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Trump Offers an Alternative to a Concrete Wall: A Steel Wall

Donald Trump has finally got the message that the Democrats are not going to accept a concrete wall on the Mexican border, so he made a concession yesterday and said that he would accept a steel wall instead of a concrete one:

If the Democrats reject that proposal, as they certainly will, he could also try titanium, nickel, copper, wood, plexiglas, or papier-mâché. But the response will be exactly the same, of course: The Democrats' problem with the wall is they don't want one, not that they have something against concrete as a construction material.

The administration took the Sunday news shows as an opportunity to try to put some pressure on the Democrats. Sarah Huckabee Sanders went on Fox News, expecting a friendly audience, and she didn't find it:

In essence, Sanders used the same statistics that DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tried to use at a meeting with Democratic leaders on Friday. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wasn't having it then, and Fox's Chris Wallace wasn't having it on Sunday. He criticized the administration's talking point that 3,000 "special interest aliens" have been stopped at the Mexican border, pointing out that all that means is that they came from countries that have once produced a terrorist, and that it's dishonest to make it seem as if 3,000 terrorists have been stopped there. He also eviscerated the related claim that 4,000 people suspected of possible terrorist ties have been captured trying to enter the United States, and that is why it's so important to secure the Southern border. The first part is true, but as Wallace pointed out, all of those 4,000 were detained at airports, while zero were detained at the border, which thus falsifies the second part of the claim. Sanders was clearly not prepared for this, and did not do well when she was challenged. And it's not a good sign for the administration when even Fox is not buying what they're selling.

Trump also threatened on Sunday, once again, to declare a national emergency and build the wall without congressional approval. Such a move would instantly be contested in the courts since the president does not have the authority to take money that Congress has appropriated for project A and use it for project B. Congressional Republicans would almost certainly react with horror to any attempt to do this since it would effectively usurp Congress' authority to determine how the government will spend its money.

So, the shutdown will continue, as its effects gradually get larger. Jan. 11 is the first pay date whose (two-week) pay period falls entirely within the shutdown, so hundreds of thousands of federal workers will not get paid, and all of them will notice. The IRS normally accepts 2018 tax returns starting in the second half of January, so if the shutdown continues for another week, people who want to file early to get a refund won't be able to. If it continues until February, the 40 million people on SNAP (food stamps) won't get their benefits and many will go hungry. Trump probably doesn't care, though, since he assumes all of them are Democrats. (V & Z)

Trump in No Hurry to Name Permanent Cabinet Members

At the moment, in addition to acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, five cabinet or cabinet-level positions in Donald Trump's administration are filled by "acting" officials: David Bernhardt (Interior), Patrick Shanahan (Defense), Matthew Whitaker (AG), Andrew Wheeler (EPA), and Heather Nauert (U.N. Ambassador). Only Nauert is awaiting confirmation to permanent status, while only Whitaker has had a successor nominated (Bill Barr). On Sunday, Donald Trump said he is in no hurry to name permanent replacements for the other posts, including chief of staff, saying that the current situation gives him more "flexibility."

Undoubtedly, Trump is right about that. It is much easier for him, politically, to fire or reassign acting cabinet officers than it is for those who have been confirmed. Certainly, the interim folks know that, and are considerably less likely to push back against the administration. The President likes that; the fewer James Mattises and Rex Tillersons from here on out, the better.

That said, this new "policy" undoubtedly also reflects certain realities that Trump would prefer not to admit publicly. Given his administration's general dysfunction, and its legal problems, not to mention his habit of abusing his underlings and blaming them for, well, everything, "the best people" are pretty much unwilling to serve under him. The second-best and third-best aren't too interested, either, which is how a president ends up with less-than-stellar people like Whitaker, a borderline white-collar crook who has ironically been put in charge of enforcing the nation's laws.

Further, given the type of people who are willing to accept a Trump appointment, the confirmation process tends to be pretty ugly, with plenty of black eyes (or potential black eyes) for the president. Consider the embarrassments with would-be labor secretary Andrew Puzder, or would-be VA secretary Ronny Jackson, or actual AG Jeff Sessions, or actual education secretary Betsy DeVos. Just last week, in fact, it came to light that current VA Secretary Robert Wilkie hid his connections to pro-Confederate groups when filling out his disclosure paperwork. Relatively minor compared to some of the black marks on the records of Trump appointees, but a good reminder that anyone he picks is going to be subject to all sorts of scrutiny, and is probably not going to stand up well to that.

In short, Trump has all sorts of reasons to drag his feet here. At the same time, there is fairly little pressure on him to find permanent replacements. As we all learned with Merrick Garland, the whole appointment and confirmation process assumes that the various players will act in good faith and will handle their responsibilities in a timely manner. But if they choose not to do so, there is no particular penalty for it. We could get into a constitutional gray area if one of the interim appointees needs to perform certain tasks, like invoke the 25th Amendment or fire the special counsel. But that day may never come, and until then, there's nothing to light a fire under Trump. So, it wouldn't be a surprise if these people stay in their jobs for a very long time, maybe even until the end of his term. (Z)

Schiff Is Not Interested in Impeaching Trump

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) said in an interview Sunday that he expects Donald Trump to be voted out of office. He doesn't expect Trump to be removed from office. While Schiff is a key player in this decision, he is not the key player. That is Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), whose committee handles impeachments, and who is also taking it easy on the impeachment front. Of course, a huge amount depends on what special counsel Robert Mueller reports, in particular, whether Trump committed any high crimes while in office.

One thing that Schiff and Speaker Nancy Pelosi know well is that if Trump is impeached and convicted without an overwhelming majority of Americans in favor of it, the country will be torn apart, with Trump supporters claiming that the Democrats effectively stole the presidency (even though Trump would be replaced by Mike Pence, whom they also voted for). If Trump runs in 2020 and is defeated, his supporters won't like it, but will ultimately have to accept it as the will of the people.

Just because Schiff is not talking impeachment right now, however, does not mean that he intends to take a passive approach to the administration. In fact, he sat for an interview with the New Yorker in which he made clear that he plans to follow the money, and to do what he can to see if Trump placed national security at risk in order to advance his own personal financial interests. So, the Congressman is all set to move right to the top of the President's enemies list, impeachment or not. (V & Z)

Ex-Felons Can Register to Vote in Florida Tomorrow--Maybe

Florida voters passed an amendment to the state constitution in November guaranteeing most former felons who have served all their time the right to vote again. It is estimated that 1.2 to 1.4 million people could be re-enfranchised. Since minorities are disproportionately imprisoned and minorities skew Democratic, the development could help the Democrats. Former felons can begin registering to vote starting tomorrow.

However, various Republican politicians are not happy with having so many potential Democrats getting the vote back. To try to slow down the process, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has said he wants to review the amendment before having it take effect. What is unclear is what will happen when ex-felons start registering tomorrow. Will they be allowed to? There is no such thing as a "provisional registration" in Florida (or anywhere else). In any event, the fight for re-enfranchisment of ex-felons is not over. (V)

Sixteen Big Questions about Mueller's Investigation

The S.S. Mueller is definitely a seaworthy boat—it doesn't leak at all. So although a little bit is known about what the special counsel is up to, on account of public court filings, many questions about his investigation remain. CNN has put together this list of 16 of them as starters:

  • How does the Mueller investigation end?
  • Will the public ever see Mueller's findings?
  • Will Trump try to fire Mueller?
  • Will Mueller interview Trump?
  • How long will Mueller's grand jury continue to meet?
  • What will House Democrats do?
  • Will Roger Stone's associate Andrew Miller be forced to testify?
  • Which foreign state-owned company is Mueller after?
  • What are the ongoing investigations that Rick Gates is still helping Mueller with?
  • Will powerful Russians get access to national security investigation secrets?
  • How important is GRU officer Konstantin Kilimnik?
  • How many years will Paul Manafort serve in prison (if he is not pardoned)?
  • What did Michael Cohen tell prosecutors?
  • Will Julian Assange ever leave the Ecuadorian embassy and be arrested?
  • What do prosecutors have in store for Stone?
  • What's next for Michael Flynn?

In short, there are an awful lot of loose ends left. Mueller knows some of the answers, such as his plans for Roger Stone, but some of them even he can't know (e.g., will he get an interview with Trump?). (V)

Money Is the New Straw Poll

With two dozen or more Democrats already running for president, how will the media tell who is ahead? There have been polls, but they tend to reflect name recognition more than anything else. With all the candidates frantically trying to raise money online, it is likely that media organizations are going to increasingly use the amount of money the candidates have raised from small-donor donors as an indication of their momentum or lack thereof.

Already, five Democrats have set themselves apart as particularly high-powered digital fundraisers. They are Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and former representative Beto O'Rourke, who broke all fundraising records in 2018 by pulling in $80 million for an unsuccessful Senate run in Texas.

The executive director of ActBlue, Erin Hill, said that small donors will pick the Democratic nominee. Due to the unprecedented amount of money flowing to Democratic candidates, much of it through ActBlue, the group is planning to double its staff from 100 to 200 in the next two years. Since it was started in 2004, it has raised over $3 billion for Democrats. (V)

Petition Asks NYC to Rename a Stretch of Fifth Avenue

A petition started by calls for the block of Fifth Avenue in New York between 56th Street and 57th Street to be renamed "President Barack H. Obama Avenue." Such renaming is not unusual. The New York City Council recently approved naming streets for the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan, Notorious B.I.G., Woody Guthrie, and Audre Lorde. A section of freeway in Los Angeles has been renamed for Obama.

What is special about Fifth Avenue from 56th Street to 57th Street is that it just so happens to be home to Trump Tower. Donald Trump's reelection campaign will be headquartered there. If the city council approves the name change, the reelection committee's mailing address will become:

Committee to Re-elect President Donald Trump
725 President Barack H. Obama Avenue
New York, NY 10022

It is not likely that Trump will be pleased with the name change, if it happens. Certainly, the council might decline to consider the matter, or might consider it and vote "no." In 2008, San Francisco voters were asked what they thought of renaming a water treatment plant the "George W. Bush Memorial Sewage Plant." They voted it down by a wide margin. On the other hand, when the Ku Klux Klan "adopted" a stretch of I-55 in Missouri (which basically means paying for litter removal), the Missouri Dept. of Transportation promptly renamed that part of the freeway after Rosa Parks. So, who knows what deep blue New York City will do here? (V)

Monday Q&A

There were, presumably coincidentally, a number of Civil War-related questions this week. If the goal was to get the attention of the site's resident Civil War historian, well, it worked.

My question stems from a few months ago, when Trump was commenting about General Grant and referenced his reputation for being an alcoholic. It's anecdotal, but Grant's reputation as an alcoholic and "butcher" seems to have lived on. Although I love history I am not a scholar. However, after reading Bruce Catton's Grant Moves South and Grant Takes Command, among a few other less Grant-specific Civil War history books, my impression is that Grant deserves a far better reputation. Despite the common perception, Grant seems to have been quite sober, at least during the war, and an extremely effective general. Does Grant deserve a reputation for being a drunk and a butcher? Do you have any other suggested books along the lines of Bruce Catton's work for the armchair historian? G.B., Mt. Prospect, IL

Despite the fact that you were reading books that are more than 50 years old, you have done a remarkable job of inferring what professional historians are currently saying about Grant. Let's start with the "alcoholic" part. Grant's abuse of drink was, to an extent, an indirect result of graduating West Point in the bottom half of his class (21 of 39). The good assignments went to top grads, the crummy assignments went to everyone else. And so, despite several good years of post-grad service, including acquitting himself well in the Mexican-American War, he ended up assigned to Oregon in the early 1850s. That was the sticks back then, and he was lonely and depressed, as it was not practical to bring his family west to join him. He also suffered from financial difficulties, as the salary paid to soldiers back then was pretty meager. So, he turned to whiskey, and became—by modern standards—an addict. He ran afoul of his superiors several times, was reprimanded several times, and eventually resigned his commission.

Had the Civil War never happened, Grant would likely have remained a civilian for the rest of his life, and you certainly never would have heard of him. But the war did happen and, as an experienced officer, Grant felt a duty to return to the service. He was, of course, very good at training soldiers, and he was even better at commanding them. And so, he began to rise rapidly, both in terms of reputation and in terms of the importance of the commands he was given. There was a great deal of politics in the appointments of generals back then, even more so than today, since many generals were actual politicians who used their connections to get their appointment and who were primarily interested in burnishing their résumés (see, for example, Benjamin Butler or Daniel Sickles). Not surprisingly, a lot of ambitious Union officers were resentful of Grant's success, particularly since he was fairly rough around the edges and physically unimpressive (5'7", 150 pounds). Anti-war Democrats also disliked him, in large part because they disliked the war in general. And so, Grant's various enemies dredged up his alcohol abuse in order to discredit him. In the short term, it worked, as it made Lincoln reluctant to promote him up the ranks too quickly. In the long term, it failed. Lincoln sent an emissary (Asst. Secretary of War Charles Dana) to visit Grant under false pretenses, so he could collect information on Grant's alcohol use. Dana reported back, truthfully, that there was no issue, and that the General was stone-cold sober during every battle he commanded. Historians concur with this assessment; it's actually pretty easy to judge because we have access to the battle orders that Grant wrote, and they are obviously the work of a clear mind.

Now, on to the "butcher" part. The Civil War was a very bloody and brutal war, one where modern technologies like rifles and machine guns and land mines ran up against pre-modern medicine. They barely understood anesthesia back then, and they didn't know about germs or sterilization at all (penicillin was more than 60 years in the future). And so, it was pretty ugly. As the commander of a series of very large armies, and as someone who had to fight an offensive war, Grant necessarily ordered a lot of men to their deaths. As a result, even while the war was underway, he was called a "butcher" by his enemies. But while he certainly did make some mistakes, most obviously at Cold Harbor, the evidence does not support the conclusion that Grant wasted the lives of his men. In fact, his nemesis Robert E. Lee consistently lost a larger percentage of his command in battles than did Grant, despite the fact that Lee generally had the advantage of fighting on the defensive.

After the war, given his success, the attacks on Grant's character and generalship largely faded away, and he was regarded as a national hero on the level of Abraham Lincoln. In fact, it was common back then for Americans to display framed portraits of the two men in their homes. This remained the case for the remainder of Grant's life, and the funeral he received in 1885 was commensurate with that status.

So, what happened after that, such that Lincoln remained a hero, but Grant did not? Two things. The first is that Grant had a presidency that, while not terrible, did not compare to his enormous success as a military commander. And it took place during the Reconstruction, one of the most difficult (and misunderstood) periods in American history. That period eventually acquired a reputation for being full of venality and corruption, and Grant—as the nation's leader in that era—had his overall reputation dragged down as a result.

The second reason Grant's reputation cratered is that, starting not too long before he died, Southern apologists—known as the Lost Cause school—undertook a very successful effort to rewrite the history of the Civil War. The primary goal was to excuse the South's rebellion and to downplay slavery as a cause of the war, and to justify the resumption of white, Southern control of Southern state governments (during the Reconstruction, those governments were controlled by the U.S. army and/or Northern politicians called carpetbaggers, and/or white Southern Republicans called scalawags, and/or a handful of black elected officials). For purposes of the Lost Cause interpretation, it was necessary to cast certain Confederates as great heroes (Robert E. Lee, most obviously, but also Stonewall Jackson and Nathan Bedford Forrest, among others). Villains were also needed, and Grant, of course, fit the bill. Between his presidency, and the fact that he died and could no longer answer the Lost Cause writers, and the lingering notion that he was a drunk and a butcher, it was pretty easy to tear him down. There's an old saying that "The victors write the history." Anyone who says that never studied what happened to the history of the Civil War. For evidence, take a look at the 1939 film Gone With the Wind sometime, which sold millions of tickets in both the North and the South.

In the last 10-20 years, as historians have looked carefully at the Lost Cause and the memory of the Civil War, Grant's reputation has been on the rise, and has been partly restored. If you would like to read more, the best recent biography is Ron Chernow's Grant. It's a much more sympathetic portrayal than we saw 20 or 50 or 100 years ago, and reflects modern thinking on the man. If you would like to read specifically about how Grant was regarded while he was alive, and the process of tearing his reputation down, see Joan Waugh's U. S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth. And if you would like to read about the Lost Cause, see Gary Gallagher and Alan Nolan, The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History. Full disclosure: Dr. Waugh was (Z)'s doctoral advisor, and Dr. Gallagher was on his committee, but these are nonetheless the definitive works on those subjects.

I wanted to ask a question which relates to the controversy surrounding statues of Civil War generals. The news seems to gloss over all of the details, and I was surprised to learn just how heinous some of the examples are. The worst one I've come across is a state park in Tennessee named after Nathan Bedford Forrest. Even a cursory glance at the history books shows that this guy was one of the most evil figures in American history. He was a slavery enthusiast who executed prisoners during the Civil War, did his best to continue slavery after the war in the form of for-profit prisons, but worst of all, he was basically the founder of the KKK. And yet, there's a state park named in his honor! It's 2019. How can a state park still exist dedicated to this monster? And how isn't there a MUCH larger national controversy about this park in particular? A.H., Sunnyvale, CA

It's good that we got this question in the same week as the one on Grant, because the answers are strongly related to each other.

To start, let us note that one can tell Nathan Bedford Forrest's story in a very positive way. He was, first of all, a man born in poverty who became a self-made millionaire. He was a devoted Southern patriot. He was the only soldier in the Civil War to rise from private to lieutenant general (a feat that was basically only possible in the Confederacy, as Union ranks topped out at major general until 1864). He was very brave in battle, and had more than a dozen horses shot out from under him.

There is also, as you note, a very negative way to tell Forrest's story. Those millions he made were as a slave trader, long after the slave trade had been outlawed. In battle, he gave no quarter to black troops who tried to surrender, and was responsible for the Fort Pillow massacre. After the war, he played a key role in the emergence of the KKK as its first grand wizard, and in the re-imposition of white supremacy.

As noted in the previous answer, Forrest was a natural hero for Lost Cause writers, in part because he had a compelling personal story and in part because the Lost Cause was a pro-white supremacy argument, and Forrest was a leading white supremacist. The park you mention got its name in 1924, when Forrest's unapologetic racism was either not a problem or, for many people, was a point in his favor.

As you probably know, a lot of things done long ago to honor former Confederates have been undone in recent years. Monuments have been removed, buildings have been renamed, flags have been redesigned, and so forth. However, many of those memorials still linger. Stone Mountain, a.k.a. "The Confederate Mt. Rushmore," still exists (and now features a nightly laser show!), Nathan Bedford Forrest Park still bears his name, the state flag of Mississippi still includes the Confederate battle flag, and so forth.

What is going on here? There are a few dynamics in play. Some people today, perhaps even quite a few people, are racists, and things like this make them feel better about that. Others are familiar with the positive parts of the story, and are not familiar with the negative parts (perhaps willfully so). There is also a dynamic—and it's not easy to communicate in a short space—related to modern, conservative politics. Beyond the race dimension, Southerners who hold on to things like Forrest Park and the Mississippi flag feel like they are pushing back against pointy-headed liberal eggheads, and political correctness, and disrespect for the South, and an overly-powerful federal government, and the like. Some of them take this very, very seriously; there are venues where writing the things that we have written here will trigger death threats.

One last note: It may surprise you to learn that some professional historians, even the pointy-headed liberal types, do not support the removal of all Confederate monuments. It's a tricky issue, but the basic argument is that removing such monuments whitewashes the past, whereas keeping them allows them to be used as teaching tools. It's not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing; commemorations of Forrest, for example, are considerably more problematic than, say, a statue of Robert E. Lee in the civic plaza of Richmond, VA. In any case, this is complicated stuff with a lot of dimensions to it, which is why Civil War memory is a very hot subject among Civil War scholars today.

I just read through your rationale against term limits and the two bullets addressing the issue as "undemocratic." Personally, I agree with the philosophy that you outlined regarding Michigan sending John Dingell to Congress for 30 times. While we know that the founding fathers set up a Democratic Republic, isn't the 22nd Amendment limiting the President to serving a maximum of two terms (with the many exceptions that have been discussed on the site in the last several months) just as "undemocratic" as term-limiting members of the House or Senate? B.S.C., Pittsburgh, PA

Yes, it is. One could argue that the 22nd Amendment was adopted to solve a problem that didn't exist. No president before Franklin D. Roosevelt served more than two terms. In part, this was due to tradition and to the precedent set by George Washington, but only in part. Several presidents who ended their second term in good health, and with a high level of popularity (most obviously U.S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt) made bids at a third term and were turned aside.

Roosevelt broke with precedent, but he did so under unusual circumstances, namely a looming war (1940) and an ongoing war (1944). And even then, his third and fourth runs were controversial, and both were in danger of being derailed by the Democratic Party. In the end, surely the U.S. was better off with an experienced hand on the wheel, given the enormity of World War II. When Roosevelt ran the fourth time, it was widely suspected that he was not long for the world, which obviously proved to be correct. But even then, voters sustained him, and they were probably wise to do so. Even though he made it through only a few months of term number four, that was still enough time for him to handle some very critical matters, most obviously the Yalta Conference. Would the country really have been better off with a rookie facing off against Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin?

Roosevelt's death was used as pretext for passing the 22nd Amendment, primarily by Republicans who foresaw unending Democratic dominance of the presidency. They were wrong about the Democratic dominance, of course, and they were probably wrong about the need for an amendment in general. Since it was adopted, only five people have been subject to its terms: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Keep in mind that a president needs to be reasonably healthy and reasonably popular, not to mention willing to run again, in order to make a third term possible. Eisenhower and Reagan were popular enough when they left office, but their health was not up to the rigors of a third campaign (much less a third term). Ike's heart was in bad condition after several heart attacks, and Ronnie's underlings could hide his declining mental state while he remained behind closed doors, but not if they had to send him out on the campaign trail again. Bush and Clinton were healthy enough, but were likely not popular enough to be re-elected. And Obama was healthy and reasonably popular, but has said he would not want a third term, even if he could have it. That said, if he did want to run again, and if the American people decided to support that, why should the voters be denied the option?

During the public debate regarding the current partial government shutdown, I heard several Republican politicians state that in recent years, Democrats were ready to agree to something like $23 Billion for the wall. Is this correct? I assume that this was in return for accommodation to the dreamers. What happened to this proposal? R.K.P., Chicago, IL

To start, and in the interest of being as accurate as possible, the figure is $25 billion. And Republicans are potentially referring to two different things when they say this, but they are not representing things honestly in either case.

The first thing they are possibly referring to is a 2013 bill proposed by Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and adopted by a sizable margin (68-32), including most Senate Democrats. That bill included $46 billion for border security, most of it for hiring more staff, but also $8 billion for repairing existing fencing. Some folks have declared that the bill set aside $25 billion for fencing, but this is not the case. And the bill never became law because the GOP-controlled house refused to take up the matter.

The second thing they are possibly referring to is an offer made by Schumer to Donald Trump in January of last year: $25 billion in wall funding in exchange for significant immigration reforms, including amnesty for the dreamers. However, Trump turned the offer down out of hand. And when Schumer found out how irritated his caucus was, and his voters were, he pulled the offer, which was thus only on the table for a few days.

So, is it true that Democrats have previously supported $25 billion for a border wall? It is not. One of them did, for a brief time, but Chuck Schumer does not speak for his whole party. What Democrats have clearly supported is: (1) Money to fix the existing fencing, and (2) Some of the wall money Trump wants in exchange for concessions on the dreamers and other immigration-related matters. Both of those things are on the table as we speak, but Trump is currently uninterested. His version of "negotiating" is "my way or the highway."

In a few Republican states, Donald Trump is not personally popular and some voters might like a Republican alternative. How hard would it be for spoiler Republicans, running as independents, to get on the general election ballot in those states? Do you think Trump could be denied an Electoral College win this way? I'm thinking of Mitt Romney in Utah and Idaho, Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, or maybe even John Kasich in Ohio or somebody like Mitch Daniels in Indiana. J.D., St. Paul, MN

This is very improbable. In the end, even if all of these prominent Republicans can get together and agree to game the system in this way, it would still be obvious that they were gaming the system, and voters in those states would know it. If those voters' goal is to stop Donald Trump from becoming president again, at all costs, they can vote for the Democrat. And if the voters' goal is to send a protest vote, they can vote for the Libertarian or some other third-party candidate.

On top of that, denying Trump an Electoral College victory doesn't achieve much if the Democrat doesn't claim a majority instead. If nobody wins in the Electoral College, then the House gets to decide the matter, with each state getting one vote. The GOP does not control the House anymore, but they do control more state delegations than the Democrats do (given that we live in a world where the one Republican from Wyoming would have the same value as the 46 Democrats from California). So, Trump would be re-elected anyhow.

In your answer to the question of whether Trump is getting a paycheck during the shutdown, you added the point that some of our politicians decline their paycheck. My question is: Do their staff get paychecks and are they required to work? Imagine being a politician and coming into the office and your entire staff has to work but without getting a paycheck. I'd like to think that might speed the process up a bit. G.C., South Pasadena, CA

When we initially posted our answer to this question, we were operating under the understanding that what happened during previous shutdowns (Congressional staffers going without pay) was also happening during this shutdown. However, we are now informed by a reader, who is also the husband of a staffer, that they are indeed being paid this time (hat tip to R.S!). And he also tells us that this is not so much a matter of guilt as it is appearances&8212;all the members of Congress want to look like they are busy little bees, with they and their staffs doing everything they can to end the shutdown. So much so, in fact, that staffers are required to cancel vacations or other plans and report to work, even if they would not have done so in a non-shutdown world.

On January 3, you answered a question about impeachment, and said that once someone is impeached, they are disqualified from holding office in the future. How, then, did Alcee Hastings, an impeached/convicted federal judge, get elected to Congress in Florida (a position he's now held for 26 years)? R.D.T., Fresno, CA

One of the good things about this medium is that we can correct errors quickly. After we wrote that, a number of folks wrote in to point out that if the Senate votes to convict, they have to explicitly disqualify the person in order to remove them from office for life. More often than not, the Senate does not so do. 19 federal officials have been impeached, eight convicted, and only three were disqualified for life. Two of the three are long dead, which means the only living person who is currently disqualified from office by virtue of impeachment is former judge Thomas Porteous, who was accepting cash from attorneys that appeared before his court. Alcee Hastings, of course, was among the five folks who were convicted but not disqualified.

We updated our answer to reflect the correction, but also thought it wise to revisit the matter here. We stand by the assertion that we added to the previous answer, namely that any president who was impeached and convicted would surely be disqualified by the Senate as well. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan06 Shutdown Talks Going Nowhere Fast
Jan06 Senate Kicks Hundreds of Nominees Back to Trump
Jan06 It's Constitutional Amendment Time!
Jan06 Public Policy 101, Part I: Why a Wall Is a Bad Idea
Jan06 Public Policy 101, Part II: Why Term Limits Are a Bad Idea
Jan06 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Julián Castro
Jan05 Epic Power Struggle Begins
Jan05 Trump Threatens to Declare State of Emergency
Jan05 How Will the Shutdown End?
Jan05 Shutdown's Effects Are Becoming More Pronounced
Jan05 Democrats Unveil Top Priority Bill
Jan05 Mueller Grand Jury Extended
Jan05 Powell Says He Won't Resign; Market Rallies
Jan05 Pat Roberts Will Not Run for Reelection
Jan04 Nancy Pelosi Is Elected Speaker of the House
Jan04 The Chess Game Has Begun
Jan04 Some States Are Switching from Caucuses to Primaries
Jan04 Bernie Sanders Is in a Bit of Hot Water
Jan04 Ryan Zinke Is in a Lot of Hot Water
Jan04 Jerrold Nadler Introduces a Bill to Protect Mueller
Jan04 Brad Sherman Introduces a Bill to Impeach Trump
Jan03 No Progress Ending the Shutdown
Jan03 Trump Goes Easy on Pelosi So Far
Jan03 Trump Attacks Romney: "I Won Big and He Didn't"
Jan03 Five House Chairs Will Drive Trump Nuts
Jan03 Pittenger Won't Run in NC-09 Primary If There Is One
Jan03 Beto vs. Bernie: It's On
Jan03 Thursday Q&A
Jan02 Russians Arrest Alleged U.S. Spy
Jan02 Kim Jong-Un Issues Threats
Jan02 Trump Shoots Down Democrats' Funding Proposal
Jan02 Trump Slams McChrystal
Jan02 Romney Slams Trump
Jan02 The Year Ahead, Part I: Races to Watch
Jan02 The Year Ahead, Part II: Predictions
Jan01 Warren Is In
Jan01 Mattis Is Out
Jan01 House Democrats Have Their Plan in Place
Jan01 Federal Employees Sue
Jan01 Trump's 2018 in Review: The Highs and Lows
Jan01 Trump's 2018 in Review: By the Numbers
Jan01 Trump's 2018 in Review: Twitter
Dec31 Trump Can't Find a Consistent Way to Blame the Democrats for the Shutdown
Dec31 McChrystal Says Trump Is Immoral
Dec31 Kelly Gives an Interview with the Los Angeles Times
Dec31 Pay No Attention to Lindsey Graham
Dec31 The Environmental Impact of the Wall
Dec31 Democrats United against Trump but Split on Everything Else
Dec31 Where Will Trump Be Tonight?
Dec31 Monday Q&A