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      •  Saturday Q&A

Saturday Q&A

For a week or two, a slight recession in the number of impeachment-centered questions. There are still a fair number of them, of course, but nothing compared to the avalanche from a week ago.

Q: I've got a question about the Ukrainepot Dome timeline. I think that you wrote that at the time of the Trump-Zelensky phone call, the Ukrainians were aware of the aid freeze (countering a White House claim that it couldn't possibly be extortion, since Ukraine did not know of the freeze). Now the Michael Duffey e-mail shows that the aid was indeed frozen after the call. You did not seem surprised by this new piece of information, but rather wrote about it as if it had been expected all along. Could you clarify if this is indeed the case, and/or if you changed your mind, and/or if I simply misremember what you wrote earlier? J.K., Murnau, Bavaria, Germany

A: The Duffey e-mail doesn't really complicate the timeline. Saying that we (or anyone else outside of the White House) "expected" it would be a tad strong, but it's certainly fair to say that it did not surprise us.

In any event, there is really no dispute that the White House staff became aware of the administration's intent to hold the money at a meeting on July 18, which was exactly one week before the Zelensky phone call. There is every reason to believe that Zelensky had specific knowledge of the intent to freeze when he spoke to Trump on July 25, and even if he did not have specific knowledge, he surely could have inferred it from the conversation. As we know from the Duffey e-mail, the hold on the aid was executed about 90 minutes after Trump and Zelensky hung up.

In short, the process of withholding aid began many days before the phone call took place. Everyone is in agreement on this point. The only question is: What is the significance of what happened 90 minutes after the phone call? The most damning interpretation is that it's further proof of a crime, and shows us that as soon as Trump got off the phone, his staff promptly confirmed that the plans discussed a week earlier had been properly executed. The least damning interpretation is that the freeze was already in process, and it is just a coincidence that the final step was completed 90 minutes after the phone call. This is the story being promulgated by the Office of Management and Budget.

Q: In the unlikely event that the Senate votes to convict Donald Trump and remove him from office, what is the timeline for that process? Would it be immediate, where the vice president takes over the moment the vote is recorded, the same as if the president had suddenly died, resigned, or was otherwise incapacitated? Or would there be a transition period to allow for a smooth transfer of power? I realize there's no precedent for this. L.B., Savannah, GA

A: Actually, we would say that the resignation of Richard Nixon gives us a pretty good precedent, since it involves a perfectly capable person surrendering power on a basically predictable timeline.

In any event, there is no question that at the moment the gavel came down on a vote to convict Trump, he would immediately cease to be the president of the United States. It could hardly be otherwise; if an impeached and removed president was allowed to retain his powers for a day or a week or however long for a "smooth transfer of power," there are all sorts of worrisome things he could do, as someone who is presumably angry, humiliated, and unfettered by political considerations. Pardon every felon in federal custody? Fire the entire cabinet? Nuke Russia? Order an invasion of Cuba? Anything is possible. Similarly, what if China or Russia decided to take advantage, and attacked the U.S. during that period? Does anyone really want an impeached and removed president making the decision about what to do?

So, the powers of the presidency would immediately devolve upon the vice president, although he could not legally exercise them until taking the oath of office. Conveniently, the fellow who generally administers the oath—the Chief Justice—would be right there in the room. Presumably, Mike Pence would be waiting in the wings, just in case. Actually, having the chief justice administer the oath is just a nice show. Anyone can do it. When Warren Harding died suddenly on Aug. 2, 1923, then-vice president Calvin Coolidge was at his family's farm in Vermont. When word came that Harding was dead, Coolidge's father administered the oath and Coolidge was president. As a practical matter, looking to the Nixon-Ford precedent, it would take about an hour to fully make Pence president, including the oath, transferring over the nuclear codes, etc.

Q: You've mentioned several times that before the impeachment trial begins, senators are required to take an oath of impartiality. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already stated that he is not impartial. Could he (or any senator) refuse to take the oath? If so, what would happen? Would the trial proceed without that senator? Would the senator even be allowed to stay in the chamber during the trial? J.L., Baltimore, MD

A: Certainly, a senator could refuse to take the oath, but then they would not legally be allowed to serve during the impeachment trial. It is at least theoretically possible that the proceedings ground to a halt at that point, not unlike a filibuster, but that is not likely. More probable is that the impeachment managers request that either the presiding officer (i.e., the Chief Justice) or the Parliamentarian of the Senate disqualify that member and order them removed. Not all questions could plausibly be put to either of those individuals, but this one would be enough a mix of legal and parliamentary question that either would be apropos.

There is another possibility. The Constitution requires that the senators swear a special oath, and very clearly implies that the oath is supposed to be serious. However, the actual text of the oath is found in Senate rules and not in the Constitution itself. If they so desired, 51 members of the Senate could change the wording of the oath. For example: "I solemnly swear that Cats is the worst movie I've seen this year." Or: "I solemnly swear that there's no better day than Taco Tuesday." Or: "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good." Such oaths would allow the senators to follow the letter of the Constitution. They would violate the spirit, of course, but that bridge was crossed long ago.

Q: How long did it take the House to transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate during Bill Clinton's impeachment? I thought that the articles were not transmitted until January 7 in the next calendar year. Am I wrong here? M.C., Las Vegas, NV

A: Actually, it took about five minutes. The voting began at 1:25 p.m. on December 19, 1998, and concluded an hour later. As soon as the process was completed, an all-Republican delegation led by Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde of Illinois, appreciating the value of a little theatricality, marched across the Capitol building and handed the two approved articles off to the secretary of the Senate. However, consistent with a general agreement reached by all parties involved, the Senate did not commence its trial until January 7. During that 19-day gap there was, as you might imagine, much maneuvering behind the scenes. That included Bill Clinton trying (unsuccessfully) to negotiate a compromise with the Republican minority in the Senate in hopes of avoiding a trial. They didn't go for it, of course.

Q: I've tracked several polls and agree that it doesn't appear there is much movement in terms of supporting/opposing Donald Trump and supporting/opposing impeachment. But I wonder if it's a symptom of the people looking to their leaders for an opinion rather than the leaders looking to the people. Do you think it's likely that the gridlock in the House and Senate are responsible for the gridlock in the polls and that, if/when the tipping point among our leaders is hit, the polls will change with it? P.F., Fairbanks, AK

A: This is, of course, the political version of the "chicken and egg" argument. Do politicians lead from ahead, or do they "lead" from behind? There are obviously many examples of each phenomenon in U.S. history. For example, there is little question that Abraham Lincoln got (a critical mass of) Americans behind emancipation more quickly than otherwise would have happened, that Theodore Roosevelt deserves much of the credit for selling Americans on the virtues of conservation, and that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would not have been passed without the application of Lyndon B. Johnson's considerable political skill. On the other hand, slavery lived on for nearly a century after the declaration that "all men were created equal," nearly 1,000 Jewish refugees on the S.S. St Louis were denied entry into the U.S. in 1939 (condemning many of them to death), and segregation remained legal until the 1950s, because one (or many) politicians refused to challenge the popular will.

At present, our guess is that most modern politicians—particularly Republicans—are leading from behind, and that their "views" on impeachment won't change until such time that the polls tell them it's ok for them to change. Our reason for thinking this is that politicians—and again, particularly Republicans—who have deviated from the party line in the last 15-20 years, even a little, have faced vicious condemnation from talk radio personalities, voters, etc., and have often been primaried (or have chosen to retire) as a result.

Q: We've been hearing a lot about compelling potential witnesses to testify in the Senate impeachment trial. Since former NSA John Bolton and Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney have not given any testimony in the House hearings, don't you feel this could be a potential trainwreck for Democrats? I've always been told that in a trial that a prosecutor or defense attorney should never ask questions they don't already know the answers to. Why would this be different? R.P., Bakersfield, CA

A: This general bit of wisdom is correct, according to all the attorneys we've talked to, and we've even repeated it a few times.

That said, a prosecuting attorney (or a defense attorney) does not always get exactly the circumstances they would wish for. Sometimes, they are not able to pre-interview a witness, for various reasons. Sometimes, the witness' answers change on the stand. Sometimes, the reaction of the jury is not what counsel expected. Under all of these circumstances, a lawyer has to be able to adapt and improvise a bit (or a lot). If the only way that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), et al., can talk to Bolton or Mulvaney is in open session of the Senate, they will likely make the best of it.

Even if Bolton, Mulvaney, etc. are compelled to testify, it is not likely that Schiff & Co. will be put into that position. It is likely that previously undeposed witnesses would be required to answer questions behind closed doors first. In fact, that's the only way that witnesses testified during the impeachment of Bill Clinton. They answered questions behind closed doors and were filmed. Then, counsel for both sides chose the clips they wanted to show. It's probable that the same method would be used during the Trump impeachment.

Q: Polling data sometimes breaks things down by gender, race, and age. Donald Trump manages to insult many subgroups of society beyond these categories. For example I read the other day he has a surprising level of disapproval among the military. Could this create pockets of disapproval that are missed by polling? L.A.H., Corvallis, OR

A: Generally speaking, we don't think there is a large sub-group of voters that the polls might be missing. First, because they do a pretty good job of considering most of the major categories that might be meaningful (political party, gender, race, age, income, socioeconomic status, etc.). Second, because what actually matters is how people are going to vote in the aggregate. It might be interesting to know that Donald Trump has the support of 90% of Tahitian Buddhist baby boomer lesbian millionaires in Wisconsin, but what ultimately matters is his overall support in the state. If 55% of Wisconsinites plan to vote against him, their demographics don't matter.

However, the military is a special case, which we've mentioned once or twice before. First of all, active-duty soldiers aren't supposed to share their political opinions. Second, they are difficult to poll, by virtue of being deployed around the world. As a result of these two things, we have relatively little data on how much support Donald Trump actually has among the troops. And because their votes are distributed across the 50 states, as opposed to being concentrated in two or three of them, veterans could plausibly be decisive in any close state.

The only other group we can think of that is comparable to this is the 5.5 million American citizens who live abroad, of whom about 3 million are entitled to vote in U.S. elections. If all of those people living abroad were to be declared the 51st "state," that state would be the 23rd largest state, right in between South Carolina and Minnesota. Anyhow, nobody bothers to poll these folks, either (and only the Democrats bother to get their votes during the primaries). Like the soldiers, they are drawn from all 50 states (usually voting in their most recent state of residence). So, they could be decisive in a close state and, once again, the polls would completely miss them.

Q: We know Donald Trump lies every hour or two on a normal day, to the point one can't believe anything he says, and that other Republicans play right along. So, is there any reason to believe the RNC's $63 million in donations or Trump's $125 million are anywhere near a reality? A campaign wouldn't pay income taxes, so is there any crime/penalty for hyper-inflating your donation totals to, say, look imposing, or to encourage actual contributions? A.B., Denver, CO

A: This would be a very unwise thing to do. By law, all presidential campaigns are audited automatically by the FEC. National committees are audited at the FEC's discretion, if anything seems to be awry. And if either was misrepresenting their donations, that would be fraud and would be a crime, carrying a penalty of up to one year in prison, plus a fine.

Generally speaking, folks don't play games like this, committing obvious financial crimes in full public view. First, because the paper trail makes malfeasance easy to prove. Second, because it is easy to pile up a lot of offenses very quickly. For example, if the Trump campaign e-mails 1 million people and lies about its fundraising take, that could be interpreted as 1 million separate acts of fraud. This is an extreme example, but it makes the point.

Of course, Trump is obviously pretty brazen about committing financial crimes that others wouldn't touch with a 20-foot pole. This is a subject we might learn a lot more about in the next year. So, never say never, we suppose.

Oh, and we're not so sure that big fundraising totals are actually an impetus to further fundraising. Yes, "Trump has collected $125 million" could translate as "What a big success he is! I want in!" However, it could also translate as "If he's already got $125 million, he doesn't need my $50."

Q: I'm worried about cheating during the 2020 election, mostly for two reasons: (1) Donald Trump cheats at everything, and (2) the Trump campaign and the RNC are raising a lot of money. What's to stop Trump and the RNC from using a lot of that money to bribe county election officials into altering the election results in Trump's favor? D.W., St. Louis, MO

A: You're absolutely right to be nervous about cheating, whether it's overt malfeasance (like what happened in NC-09 last year), or various forms of voter suppression/intimidation. However, this particular form of chicanery seems unlikely. It would be rather difficult to recruit enough election officials to make a difference without stumbling across a few honest ones (or, alternatively, a few dishonest ones who happen to be Democrats). All it would take is one or two people blowing the whistle on the scheme, and it would be a mega-scandal. Voter suppression is just as effective, and quite clearly is barely scandalous at all.

Q: You alluded to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard's (D-HI) "apparent support for murderous strongmen like Bashar al-Assad." I've heard this repeated again and again. What's the evidence? As far as I know, she met with Assad as well as the other side, in order to try to understand both positions.

If we are going to conflate meeting with bad guys with "support" for the bad guys, then Donald Trump must be "supporting" Lil' Rocket Man; and he must be "supporting" former KGB Agent Vlad Putin. Ok, maybe on the last one, but "supporting" Lil' Rocket Man? That's a stretch.
D.W., St. Louis, MO

A: First of all, we would suggest you are too quick to dismiss the importance of a (very public) meeting. When Gabbard meets with Assad, or Trump meets with Kim or Putin, it absolutely gives those men something, namely legitimacy. Sometimes that is a worthwhile tradeoff, but we struggle to see exactly what Gabbard got from Assad or Trump got from Kim/Putin. As Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) wrote: "By meeting with the mass murderer of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, Tulsi Gabbard has legitimized his dictatorship and in turn, legitimized his genocide against the Syrian people; the murdering of 50,000+ innocent children among the nearly half million total slaughtered by his regime."

It is also true that Gabbard met with "the other side" of the war in Syria, in that she had a chat with some refugees and some rebel soldiers. However, she rarely mentions that experience, and it doesn't seem to have affected her views on the conflict. Generally speaking, her pronouncements on Syria could very well have been written by Assad's press office. For example, she once declared: "If Assad is removed and overthrown, ISIS, al Qaeda, Al Nusra, these Islamic extremist groups will walk straight in and take over all of Syria...they will be even stronger."

Once Gabbard became a presidential candidate, her views on Syria came under much more scrutiny, and there was pressure upon her to explain herself and to change her position. She answered this pressure, eventually, by explaining that her only concern is to get American soldiers out of harm's way. She also declared Assad to be a "brutal dictator," though she has refused to call for his ouster, or to recant her past statements.

It would be convenient for us if politicians made their views on every subject 100% clear, so that there was no ambiguity. But that is not, of course, how it works. And our view is that the weight of the evidence points toward a pro-Assad posture, while most of Gabbard's qualifying statements appear to have been made for political expediency. The Representative did not help herself in terms of presenting herself as someone whose motivations are pure, and unaffected by political considerations, when she voted "present" on the articles of impeachment. With all of this said, this is just our best judgment, which is why we referred to her "apparent support" and not her "support."

Q: I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis of whom Jesus would vote for. The logic extends to "whose p**** would Jesus grab?" and "which children would Jesus cage?" The fact that "mainstream" (white) American Christianity is nearly blind to its own purported values in so many ways is patently obvious to the casual observer. Can you offer any historical or comparative context for this current process in America? J.G., El Cerrito, CA

A: This could be (and has been) the subject of many books. All we can do is make a few, hopefully instructive, observations.

To start, as a general rule, the Northern part of the country was settled 400 years ago by people who valued education, and who were—by the standards of their day—religious skeptics. They thought pretty carefully about the Bible and about church doctrine, and were open to interpretation and reinterpretation. To use the term preferred by scholars of religion, these folks engaged in a lot of rational inquiry. It is not a coincidence that a sizable number of new (and often pretty liberal) variants of Christianity emerged from that part of the nation. That list includes the Quakers, the Shakers, the Mormons (founded in Fayette, NY, before relocating westward), the Unitarians, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Seventh-day Adventists, among others.

In the South, by contrast, there was a bit more religious (and ethnic) conformity among early settlers. More importantly, many Southern states had an established (i.e., government-mandated) church denomination, and by the mid-1600s, they all had slavery. These circumstances created a situation in which religious doctrine, government authority, and support for slavery became intertwined, with the latter two quite often taking precedence.

What we are arguing here is that bending religious dogma to serve the needs of politics is a longstanding American tradition, and one that is particularly (though not uniquely, of course) identified with the South. This was well-established by the early 1800s, the era that saw the rise of the Southern Baptists and other evangelical fundamentalist groups in that region. And the Baptists, et al., jumped right on board the train.

In terms of the modern marriage of religion and Republican politics, we would direct your attention to two major developments in the recent history of American Christianity. The first is the rise of the Prosperity Gospel, which has its roots in the 19th century, but which achieved wide public acceptance in the 1950s. The basic idea here is financial success (particularly if facilitated by donations to the church) is a sign of grace. This notion would appear to subvert much of Jesus' ministry. As he observed: "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God," (Luke 19:23-24). Anyhow, if a fat bank account is seen as a sign of God's providence, it certainly makes it easier to support things like tax cuts and eliminating social welfare programs.

The other important development is Pat Robertson's failed 1988 presidential campaign. After Robertson withdrew from the race, he was left with millions in donations in the bank, and a long list of devoted supporters (and their addresses). So, he decided to parlay that into a Christianity-based advocacy group/PAC called the Christian Coalition. Robertson ran the group for about a decade, and then realized that Washington insiders could achieve more, and so he handed the reins over to former Reagan cabinet secretary Donald P. Hodel, who was connected with the Reaganites in the GOP, and former representative Randy Tate, who was connected with Newt Gingrich and others in the new generation of Republican leadership. The Christian Coalition wasn't the first PAC based on Christianity (that was probably Focus on the Family), but they rapidly became the most successful, and a major player in Republican politics. Perhaps most importantly, they taught evangelical leaders across the country that if they said "jump!", Republican politicians would ask "How high?"

Q: Regarding this item: What is the real birthday of Jesus? Why did the Christians not just adhere to that date? L.M.S., Harbin, China

A: Early Christians did not adhere to that date because the real birthday of Jesus is unknown. Broadly speaking, people of his era did not bother to record birthdays, particularly the birthdays of commoners. This would remain true, to a greater or lesser extent, for another 1,600 years or so. For many notable personages of humble origin, their "birthdate" is actually just an educated guess based on baptismal records.

In Jesus' case, what we know of his life comes from the four gospels, along with a few mentions in historical works by non-Christian historians, like Tacitus and Josephus. Early Christians would have relied on the same sources; most of them did not personally know Jesus, or even know anyone who had contact with him. None of these sources gives any information about Jesus' date of birth, and Jesus himself may not have known it. They don't even give a completely clear picture as to the year of his birth; we only really know that he was born somewhere between 10 B.C. and 2 A.D.

How did we end up with December 25 as his birthdate? Even that is not clear, but here are the leading theories:

  • It was borrowed from the Romans, who celebrated Natalis Solis Invicti on that date
  • It was borrowed from the Zoroastrians, who feasted Ahura Mazda on that date
  • It was borrowed from the Jews, who celebrate the Feast of the Dedication on 25 Kislev of the Jewish calendar
  • It is nine months after the spring equinox, which was a good time to conceive a child back then
  • It was chosen due to proximity to the winter solstice; just as there is more light after December 21, Jesus brought "more light" into the world

These are all just (pretty wild) guesses; the first known reference to December 25 as Jesus' birthday was in a book written by Hippolytus of Rome around the year 220. That's a big gap, about as far as the gap between us and the birth of Abraham Lincoln (1809).

Q: We were discussing the order of presidential succession and it occurred to me: do acting cabinet secretaries count? Did the law covering this even consider the issue? How many acting secretaries are there right now? Where in succession are they? What about their status with regards to the 25th Amendment? E.S., Maine, NY

A: Let's start with the easy part of the question. Among those cabinet secretaries entitled to succeed to the presidency and/or to participate in an invocation of the 25th Amendment, only one is acting, and that is Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, who is last in the line of succession.

That said, Trump is sure to have more acting secretaries at some point. And should succession and/or the 25th Amendment become an issue, nobody really knows if acting secretaries count or not. As is the case with the men who wrote the Constitution, and then disagreed about the meaning of what they had written, the folks who wrote the 25th Amendment did not have consensus on the acting secretaries issue. The House Judiciary Committee, which wrote the amendment, issued a report that said that acting secretaries count the same as actual secretaries. John D. Feerick, law professor at Fordham University School, whom the committee consulted for his expertise, wrote a whole book in which he echoed that view. On the other hand, Senator Birch Bayh, who was a principal sponsor of the 25th Amendment, said that acting secretaries quite obviously are not in the line of succession and cannot participate in an invocation of the 25th Amendment.

Another thing that is unclear: At what point does an invocation of the 25th Amendment become official? The text of the amendment makes clear that once it has been invoked, the vice president immediately assumes power (though the president can appeal the decision to Congress). Anyhow, what if Trump learns of such plans, and fires the cabinet? Does that end the attempt? What if he walks into the cabinet meeting while they are taking the vote and fires them? Does that save him?

Way back in the 1950s, well before the 25th Amendment was in place, Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr. foresaw the potential weakness in impeachment procedures, or any other rules designed to deal with politicians who abuse their powers. He wrote: "No mechanical or procedural solution will provide a complete answer if one assumes hypothetical cases in which most of the parties are rogues and in which no popular sense of constitutional propriety exists." Rather prescient, wasn't he?

Q: How would a chart showing the aging presidents differ if it was normalized relative to median life expectancy at the time each president served? K.W., St. Joseph, MI

A: Obviously, this is a response to the item we ran yesterday about how old most of the leading presidential candidates are this year compared to all the men who have served as president. And your basic (implicit) point is a fair one, namely that being 70 in 1861 (as James Buchanan was when he left office) was more of an outlier than being 75 or 80 today.

That said, we have no idea how one might execute the chart in the manner you propose. Many of the men who served as president lived long enough that average lifespans changed significantly over the course of their lives. For example, when Ronald Reagan was born, the life expectancy for an American male was 50.9 years. When he died, it was 78.6 years. By living to 93.4 years, did he outlive his life expectancy by 42.5 years, or by 14.8 years? Neither of those seems quite right.

There is also another problem that would make such a chart very misleading. When George Washington was born, for example, the average life expectancy for American men was about 36 years. Right now, it's about 74 years (yes, it's gone down since Reagan died in 2004, thanks primarily to an increase in suicides and opioid overdoses). Anyhow, given that Washington became president at 56, that might seem like the modern equivalent of 94 years old (average life expectancy plus 20 years). However, the primary reason that life expectancy in Washington's time was so low was because of frightfully high infant- and child-mortality rates. Once someone made it to the age of 21 back then, as Washington did (of course), their life expectancy was not wildly different than it would be today (maybe 7 years less). So, Old George wasn't actually all that old when he assumed office, even correcting for his era.

Q: Last week, you answered the question: "Which of the 50 states is the best? Why?" by listing MA, CA and WA as your choices. As a former resident of the Left Coast of the USA, I was pleased to see 2 of the 3 on the West Coast, particularly when I kept reading and saw OR and HI listed as additional possibilities. What struck me most was that excepting TX, all of the states that you chose were blue or purple trending blue.

Could there be an echo chamber going on? For that matter, what states do you think, say, would list? Lastly, mobility across state lines has been steadily increasing since the Civil War, and with technology, remote work is becoming increasingly common. Do think that over the next 100 years, people will largely self-sort by physically moving making the blue states ever bluer and the red states likewise?
E.C.R., Helsinki, Finland

A: Is there an echo chamber? Possible, but we don't think so. When we set out to answer that question last week, we decided to have one state that embodied centuries of American history and culture, one that embodied modern influence and prosperity, and one that topped the lists of "best states to live in," as judged by people who are not us. The first was almost certainly going to be a New England state (and thus blue), and while Texas might have slotted into the second category, the major selling points of Texas are even more true of California (e.g., California is wealthier, had an even bigger role in WWII, has a more profound impact on popular culture, has a bigger tech sector, etc.). As to the third category, if U.S. News & World Report had put a red state at the top of their list, we would have duly reported that.

Actually, our sneaking suspicion is that the correlation operates in the opposite direction. That is to say, that the things that make a state "good" tend to correlate with liberal politics. For example, Democratic economic policies have generally led to greater prosperity; of the 10 richest states, 7 are deep blue, 2 are purple-blue (Virginia and New Hampshire), and only one is red (Alaska). Similarly, one of the major selling points for a state, particularly on "best places to live" lists, is the quality of the healthcare system. Blue states are more likely to have some sort of universal healthcare (e.g. Romneycare).

As we noted, we're going to run some letters on this subject tomorrow, from folks who have thoughts about the best or worst states, or other related observations. If anyone else cares to contribute, please send your thoughts along. As to RedState, conservatives tend to value economic opportunity and upward mobility, they like places where you can get a lot of "bang for your buck," and they tend to desire access to churches, but also to the outdoors (places to hunt, fish, etc.). Texas checks many of those boxes (though it's not so cheap to live there these days, unless you want to live in West Texas). Or maybe North Carolina?

There is certainly a lot of self-sorting into "red" and "blue" states going on right now, but whether that will continue for another decade, much less another century, who knows? If we think back to 100 years ago, the primary things prompting migration were economic opportunity in the West, black Southerners fleeing racism, and white laborers heading Southward for jobs. It's possible that political identification and the desire to be among like-minded people could remain a predominant motivator for years, or decades, or generations, but things often change very quickly.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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Dec22 Sunday Mailbag
Dec21 Saturday Q&A
Dec20 Democrats Debate in Los Angeles
Dec20 Senate Doesn't Have a Deal on Impeachment Rules
Dec20 Mulvaney Looks to Be a Short-Timer
Dec20 To Avoid Conviction, Trump Needs Only 15% of the Country
Dec20 Senate Republicans Are Praying that Trump Won't Tweet During the Trial
Dec20 Christianity Today Calls for Trump's Removal
Dec20 House Passes USMCA
Dec20 Mark Meadows Will Not Run for Reelection
Dec19 House Impeaches Trump
Dec19 Trump Wanted to See George W. Bush Impeached
Dec19 Giuliani Pal Lev Parnas Received $1 Million from Ukrainian Oligarch