Ron Elving

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.

He is also a professorial lecturer and Executive in Residence in the School of Public Affairs at American University, where he has also taught in the School of Communication. In 2016, he was honored with the University Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching in an Adjunct Appointment. He has also taught at George Mason and Georgetown.

He was previously the political editor for USA Today and for Congressional Quarterly. He has been published by the Brookings Institution and the American Political Science Association. He has contributed chapters on Obama and the media and on the media role in Congress to the academic studies Obama in Office 2011, and Rivals for Power, 2013. Ron's earlier book, Conflict and Compromise: How Congress Makes the Law, was published by Simon & Schuster and is also a Touchstone paperback.

During his tenure as manager of NPR's Washington desk from 1999 to 2014, the desk's reporters were awarded every major recognition available in radio journalism, including the Dirksen Award for Congressional Reporting and the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In 2008, the American Political Science Association awarded NPR the Carey McWilliams Award "in recognition of a major contribution to the understanding of political science."

Ron came to Washington in 1984 as a Congressional Fellow with the American Political Science Association and worked for two years as a staff member in the House and Senate. Previously, he had been state capital bureau chief for The Milwaukee Journal.

He received his bachelor's degree from Stanford University and master's degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of California – Berkeley.

President Trump has long been a champion of what's been called positive thinking — the power to make things that you want to see happen actually happen.

"Affirm it, believe it, visualize it, and it will actualize itself." Such mantras have characterized much of the Trump story from his childhood when he first absorbed it from the man who first spoke it, Norman Vincent Peale.

This week, two more books appeared on the ever-widening shelf of literature lambasting President Trump and his presidency. One sold nearly 1 million copies on its first day, based on the name of the author and weeks of publicity. But the other is the better book to buy for insight into what Trump's rise and rule really mean — here and abroad — for democracy in our time.

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People once wished each other well on Independence Day by saying: "Have a glorious Fourth!"

A bit antique, perhaps, in the best of times, but a phrase you still heard. Until now.

Can you imagine well-wishers offering that sentiment this weekend, without a trace of irony or a wistful look?

Not likely, not in the summer of 2020, the summer of resurgent COVID-19 cases, of restaurants and beaches that had reopened only to close again — of workers recently returned to work who have been laid off again.

One of the oldest traditions in American politics is "running against Washington," which has been a common campaign theme since the city was first created as the capital and the home of the federal government.

In fact, candidates for president and Congress have found running against Washington one of the surest ways to get there. Some do it to stay there, too.

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In 2020, things happen that never happened before. And right now, they seem to be happening all at once.

Atop a global pandemic and resulting recession, May and June have given us another dimension of head-spinning events. Following two weeks of widespread street protests after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, a change of attitude seems to have swept through the national culture like a sudden wind.

Two new polls out this week indicate a majority of Americans fear a "second wave" of COVID-19 cases in the near future, which may be washing away the chances for traditional presidential nominating conventions this year.

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Updated at 10:25 a.m. ET

Presidents have been asked all manner of questions about their behavior, but no one had ever asked whether the president should wear a mask. Until now.

As April began and Americans were being told to fear COVID-19 and stay home, President Trump said there would not need to be a "massive recession." As recently as Monday, he said the economy would have "a tremendous third quarter." By Wednesday, he was looking forward to "a fourth quarter that's going to be fantastic" and then to "a tremendous 2021."

It now seems apparent that COVID-19 will dominate American life for months to come, quite possibly through the national election in November.

That means the disease, and efforts to respond to it, will likewise dominate the 2020 campaign and make it largely about something it has never been about before.

That something is science.

President Trump's nightly briefings on COVID-19 this week have featured stunning pronouncements and reversals.

Take the widespread response to the president's assertion on Monday that he could reopen local businesses by fiat — even against the wishes of governors: "When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total."

That sentence looks like a true-false question on a test in constitutional law class. (Answer: False.)

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Perhaps the last thing we needed in this hyperpartisan election year was another reminder of what divides us as a nation. Then the COVID-19 crisis arrived and gave us one.

The virus is affecting everyone, in one way or another, but in terms of actual sickness and death, it is disproportionately afflicting people of color. So far, at least, it is afflicting primarily those people of color who live in the most densely populated cores of our metropolitan centers.

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What is the opposite of social distancing? Well, one answer - a national political convention, the kind where thousands of Democrats or Republicans cram into a hall to officially choose their presidential nominee.

Mention government financing public works projects and sooner or later someone's going to bring up the Works Progress Administration.

That conjures scenes from the 1930s, the breadlines and soup kitchens and the wan-faced men selling apples on the street. And also the image of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the man elected president in 1932 promising a "New Deal" to end the Great Depression.

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Let us all have a moment of sympathy – and perhaps even understanding — for Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky.

Massie was the guy who caught hell from all sides Friday when he tried to force a roll call vote on the coronavirus relief bill in the House of Representatives. He said he wanted every individual member to record his or her vote on the gargantuan $2 trillion package, which he called the biggest relief bill in the history of mankind.

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On March 18, in the midst of a presidential news conference on the coronavirus, Donald Trump compared himself to a "wartime president."

This president has never been shy about casting himself in heroic roles. But his attempt to adopt the military mien raised more than a few eyebrows under the circumstances.

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Aside from times of genuine national crisis, it is hard to recall a week with as many events of political significance as the one we have all just witnessed.

As a kickoff for the re-election year of a president, it could scarcely have been more fraught. And as always, our perception of events was subject to our differing political perspectives.

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Week In Politics

Jan 18, 2020

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The impeachment trial of President Trump began for real this week with the swearing in of the U.S. Senate, which will hear the case, and some startling new charges. NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving joins us.

Ron, thanks for being with us.

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