The Field: In Wisconsin, America’s Divisions Laid Bare

This episode contains strong language.

At the heart of one race for the Wisconsin State Assembly are some of the same political cracks splitting the U.S. as a whole. Some believe keeping businesses running is a priority during the coronavirus pandemic; others think keeping people safe and healthy should be given precedence.

Rob Swearingen is a four-time Republican assemblyman and owner of a local restaurant. He challenged the lockdown imposed by Wisconsin’s governor and, since reopening his business, has taken a loose interpretation of the mask mandate.

His Democratic challenger, Kirk Bangstad, has strictly followed statewide edicts, opening his restaurant outdoors in the summer and, when there were coronavirus infections among his staff, closing down until all could be tested.

What do the different approaches reveal about Wisconsin politics and about broader American divisions? Reid J. Epstein, a politics reporter for The New York Times, and Andy Mills and Luke Vander Ploeg, audio producers for The Times, went to the state to find out.

 

Guests: Reid J. Epstein, who covers campaigns and elections for The New York Times; Andy Mills, a senior audio producer for The Times; Luke Vander Ploeg, an audio producer for The Times. 

Bonus Election Day special: The Daily is going LIVE today. Listen to Michael Barbaro and Carolyn Ryan, a deputy managing editor at The Times, as they call our correspondents for the latest on a history-making day. 

Tune in from 4 – 8 p.m. Eastern, only on nytimes.com/thedaily and on the The New York Times iPhone app. Click here for more information. 

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