by the other half of the country,” said Paul Feeser, 61, who attended the protest in Dallas. “So if the conclusion was for Biden, I would consider it illegitimate, and I and many others expect to be part of the so-called resistance – while Trump has resisted.”

Karen Bell, who was also present at the rally, said her distrust centers on postal voting.

“In those swing states he was ahead and then all of a sudden in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania they stopped counting,” Ms. Bell said, echoing conspiracy theories on the counting. votes. “And then we wake up and suddenly Biden is in the lead. These mysterious votes all came for Biden and zero for Trump. There really is something fishy there.

Asked about any evidence of widespread electoral fraud, given that election officials, including Republicans, have consistently rejected the allegations, Ms. Bell cited right-wing conspiratorial sites like Infowars. Election officials made it clear: there is no evidence of widespread electoral fraud.

No matter what happens next, “I won’t believe the election was fair,” Ms. Bell said. “I won’t believe he’s a legitimate winner.”

The feeling that Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede is justified and that Mr. Biden’s rise to the presidency should not be recognized is not universal for Republicans. A recent Reuters / Ipsos poll found that nearly 80% of Americans believe Mr. Biden won, including about 60% of Republicans.

But other polls have provided mixed results, including a Politico / Morning Consult survey showing that the number of Republicans who don’t believe this year’s election was free and fair has doubled from 35% before the day. 70% of the ballot.

In Texas, conservatives sang after Democratic hopes of overthrowing the state and gaining control of the legislature failed to materialize. Despite this, state leaders also complied with the president’s baseless attempts to label the election unfair – and the state’s Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick offered $ 1 million to anyone who produced evidence of electoral fraud.

But even in Mason, some of the president’s supporters urged the party to move on. “It’s over – that’s exactly what it is,” said Jay Curry, 44, who arrived to eat at the Willow Creek Cafe and Club with his wife and two children.

The president’s refusal to concede “just means more unrest and more division,” Mr. Curry said. “We are divided. It’s red and blue. And they are more against each other than they are trying to help anyone.

His wife, Andrea, was more optimistic.

“I think every president we’ve had has never intentionally hurt our country,” she said. “They are going to do their best and that’s all we can hope for.”

Mr. Biden, she added, “will not intentionally crash our country.”

His hope stood out in a landscape of terror. Pastor Krebs, the Lutheran minister, said the reason the election seemed existential to some was because it represented a referendum on more than just politics.

As a community leader who arrived in Mason shortly before the 2016 election, he said, he saw how the city’s views on the president are embedded in other issues, including the white majority’s relationship with Latin American residents and a backlash against Black Lives Matter protesters. struggle for political power.

At the same time, said Pastor Krebs, sweeping generalizations do not do justice to the complexity of the community.

“Defining people strictly by their parties is not a good thing,” he said. “And I’ve learned that sometimes people think more deeply when they enter a conversation than when we just start labeling ourselves.”

Ms Smith, 67, and her husband, Dennis, 69, linked their unequivocal support for the president – even in the event of defeat – to broader cultural concerns.

Like Mr. Biden and his supporters, the Smiths saw this election as a battle for the soul of the country. To unify with Mr. Biden would be an admission that the battle is lost and that the multicultural tide that fuels his victory will continue to rise.

“Whatever I’ve worked for, Biden wants to give to immigrants to help them with a living, when they are doing nothing but sit on their butt,” Smith said.

“And if these protesters come here, if they tear up stuff, I guarantee you they won’t stay in this city very long,” he added. “We’re going to chain them up and send them out of here – and it won’t be the same way they came in.”

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Van Duyne wins Texas seat in another lost chance for Democrats

Former Republican mayor and housing manager for the Trump administration Beth Van Duyne defeated Democrat Candace Valenzuela on Tuesday in a House race in suburban Dallas, taking a crucial Republican seat as the Ms. Van Duyne was fighting to increase her staff. in Congress.

Ms Van Duyne’s victory, as The Associated Press called it, was a key victory for Republicans, appearing to shut down Democrats’ last hope of taking a seat in the state despite what was predicted to be a year grim for Republicans due to changing demographics. increasingly made Texas competitive. It also mirrored the results of some other conservative-leaning suburban districts across the country, where, despite reports that many voters had been alienated by President Trump and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans appeared to be holding the line. suddenly and even on the way to winning. seats.

Ms Van Duyne, who worked in the Trump administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development, was previously mayor of Irving, Texas, the first woman to hold the post. She came to the country’s attention as she was among those responsible for the family of a Muslim teenager who was arrested after her homemade digital clock was mistaken for a bomb. (The lawsuit was then dismissed.)

She later emerged as part of a self-proclaimed “Conservative Team” of four women, who presented themselves as the right-wing’s response to four liberal women who became political celebrities in the Democratic freshman class of 2018. , including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York and Ilhan Omar from Minnesota. She is now expected to be part of the largest group of House Republican women ever elected to Congress that same year, erasing the previous record of 25 women.

Ms Van Duyne has aligned herself closely with Mr Trump and defended her handling of the pandemic, and her former HUD boss Ben Carson helped lobby for her in the final days of the campaign.

“People are fed up with Congress playing political games and just focusing on mutual attack,” Van Duyne said in response to questions from the Dallas Morning News that she posted on her website. “I promise to be a voice in Congress that always focuses on getting things done to help us grow and create more opportunity.”

Ms Valenzuela, a former school board administrator, had sought to overthrow the Democrats’ seat and become the first Afro-Latina to be elected to Congress. The seat was left open after Representative Kenny Marchant, a reliable Republican vote who won his 2018 re-election by just three points, said in the summer of 2019 he would retire rather than face Ms Valenzuela.

Ms Valenzuela had galvanized supporters with her powerful tale of surviving homelessness and becoming the first in her family to graduate from college, and relied heavily on the strategy Democrats employed in 2018 and this year, centering his campaign to defend the affordable care law and criticize the administration’s response to the pandemic.

She sought to link Ms Van Duyne, who was often pictured without a mask during her campaign, to Mr Trump and his mismanagement of the coronavirus. Ms Van Duyne, for her part, criticized Ms Valenzuela for not hosting in-person events during the pandemic, even as coronavirus cases continued to climb in the state.

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Resistance comes to its greatest chance to resist

Carolyn Gibbs puts on the striped pants first, then the striped jacket. The hat is the finishing touch. That’s if it’s Uncle Sam’s day. For the Statue of Liberty, it’s a mint green dress, a halo of moss, and a political sign, usually, like the torch.

Before Donald Trump became president, Ms Gibbs, 59, rarely dressed for Halloween, but occasionally dressed for a costume party.

But for almost four years, she showed up at rallies in suburban Pittsburgh malls in elaborate costumes, ready to take on the role of a playful protester.

“I’m ready to make a fool of myself for democracy,” she often says.

Yet for all of her playfulness – and it is limitless – Ms. Gibbs is driven by a sense of anger and residual shock. How could so many of her neighbors in western Pennsylvania vote for a man she saw as a threat? She still finds herself stuck on the question.

“I had started to think that we included and served everyone in this country,” Ms. Gibbs said. “But that’s not true at all anymore.”

Over the past four years, Ms Gibbs and a half-dozen women (along with a man) have devoted countless hours to Progress PA, a political group they created to elect Democratic candidates in western Pennsylvania, part of the state that helped fuel Mr. Trump’s victory last time around. Joseph R. Biden Jr. is counting on voters like them – older suburban dwellers – to reclaim Pennsylvania, where polls show him leading the way. But their work is less about their enthusiasm for the former vice president and more about their distaste for the current occupant of the White House.

Before the Trump era, these women were hardly radical. Many voted for Republicans, including George W. Bush. They not only represent the kind of feminist activism that Mr. Trump’s victory sparked, but the particular anger of my Republican neighbors in the western suburbs of Pennsylvania, where dozens of similar groups have popped up. over the past four years.

“I had never had this kind of strong, unconditional desire to do something myself,” 60-year-old Stacey Vernallis said of her political life before 2016. “I was always ready to leave this job. to be the work of others and to simply be a voter and perhaps a donor. “

She described waking up the morning after the 2016 election with five different pits in her stomach. She imagined that her children were losing their health care and that her youngest stepson, adopted from Nepal, faced increased discrimination.

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She therefore planned to join the Women’s March in Washington, DC, the day before President Trump’s inauguration. The 2017 event drew around half a million people, making it the largest one-day event in U.S. history.

When Ms. Vernallis returned to Pittsburgh, she created her own political action committee, Progress PA.

“It was right: we have to do it. We need everyone we can, ”she said.

Soon, members of the group were protesting every week outside the office of Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican. They then knocked on thousands of doors to help get Conor Lamb elected to Congress in a year where Democrats like him have received record financial donations totaling over $ 1 billion.

“This is a huge change that is transforming politics very dramatically in state, in Congress and perhaps in a national election,” said Lara Putnam, professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh who has written extensively on activism in the suburbs.

“In the wake of Trump’s victory, people tangentially involved woke up and said, ‘This is not the world I signed up for,’” she added. “People who have stepped forward are often older, stable and forget to take ‘no’ for an answer; they don’t even ask for permission.

Now, the Resistance, as groups like Progress PA are happily called, presents itself on its most direct and important chance to resist: voting Mr. Trump out of office and encouraging others to do the same.

It does this amid other significant stressors. Energy has been declining since 2017, and for a while it looked like it might go out completely due to the pandemic. Members of the group cared for college-aged children suddenly coming home, teenagers abandoned at school, and adult children worried about losing their jobs. A few cared for older relatives whom they feared visiting, fearing that they might be infected with the virus.

Who had time for voluntary political activism? But within weeks of the pandemic that turned life as they knew it, it became clear that activism was some kind of coping mechanism, hobby and luck to control it all in one group. .

“We have to fundamentally reinvent ourselves,” said Linda Bishop, who retired from the international bank and spent much of her life as a registered Republican, in a Zoom meeting this spring. “We are stuck here in our homes, we are older, we have to be careful. We’re not doing anything stupid.

Suddenly, Ms Bishop had gone from looking after her one-year-old grandson twice a week to only seeing him on FaceTime. It would be months before they kissed again.

Sadness mixed with rage permeated every Zoom session, which was peppered with personal frustrations with the strategy.

“If I can’t laugh, I’m just going to cry,” said Ms Gibbs, who has spent much of the past few months managing her mother’s medical care. Yet the virus prevented her from visiting her mother in the nursing facility, a situation she described as “overwhelming”, when she transferred her to the hospice in September. As Ms Gibbs drove to help her mother move, she left stones she painted with “Joe” at several rest areas along the freeway.

“I’m just pissed off, and if I don’t act I’ll be paralyzed,” she said.

Progress PA is now firmly behind Mr Biden, but during the Democratic primary members had different favorites – Ms Gibbs favored Senator Cory Booker, while Mary Anne Van Develde and Linda Bishop liked Senator Bernie Sanders. None really had Mr. Biden as their first pick, but they swore they would back whoever wins.

“There has never been a more important year for the nation,” said Ms Van Develde, 65, a former television news producer. “Whatever we do, it’s just take Trump out, bring Democrats in. If Biden is to be successful, he’ll need all the help he can get. “

Undoubtedly, the pandemic changed the group’s perception of what political activism looked like. Members were stranded in their homes, unable to do the same kind of street theater that had become central to their identity. They were determined not to be alone despite their physical isolation – meeting at least once a week on Zoom to divide tasks and exchange local political analyzes.

“I miss the times when we can do this together,” Bishop said at a meeting in June. “I’m going to need a little more talking time.”

When another member spoke of going to the supermarket, Ms Bishop admonished, “I think you go out too much for someone your age.

And each day has brought further aggravation for them with the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.

The group’s political action committees raised nearly $ 110,000 for billboards across the region, ultimately placing them in 55 spots in 20 counties, so much so that they were told the ads would register five. million impressions per week.

But that still didn’t move their ideas from “the chalkboard to the sidewalk,” as they put it. By August, they had become sufficiently restless, and comfortable enough with physical distancing, to begin organizing protests outside post offices, with signs like “End the Nonsense” and “Trump Knew.” He lied. People have died. “

In the past, witty one-liners were a key part of the message, but few looked funny this summer.

“We’ve always aimed to take humor and push it as far as possible,” Ms. Van Develde said, acknowledging that this approach is made easier by being white women of a certain age. “We know where we can make a difference – we won’t be able to bring out the black vote in the city, but we can convince people like us, our neighbors, to see absolute absurdity right now.

In a recent cool fall on Friday night, the group gathered outside a post office tucked away in a mall just off the freeway, with about 20 other people – mostly women – who are came to support the cause. They planted Biden-Harris signs and some for local Democrats.

This time, they set up heading south, facing the cars driving towards Pittsburgh. They knew they would hear friendlier horns that way – in the weeks they moved to the other side, cars heading into the wealthy suburbs of North Hills were more likely to throw out comments and gestures from the crowd. hostile hand. Even still, that night, they saw quite a few middle fingers raised in their direction as the drivers passed them. A woman waved an American flag, saying she wanted to remind people that it isn’t just Republicans.

They were only there for an hour, but they would come back the week after, and the week after. The hope, they said, was to take a short break after polling day. But at the next meeting, when someone asked if they were planning to disband after the election, the reaction was unanimous: absolutely not.

“The job will not be done,” said Van Develde. “There is just no turning back.”

Kim Lyons contributed reporting from Pittsburgh.

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Chance to Expand Medicaid Brings Democrats in Crucial North Carolina

If registered low-income voters voted at the same rate as high-income voters in 15 states who spoke to Mr. Trump in 2016, including North Carolina, they would equal or exceed his margin of victory in those states, according to the study. And for many, access to health care has been an elusive goal, often with devastating consequences.

In an interview, Dr Barber said the coronavirus pandemic has turned this lack of access into a crisis.

“Covid has forced the conversation on healthcare,” he said. “There’s no way you can’t talk about it.

Dr Barber is quick to remind his audience in North Carolina that Senator Tillis helped lead a successful effort in the legislature to pass legislation banning the expansion of Medicaid in 2013, when he was president of representatives room. The Campaign of the Poor has recruited more than 5,000 volunteers in eight states “who are committed to calling over a million poor, low-wage people who did not vote last time, are ready to observe the polls, or are going. canvas communities with their face shields and masks and gloves, ”he said,“ because it’s a matter of life and death in the truest sense of the word.

Jessica Holmes, a Democrat candidate for labor commissioner, said such efforts motivate people like her 84-year-old grandmother, who she says has never voted in a presidential election until now.

“We’re in the biggest medical crisis of a lot of our lives,” Ms. Holmes said, “and yet all over North Carolina we’re talking about selling hospitals or clinics shutting down.

Joseph Danko, 54, who lost his construction job in March and suffers from asthma, was distressed to learn he was not eligible for Medicaid despite having virtually no income. Anxiety over health care was one of the main reasons Mr Danko, of Raleigh, voted early for Mr Biden and other Democrats, he said, handing over his ballot to vote in person “to be 100% sure” that it would be counted.

“It has been a crazy year,” he said, “but we hope and pray for change.”