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.

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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Even before President Trump went to court in an attempt to block publication of John Bolton's memoir, millions were waiting to hear what the former national security adviser had to say about Trump and the Ukraine affair that got him impeached.

After reading Bolton's The Room Where It Happened, few can wonder why the president wanted to stop it. While Bolton's report arrives too late to affect impeachment, it surely bolsters the case against Trump that was presented in the Senate trial.

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.

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Of course, when President Trump called in the National Guard in the streets of Washington, D.C., he told governors in a conference call they must be dominating. NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving joins us now. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

What will official Washington do in the wake of the protests and destructive violence that scarred city after city in recent days, including the capital itself?

Unrest does not stop on command. If there is a pause in the mayhem, it does not mean that the rage has been spent or the wounds have healed.

Any effort to restore confidence in each other will be complicated by the nation's preexisting conditions of pandemic and recession — not to mention the persistent condition of racism in American life and law enforcement. Fires flare up again if not extinguished at the source.

Americans are suddenly consumed with multiple crises. Even before the outbreak of social unrest following yet another African American's death in police custody, the ravages of COVID-19 and economic free fall had disrupted the national life.

All of which means conditions are ripe for President Trump to assume more power and move closer to the status of autocratic ruler, says New Yorker writer Masha Gessen in a new book Surviving Autocracy.

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.

Week In Politics

May 2, 2020

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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.

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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As the coronavirus shuts down their daily routines, some Americans have expressed the hope that the crisis would at last "bring us together" – or at least restore some sense of a shared national fate.

That is profoundly to be hoped. Public trust is essential in a public health crisis. Beyond that, there would be much to be gained by restoring a sense of national purpose.

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What is the value of one politician throwing his or her support behind another? This week saw the highest-ranking African American member of Congress, Jim Clyburn, throw his support behind former Vice President Joe Biden.

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