Biden 373
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Trump 165
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Dem 51
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GOP 49
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  • Strongly Dem (217)
  • Likely Dem (86)
  • Barely Dem (70)
  • Exactly tied (0)
  • Barely GOP (45)
  • Likely GOP (39)
  • Strongly GOP (81)
270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2016 2012 2008
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Dem pickups vs. 2016: AZ FL GA MI PA TX WI
GOP pickups vs. 2016: (None)
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Dead Heat In North Carolina
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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Sunday Mailbag
      •  Today's Presidential Polls

Sunday Mailbag

We generally don't run very long letters, but we thought the two in the COVID-19 section were good enough to put aside that general policy.

2020 Election

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: I thought the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris speeches hit all the right notes in their debut, and one line in particular struck me: when Harris said, "Trump is just not up to the job." It occurred to me that the American people don't have to decipher Trump or analyze his proclivities—his lust for power or his indifference to, and manipulation of, the law and the truth—we just need to realize that he is simply not up to the job. The job of being an American president requires an understanding that he works for us; we are his boss. And we have the capacity, and the obligation, to fire him when we see that he can't do the job. We need to accept that we made a mistake when we gave him this job in the first place and, like all good bosses who care about the other people in the organization and its overall health and vitality, we need to act swiftly and decisively to make the correction.

As we have watched the systematic dismantling of the normal checks on executive authority—installation of "acting" agency heads without Senate approval, an AG and OLC who take pride in their fealty to Trump, the firing of IGs, the contempt for Congressional oversight, the complete capitulation of the Senate and the Republican party to Trump's inching toward dictatorship, the crackdowns on protesters, the attacks on our IC to weaken and discredit their expertise, the naked self-dealing and the hiding of public contracts behind illegal non-disclosure clauses, the voter suppression and use of executive power to break the USPS to prevent votes from being counted—we understand that the only backstop is us.

We made the mistake of buying into the notion that the business of government could be treated like a business. In fact, the business of government is unique, with a singular mission statement. The goal is not profits, and the product is not widgets. A democratic government has a larger purpose—it puts people first and values transparency and accountability, and works for the general welfare and justice and equality. Trump has neither the capacity to understand these concepts nor the skills to effect these goals. He is just not up to the job.

K.A. in Miami Beach, FL, writes: I found your suggestion that North Carolina could be a bellwether state on election night to be intriguing, particularly based on the added dynamics you laid out with regards to in-person and absentee voting. In 2016, I used Virginia as the bellwether state at an election night returns party. The gang of giddy Democrats, just waiting to uncork the champagne we had put on ice, was glued to the TV. Early on, results out of Virginia had Trump in the lead there. I declared that this was devastating and that Trump was going to win, and to go ahead and put the champagne back in the cellar. Someone pointed out that Virginia is a red state, anyway, and there was still the blue wall, so not to worry. But I knew that if we lost Virginia, we'd lose Florida, and the blue wall in the midwest was just not big enough. Here's the map I showed to the gang at the time, showing Clinton getting all the Kerry states (i.e. the blue wall) plus three pickups in the west (CO, NM and NV):

The map has Hillary Clinton losing, 272-266

Eventually, Virginia was won by Clinton. However, it was the bellwether state as it showed vulnerability in other "blue" states that she went on to lose, handing the election to Trump. By the way, that bottle of champagne is still uncorked. Maybe watching early North Carolina returns will be helpful to determine if we'll be needing some ice.

R.H.D. in Webster, NY, writes: Earlier this year, I said this election was looking more and more like 1980. Joe Biden's choice of Kamala Harris to be his running mate just confirmed that. Look at these similarities:

  • Americans facing a national crisis with current, poor leadership (Iran hostage crisis/COVID-19)

  • The VP choice of the challenging party was a presidential candidate earlier in the election season (Bush 41 and Harris)

  • That candidate-turned-VP was a major critic of the presidential nominee during the primaries (Bush 41's "Voodoo economics" comment about Reagan, Harris' blistering debate with Biden on segregationist Senators and school busing).

  • Bush 41 was 56 years old when he was sworn in as VP in 1981. Should Harris win, she would be 56 upon being inaugurated in 2021.

I don't expect the Biden/Harris ticket to amass the 489 electoral votes the Reagan/Bush ticket did back in '80. To achieve that, they would need Texas along with winning some ruby red Southern and border states. But I could see them winning an amount in the ballpark of 360-380 EVs, similar to Clinton/Gore in the 90's and Obama/Biden in 2008.

D.A. in Edinburgh, Scotland, writes: You wrote: "It's interesting that Kansas is that close, though it's not like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are going to spend any time campaigning there, even if they are tempted to do so to be able to partake of some of the nation's best BBQ."

I wonder if in these strange times that is exactly what Biden and Harris should be doing, a single stop or virtual stop on a 50-state tour. While the costs are high, the campaign is already avoiding the expenses of having official events and rallies due to COVID-19. Biden's selling point is that he is a normal, non-crazy guy whom everyone can get along with (which was the Bush 2.0 persona as well). So why not either send Biden/Harris on tour or even have them do normal things, like try some BBQ take-out (keeping strict COVID-19 rules in place, of course). They should be seen talking to ordinary folks in every state, in order to project a sense of bringing folks together. Donald Trump can't do that convincingly, and if every state felt they got some attention direct from "Uncle Joe," it could have serious coattails down ballot for smaller races, even dog catchers.

V & Z respond: Barack Obama did a similar thing in 2008, skipping only Hawaii and Alaska.

R.C. in Middletown, IA, writes: Please don't confuse Kansas and Missouri in regards to BBQ. Kansas has Hallmark greeting cards, while Kansas City, Missouri, has world-famous, excellent BBQ. This is coming from an Iowan who would rather eat their hat than give credit to Missouri for anything.

V & Z respond: There was no confusion. (Z) has personally had excellent BBQ in both states, including at Slap's BBQ in Kansas City, KS.

C.R. in Pelham, AL, writes: It wouldn't be completely unheard of for a candidate to pop into Kansas for some BBQ. Arthur Bryant's BBQ (which is universally acknowledged to be the best in Kansas City) has a long history of hosting politicians, as well as being one of the nation's most successful black-owned businesses. The Kansas City, KS location (closed in Dec. 2019) featured large photographs on the walls of Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter breaking bread with the late Mr. Bryant, and of a visit by President Obama to the original location in Kansas City, MO. (In the interest of equal time, there are also shots of John McCain and Sarah Palin during a campaign stop in 2008.)

An event with Harris, Senate candidate Barbara Bollier (a former Republican who switched parties in 2018) and Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS), hosted by Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) and catered by Arthur Bryant's, would send a powerful message to voters nationwide about struggling small businesses and which party truly supports women and minorities, perhaps the two most important constituencies in the Democratic coalition this fall.

G.B. in Buffalo, NY, writes: I'm guessing that all readers of your site know Donald Trump's priorities very well, but if anyone needs a refresher, they can just compare two of his recent responses. When Jonathan Swan pointed out that COVID-19 is killing a thousand Americans a day, Trump responded "It is what it is." In response to the news of the possible cancellation of the college football season, Trump declared that it would be "a tragic mistake." Don't get me wrong, I love football as much as the next guy (I am a longtime Buffalo Bills fan); but the contrast couldn't be starker.

V & Z respond: A longtime Bills fan? Say hello to the other one for us! (We kid, we kid.)

M.A. in Washington, D.C., writes: You have spent a few thousand words this week explaining to readers why they shouldn't worry too much about destroying the postal service so that the current regime can maintain power. Maybe you could spare a tweet's worth of words to define what fascism in the U.S. would be.

V & Z respond: Allow us to remind you that our exact words were "In short, for those worried that Trump and his acolytes will have some success in sabotaging the election, well, there's very good reason to worry." As to your second remark, you are gonna love the next letter.

M.M. in Raleigh, NC, writes: For sale (at least until recently) at the United States Holocaust Museum. Check all the boxes that apply:

It is a list entitled 'early 
warning signs of fascism' and includes 14 items that pretty much all describe the Trump administration, including 
'powerful nationalism,' 'disdain for human rights,' 'rampant sexism,' 'controlled mass media,' 'rampant cronyism,'
and 'fraudulent elections'.

L.R.H. in Oakland, CA, writes: Back in June, The New York Times interviewed Madison Cawthorn, under the headline "Madison Cawthorn Wants to Defuse the G.O.P.'s 'Generational Time Bomb'." In the interview, Cawthorn mentioned that he had been left $3 million in debt following the accident that left him partially paralyzed. He also said that he favored deregulating health insurance as the solution to covering more people.

The Times didn't manage to ask the obvious follow-up question, which is "how did you pay off that debt?" The answer turns out to be that Cawthorn sued the friend who was driving the SUV that crashed, and the friend's auto insurance paid out $3 million.

Additionally, Cawthorn was sleeping in the passenger seat with his feet up on the dashboard, a position that's known to be extremely dangerous in a crash. If he'd had his feet on the floor and was wearing his seatbelt, he probably would have walked away from the crash.

I thought that conservative Republicans had a deep belief in personal responsibility, and also that they're generally opposed to litigation, which ordinary people have been known to use against big corporations, etc., often in class action lawsuits. Not always, I guess.

The Veepstakes Concludes

S.F. in Chatham, NJ, writes: Have you noticed that no matter who is nominated by the Democrats in a presidential election, the Republicans always say they are the "most liberal" member of Congress? They did it with John Kerry and John Edwards, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and now, Kamala Harris.

It's like whenever Paramount makes a Star Trek movie; the hype for the movie always includes someone from the studio saying "This movie has the greatest villain since Khan!" No one really believes them, but they say it anyway. Republicans are no different, although plenty of their supporters do believe it. It's like it's the first item in their bag of tricks.

V & Z respond: God was a pretty interesting villain, until he turned out to just be Spock's half-brother.

G.W. in Oxnard, CA, writes: I thought of a good argument the Trump campaign might make against Harris: She is of such low moral character that she once accepted campaign donations from a New York real estate mogul with a history of being a slumlord, running a fake university, stiffing his contractors, committing sexual assault, etc.

M.B. in Menlo Park, CA, writes: Your item "Trump Embraces Harris Birtherism" referred to a Newsweek article by John Eastman. Turns out that Eastman has published on this issue before. In 2016, he wrote that Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who was born in Calgary, Canada, "is clearly a natural born citizen and therefore eligible for the presidency." Eastman dismissed arguments to the contrary as "silliness."

Unlike Cruz, Kamala Harris was born in the United States. That should make the present case easier...unless there is some difference between the Cruz and Harris situations? Any ideas? I can't quite put my finger on it.

V & Z respond: Eastman and Jonathan Turley should form a club.

D.C. in Portland, OR, writes: There is no way Mike Pence can debate Kamala Harris and defend his enabling of Trump.

Mike is gone. Hello Nikki Haley.

T.S. in Eugene, Oregon, writes: I've never been sure why Tiger Woods is always Black and seldom Asian, even though he's actually more Asian. I think if the Biden/Harris campaign gets to pushing the Asian angle for Kamala Harris, they could see a big upside. Asians, in my opinion, tend to lean conservative, but supporting a fellow Asian would give them a big reason to stay Democratic. If the Republicans ever figured out that many people of color (especially Asians and Latinos) tend to lean towards many right issues like family values and fiscal responsibility, they'd be in business.

C.L.C. in Petaluma, CA, writes: Joe Biden chose Kamala Harris. As we know, as a prosecutor in San Francisco, and then as Attorney General of California, she prosecuted poor defenseless prostitutes just trying to make a living. When she decided to run for Senate, she pretended to be a progressive instead of the reactionary she truly is. Putting lipstick on a pig (a pig in the sense of a corrupt cop) does not change the fact that she is a pig.

That said, I feel that I must support Biden/Harris. Biden is far better than the alternative and Harris, as terrible as she is, is also better than the alternative. Donald Trump is incompetent, corrupt, neither knows nor cares about the Constitution and the law, is a puppet of a foreign power, etc. Kamala Harris may be a piece of shit, but she is intelligent and our shit. Trump is an idiot and the shit of Putin.

I feel like I just have to ally myself with Stalin against Hitler. Sometimes, one must choose the least bad option. I know that I made the right decision backing Kamala Harris over Trump, but I feel like I just ate dog poop full of maggots.

C.D. in Baltimore, MD, writes: I am writing this on the eve of Joe Biden's VP selection. My prediction is that he will cave into the Black Lives Matter people, pick a Black woman as his running mate, and as a result will lose the election. I know you will point out that some polls show that a majority of people support BLM, but what people say to a pollster and what they really think are two different things. Add to that the astonishing rise in murders over the past few months and continued looting (the Magnificent Mile in Chicago this week) and I think Biden's fate is already sealed as a result. Do I want this to happen? No, but it disheartens me to see that the Democratic Party has been hijacked by the same kind of radicals (but in reverse) that have dominated the Republican Party for years. For the first time, I'm going to vote for a third-party candidate, no matter how obscure, as a protest.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered?

R.C. in Winter Haven, FL, writes: I retired from the USPS in 2019 after a 25-year career as a letter carrier and Supervisor of Delivery Operations, so I've had the opportunity to see how the USPS has adapted to changes through the years.

The Republicans hate the USPS and have been playing a long game when it comes to privatization. They have been attempting to undermine the USPS for years by creating the illusion that the Post Office is a business like UPS or FedEx. What most people don't understand is that it just isn't true.

The USPS is a Service, it's right in the name. United States Postal Service. It doesn't operate at a profit because it isn't supposed to make one. It is supposed to break even over time. That's why it only costs 55 cents for a letter. UPS and FedEx charge more than eight bucks.

The Post Office has a universal delivery mandate, which requires it to deliver to all addresses in the U.S. for one price. That is why a letter delivered locally costs the same as a letter across the country. UPS and FedEx don't deliver to everybody and actually have contracts for the USPS to provide the "last mile" of delivery.

The Republican efforts to squeeze the USPS are going to make the public lose faith in the Post Office's ability to serve America.

So why do the Republicans hate the USPS? Because people like and trust the USPS. The USPS has a 91% approval rating among the public. It will be much easier to justify the privatization of the USPS if they become as popular as, say, Congress.

C.K. in Union City, CA, writes: There are three unrelated adults living in my house. In the past eight days, there were exactly two items of mail delivered here. Anyone who thinks nothing is going on isn't paying attention.

K.S. in Harrisburg, PA, writes: The mail-in ballot used to be untouchable by either party because many servicemen and women relied on it to vote. Why is there no outcry in the supposedly pro-military Republican party that hurting the USPS is disenfranchising American military personnel? Why isn't the Democratic party holding the Republicans' feet to the fire on this issue?

T.S. in Memphis, TN, writes: Mike Bloomberg: Please buy the USPS this week.

R.B. in Cleveland, OH, writes: It sure seems like we're on our way to the postmaster general requiring congressional confirmation in the near future.

D.K. in Oceanside, CA, writes: To avoid Donald Trump's postal service shenanigans, I plan to drop my mail-in ballot in the ballot drop box at my local library. I'm presuming that these ballots will be counted sooner than those sent by the postal service. It's certainly safer than in-person voting.

R.K. in Menasha, WI, writes: In your item "Democrats Appear to Prefer Vote-by-Mail," you took a poll of Wisconsin voters and extrapolated it to the country as a whole. I don't think this works because of factors unique to Wisconsin.

For one thing, Wisconsin absentee ballots must arrive by Election Day, and they are counted the same way walk-in voting is. All of the ballots are fed into the same scanning machines before the totals are run. Consequently, Trump will not have a lead in Wisconsin due to having more walk-in votes.

Also, Wisconsin has an excellent website to track absentee ballots, which also tells you that your absentee ballot has arrived. This raises the confidence in voting by mail. If a ballot has not arrived by Election Day, that voter still has the option to vote in person.

C.Z. in Sacramento, CA, writes: Those voters who are unable or unwilling to vote in person this year due to the pandemic may be tempted to not even bother mailing in their ballots because of the many ways Trump and his Creepublicans are trying to suppress mail-in ballots. Don't give up your vote! Many jurisdictions have put in place electronic tracking of voters' ballots to prevent such voter suppression. Voters should find out what their own jurisdiction is doing.

For example, in May 2020, due to the pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) issued executive orders that: (1) All of California's counties are to mail ballots to all of their registered voters 29 days before Election Day, in addition to offering in-person voting, and 2) All California counties are to utilize California's ballot-tracking system. It tracks when your ballot is mailed to you, when it is received back by the elections office, and when your vote is counted. Note also that in California, county elections officials will process and count all valid vote-by-mail ballots that are postmarked on or before Election Day and that arrive no later than 17 days after the election.

M.B. in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, writes: Something came crashing home for me Saturday when you mentioned the requirement that the U.S. Postal Service prepay $5 billion per year in retirement health benefits that won't be needed for 50 years. It struck me as an unusually thoughtful, forward-looking policy that would be absolutely essential in any country that doesn't have fully-funded public health care, with all the basics meant to be available to all. There is exactly one country in the industrialized world that fits that description. (Pro tip: It's also the one that is leading the world in coronavirus cases.)

Which means that fixing U.S. health care—really fixing it, once and for all—would bring the postal service a $5 billion annual infusion. Not bad as secondary benefits go.

From the relatively corona-free side of the world's longest undefended border, we've been watching the health care debate in the U.S. for a very long time. Whenever the prospect of real, thorough-going change rears its head, the kneejerk default to demonize Canada's supposedly "socialist" public health insurance system is decidedly bipartisan. We found that out in 2009, when Democrat Max Baucus of Montana chaired the Senate Finance Committee. "We are not Europe. We are not Canada," he said in a speech. "We need a uniquely American solution. It has to be a partnership of public and private players."

That put a top Democrat in the position of wrongly criticizing the system that saved our daughter's life, kept our family out of bankruptcy, and continues to deliver higher life expectancy than Americans can look forward to. As I argued at the time in a piece for the Huffington Post, our system isn't perfect—not nearly. But that's largely a symptom of trying to run a European-style health system on a U.S.-style tax system.

Executive Decision

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: Thanks for highlighting the hollowness of Donald Trump's executive order and presidential memoranda. The current batch of executive actions reveals, once again, that all the carnival barker cares about is the show. The results are utterly unimportant. With Ukraineyola, Trump didn't care if Ukraine actually investigated Joe Biden; he just wanted the campaign boost he thought he'd get if Ukraine announced that it was investigating Joe Biden. So too with these order/memos: It's the headlines he wants ("I'm doing something!") and if the headlines result in actual policy changes that achieve results, that's just gravy.

Once upon a time, executive orders were sober documents that actually told government officials how to run the government. If a President wanted, say, to ruin environmental policy, it was hardly necessary to issue an executive order directing the EPA Administrator to ruin environmental policy. One just hired an EPA Administrator whose views aligned with the President's; any disagreement on details could be ironed out in meetings or through staff. As with so many other things, Trump shattered institutional norms and diminished the institution in the process. His executive orders are really no different than his tweets; they just get more press coverage at this point.

A.C. in Kittery, ME, writes: Regarding your first item about the president's four new orders/memoranda, as much as I can't stand the guy, I cannot entirely disapprove of what he did. I believe the majority of the country is sick and tired of the congressional patty-cake that has held up a bill for the president's approval, and so is Trump. Is it illegal? Sure it is. Is it going to happen just on his say so? Probably not. However, it may finally get the Congress off the dime, and may force them to come to an agreement.

Actually, with all the leverage she is supposed to have, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) overplayed her hand. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) doing the tight-wad thing is no less inept. It is no longer the eleventh hour. It is after midnight. Both chambers of Congress have been dragging their feet. Squawking about Trump overstepping his authority is not going to make the Democrats or the Republicans look any better. What they are doing is the equivalent of telling a drowning person: "I'm not going to throw you a life preserver because our parties can't figure out if we should toss you just a chunk of Styrofoam, or a state-of-the-art life raft. Give us another week or so, and we'll figure it out. Just keep treading water!"

As much as I hate to say it, the Congress needed a good swift kick in its collective ass, and Trump gave them one.

M.B. in Prescott, WI, writes: I think that you might not have had your morning coffee before writing that "Trump's [executive orders] were probably good." How could defunding Social Security and Medicare possibly be "good"? My immediate thought was that Trump finally jumped the shark, but he has jumped it so many times that the shark has probably lost interest.

V & Z respond: What we meant is that they are more likely than not to help him politically, since most of his base (and some outside the base) don't tend to grasp the second- or third-order effects of policies. That said, now that we know more about how empty they were, we're not even so sure they will help him, because people may think they're going to get money that's not actually coming, and then may be angry when the rug is yanked out from under them.

Give Peace a Chance

D.G. in Atlanta, GA, writes: In your item on the Israel-UAE agreement, you seemed rather dismissive. I actually think that is a fairly big deal. As you pointed out, only two previous presidents have done something similar (Jimmy Carter with Egypt and Bill Clinton with Jordan), so it seems to me that this is not an everyday event. I do not discount your analysis that it won't move the election sentiment one bit, as most Americans don't really care (sad), but it actually was one bright spot in what has been an overall abysmal presidency. I got the sense that this would not have happened without Donald Trump's team pushing for it, and I also agree that it may have more to do with the Saudi Arabia vs. Iran re-alignment in the Middle East than a genuine desire to end the conflict. However, any peace accord between an Arab state and Israel is still something to be celebrated.

J.K. in Short Hills, NJ, writes: You are correct in asserting that the biggest division in the Middle East centers on Iran, but you may be underselling the importance of the peace agreement between the UAE and Israel and its ramifications for the prevailing dispute between the latter and the Palestinians. Additional deals forged by Israel and her neighbors, along with the Trump Administration's decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem and the White House's proposed peace plan, signal to the Palestinians that the world is moving past them while they stand on the sidelines waiting for an outcome that will never happen given the facts on the ground. This change in sentiment could bring both parties back to the negotiating table in earnest. The President deserves credit for such a potential shift, as the status quo seemingly has indeed changed. One could even reasonably argue that if Joe Biden returns to the fruitless tactics of previous administrations, it could arrest any nascent positive momentum for a lasting solution.

H.M. in Berlin, Germany, writes: As an Israeli citizen and someone who knows what goes on in that part of the world, I can assure you that the "normalization" agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel is only a minor, very limited, and still conditional upgrade to a de facto situation that has existed for years. Sensible journalists have recognized, this as opposed to, for instance, perpetual windbag Tom Friedman. I will also bet you anything that Trump had absolutely nothing to do with it, but it is of course a very-well orchestrated boost for him (Signature achievement! Nobel Peace Prize!), Netanyahu (I'm good at governing, space alien demonstrators!) and Sheik Zayed & co. (see their spectacularly condescending propaganda here).

They've been pretty successful so far, one must admit. But we in the know understand very well that it's nothing but עשן ומראות (smoke and mirrors).

Religious Matters

A.J. in Baltimore, MD, writes: B.M. of Birmingham, AL, wrote in and referred to things like expanding abortion rights and gay rights as persecution of Christians, thereby positing a false equivalence of (1) conservative Christian values perhaps not having quite as much dominance over political policy as they once had, with (2) actual religious persecution, which resembles treatment of the Jews in Nazi Germany, or of the Uighurs currently in China. The following week, a number of people (including myself) wrote in with varying viewpoints on the logical, practical, and factual problems with B.M's statements. The week after that, B.M. did not even attempt to refute those arguments, but instead claimed that the response was proof that Christian views are unwelcome, and suggested that the commenters were persecuting B.M. further by calling B.M. bigoted, narrow-minded, old-fashioned, and out of touch.

I actually found B.M.'s initial post very much welcome because it's always useful to see an opposing side's perspective. At the same time, I and others found the statements in the post so deeply flawed that we couldn't just let them go unchallenged. I'm disappointed that B.M. declined to continue the conversation beyond reducing all the counterarguments to claims that we were calling him a bigot. No such ad hominem attacks have occurred here, but somehow I'm not surprised that B.M. sees having his position challenged as a personal attack. B.M. may be falling victim to what has been called the persecution fallacy or the Galileo Gambit—the suggestion that if an idea is ridiculed in its time, it should be given more credibility.

As to the articles about the Democrats' purported million Muslim vote "strategy," that seems like a fabrication concocted by conservative media. It looks like the reality is that there is a Muslim-American advocacy organization called Engage Action which had an online summit called Million Muslim Votes, at which Biden spoke, and that's it. It's unsurprising that Muslims lean Democratic considering that members of the other party refer to their entire faith (including over 1.8 billion members) as a religion that seeks to "violently wipe all other faiths off the map." Furthermore, B.M. acts as if Joe Biden is not also giving virtual campaign speeches at churches and other Christian organizations; I'm sure you can find plenty of articles indicating that he is.

J.W. in Indianapolis, IN, writes: According to Pew, 71% of Americans are Christians. Even though Christians outnumber everyone else combined by more than a 2:1 margin, they are nevertheless overrepresented in positions of power. Christians hold 88% of U.S. House and Senate seats. As a point of comparison, of the 23% of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated, only Sen. Kyrstin Sinema (D-AZ) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) hold elected office at the federal level. With Christians controlling virtually all political power in the county, it is impossible to reasonably argue that they are dismissed and marginalized.

The assertion that Christians are immediately attacked as bigots when they express their views is also nonsense. The most obvious counter-example of this is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose speeches were constantly dripping with religious language (as would be expected of a religious leader). This very site specifically praised Joe Biden's eulogy of George Floyd, the first sentence of which was, "Hello everyone on this day of prayer, where we try to understand God's plan in our pain." Public expressions of Christian faith do not inherently evoke accusations of bigotry. However, if one is to assert that nobody can be moral without being religious (as 2/3 of evangelicals believe), disown their LGBT teenager for being honest about who they are, or suggest that Muslims want to wipe all other religions off the map, then yes, those beliefs and expressions will and should be attacked as bigoted.

I.H. in Jakarta, Indonesia, writes: As a Christian living in the most populous Muslim country in the world, I challenge any Christian living in the U.S. who feels "persecuted" to try to live as a minority in another country. You will be surprised on how much you will learn.

First of all, most vocal "fundamentalist" Muslims in this country feel exactly what B.M. from Birmingham feels as a Christian in the US. They feel persecuted when they see the government allowing new churches to be built, screaming about "Christianization." They feel persecuted when they see the government issuing new bank notes featuring Christian national heroes, screaming about an "Anti-Muslim movement" within the government. And, just like what B.M. said about Muslims, the "fundamentalist" Muslims here say that Christianity is "a religion that, by its very texts, would violently wipe all other faiths off of the map." And they can easily find textual support for this in the Bible.

But mind you, these sorts are not the majority. The majority of Muslims here are very open, very friendly, very moderate, and will openly accept you as a friend regardless of what you believe. I believe the same is true of the majority of Christians in the United States. These "extreme" segments of each religion, which are very vocal and always pointing fingers at anyone who don't share their beliefs, are the minority.

J.C. in Binan, Laguna, Philippines, writes: It just so happens that not only am I a committed Christian, but I have an advanced degree in Islamic Studies, and lived in the Muslim Arab world for over a decade. So, I can say with confidence that B.M. is incorrect. There is a minority of the faith who are violently against all other faiths and want to kill others. I speak of Christians of course. For the majority of Christians—and Muslims—this is not remotely true. In addition to the great ayat that (V) and (Z) quoted, I would quote my personal favorite surat, Surat al Kafirun:

Say, "O disbelievers,
I do not worship what you worship.
Nor are you worshipers of what I worship.
Nor will I be a worshiper of what you worship.
Nor will you be worshipers of what I worship.
To you be your way, and to me mine."

Yes, you can find verses that do advocate violence, if you look for them. But enough about the Bible.

In any event, call me old-fashioned and out of touch, but I have personally known too many Muslims who teach me something about what it truly means to love.

B.M. in Birmingham, AL, writes: I know you and most of your readers do not agree with the majority of my political views, but unlike many sites, you at least allow them to be discussed. I feel if more liberal sites were like yours, maybe some of the "discussions" this country needs to have to heal would actually happen. You guys make excellent points (even if they are clearly wrong....ha!). Kidding aside, liberals and conservatives have got to listen to one another and not just immediately tune each other out because of a candidate they support.

Remember, conservatives are by definition opposed to or at best reluctant to change. We feel this country is headed headlong into a progressive, socialist ditch. It doesn't mean we can't change, just that quick change is very hard. I live in Alabama, and everyone knows we have been on the wrong side of history more than once for holding on to traditional views. If you want evidence how reluctant we are to change, it almost takes an act of Congress for our universities to change anything about something as inconsequential as football uniforms. Nike sponsors the Crimson Tide just like it does Oregon, but the U of A would never consider the radical uniform changes of the Ducks. Now apply that same line of thinking to politics and ideas that come from New York, Massachusetts or California.

V & Z respond: We thank you for being willing to keep writing in despite being the target of criticism, and agree entirely with the points you make here.

Musical Chairs

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: You got a question from J.C. in Honolulu concerning Congress' ability to refuse to seat members. I believe you forgot to mention the infamous case of Mark Harris NC-09, who was refused his seat in 2018. It was a major scandal involving shady absentee ballots, and it led to NC-09 having no Representative for nearly a year.

Eventually, a special election was called for, scheduled and held, and Democratic Candidate Dan McCready had to run again. Weirdly, he lost the special election by more votes than he had lost the initial flawed election.

I am surprised, with as recent as this is, you overlooked it.

V & Z respond: We were only speaking to instances where Congress itself refused to seat someone. In the case of Harris/McCready, it was the state of North Carolina that declined to grant the necessary certification; the folks in Washington weren't involved.

L.E. in Carmel, NY, writes: A couple of examples you appear to have missed: First, Al Franken took a while to have his election certified.

Second, Gladys Noon Spellman was removed from the House for incapacity (which had not happened before), which opened the vacancy that was filled by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who regards himself as heir apparent to Pelosi, even if the caucus is not inclined to agree.

V & Z respond: As with the North Carolina election above, the holdup in Franken's case was not Congress, but government officials in Minnesota who refused to certify his election until the outcome was clear. The same happened to his predecessor/mentor, Paul Wellstone.

We do wish that we had included Spellman in that answer, as total incapacity is another way that a member of Congress can theoretically be removed. That said, it is very unlikely that Marjorie Taylor Greene is going to end up in an 8-year-long coma from which she cannot possibly recover.

L.J.R. in Grand Forks, ND, writes: While you are totally correct in your response about the seating of U.S. senators, I think the case of Sen. William "Wild Bill" Langer (R-ND) is worth mentioning. Langer was a colorful politician and leading member of the Nonpartisan League, which was a radical leftist faction of the Republican Party. This was when North Dakota was effectively a one-party state (although the case can be made that it is again today). He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1940, and was provisionally seated at first while the issue of his qualifications was examined. The Committee on Privileges and Elections actually found that Langer was guilty of "moral turpitude"—in part because of an overturned felony conviction—and found him unqualified. The full Senate, by a vote of 57-32, refused to go along and he assumed the seat he would hold until his death in 1959.

V & Z respond: We were tempted to mention that one, as well as the case of William A. Clark, who very clearly bought his U.S. Senate seat, and was initially refused, but then seated. Mark Twain wrote: "[Clark] is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag; he is a shame to the American nation, and no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary, with a ball and chain on his legs."

COVID-19, Life and Times

R.M. in Pensacola, FL, writes: My wife is a speech language therapist in one of the local elementary schools. I'm a manager at an 'essential' business (remember those from earlier in the year?). We also have a son who turned two back at the beginning of the pandemic.

As we have watched and witnessed firsthand how things have gone during the pandemic, we have been trying to figure out how the return to school would be for her. She worked from home from mid-March through the end of the school year (I've worked at the store non-stop since before the pandemic hit). Our son has intermittently attended his daycare since they reopened at the beginning of May.

As the summer has progressed, my wife and I have increasingly become convinced that schools reopening will be nothing short of a disaster. Sure, there will be towns and schools that have few or no outbreaks of COVID-19, but there will be a lot of places that have large outbreaks. Especially since most children have been isolated since mid-March.

So, what ends up happening with us? Two weeks ago, both my wife and son started showing mild symptoms of COVID-19. Nothing major. No fever, but mostly aches, pains, a mild cough for my wife and overall grumpiness from our son (two-year-olds can't exactly articulate what's wrong with them, but he was not in a good mood and not feeling well for several days).

My wife decided to get herself tested for COVID-19. I was feeling fine, but decided to as well. We went to a state-run tent and got tested two Sundays ago but had to wait until the following day to take our son to the hospital, since hospitals are the only ones testing people under 18.

Sure enough, last Tuesday morning, all three of us tested positive for COVID-19. By then, my wife and son were feeling better, and I still had no symptoms. The next day, the daily COVID-19 cases were released. 101 cases in our county that day. As a result, three percent of all cases in our county that day were in my house.

Then, last Thursday, it hit me and it hit hard. I spent the next six days basically lying on the couch watching TV, keeping up with by phone, or sleeping in bed (upwards of 16 hours some days). I was essentially useless during that time. Significant exhaustion and difficulty breathing were my main symptoms.

As I write this, I mostly feel better, but I don't know how things will go when I return to work. My wife and son have continued to do fine. Plus, I don't know what the long-term effects will be for any of us.

My wife and I don't know where we got it from. I may have brought it home from work. My son may have brought it home from daycare (we found out via Facebook that at least four children there have been diagnosed in recent weeks). Florida has basically stopped contact tracing. The health department called the day after our diagnosis and just wanted to know where we worked, but nothing more. My recommendation is for all daycares/schools/employers to be as transparent as possible with everyone regarding cases.

With children returning to schools in the coming weeks, COVID-19 will continue its spread, now in schools. Most children will be fine, but they will take it home with them. A lot of adults will likely get sick. Many will die. We haven't seen the worst of this pandemic yet.

With zero leadership on the federal level and various degrees of leadership on the state level, many more people will continue to get sick and die who never should have in the first place. I consider my family to be lucky. But I feel for those people and families who were not so lucky.

V & Z respond: We thank you for sharing your firsthand experience, and wish you a speedy and full recovery.

K.M. in Bloomington, IN, writes: To preface this rather lengthy screed, I'll say that I'm a PhD student at a Big 10 university and, as such, have seen the school briefings for both students and faculty/staff by our COVID-19 management group, which is a bunch of MDs reporting to the university administration. What I've seen from their work is that they're working very hard and have done everything they possibly can to gear up for the influx of students. Still, with that said, we are, at best, opening 8 weeks too early.

Here is a sense of the numbers: We've got multiple campuses, with the main campus having around 50,000 students, faculty and staff. About 15,000 of those are students who live in dorms, frats or university-owned apartments (or, very rarely, in houses) and around 20,000 students who live elsewhere. Students began to arrive in substantial numbers on Saturday the 8th and will continue to do so over the next two weeks. A bit over half of our classes are to be taught in a hybrid model with half of the students present at any one class. For example, if a class has 30 students enrolled, 15 will come on Monday, the other 15 on Wednesday, and those not present will participate online with additional meetings/materials covered online.

Everyone is required to wear masks when on campus, unless alone in a personal office, with a drop of one full letter grade for student non-compliance, and suspension without pay for faculty/staff noncompliance. Students are being told not to come to campus if they have any symptoms. The original plan was that all students had to take a test 10 days prior to coming to campus and report it to the university. That quickly was replaced, and the policy became that all living in university housing must take a test and report 10 days before, and that all would be tested (rapid 10-20 min result) upon arrival before being allowed to check in or attend classes. Anyone positive is sent home or, if they cannot go home, goes into quarantine housing (students) or self-quarantine (faculty/staff).

In the faculty briefing, the team also shared a bunch of metrics being tracked and said that there would be some metrics that would cause everything to shut down and go to all on-line teaching, including things like proportion of students isolated (positive test) or quarantined (contact with positive test), percent bed utilization at local hospitals, average time until test results, proportion of positive cases, etc.

Positive cases are contact traced, with a contact being defined as 15 minutes with shared space under 6 feet. Note that classes will be taught (when in person) for 75 minutes with 6 feet separation (the reduction in in-person classes and splitting allows for that). Symptomatic people will be tested with nose swabs, but we've only got 150/week capacity there. Finally, within 8 weeks (stretch goal, so probably more like 10-12) we'll have 3 labs set up on two campuses that will allow for 10,000 tests/day (vs. the 10,000/week current capacity can handle).

I wanted to provide all of the above because I think it speaks to a well-thought-out plan from a system with resources, lots of smart people and who have had time to really drill down into how you try to make an environment like this work in the current situation. I also know that schools spend a lot of time talking to each other and sharing notes to try to come up with the best plans that they can.

Now to come back to the original point, and tie it back into the sports element. We're opening too early, because we're bringing 30-35,000 people back into the area with a disease that has a high asymptomatic rate and doing at most two tests on 1/3 of that population and one test on the overwhelming majority of it. After that, a saliva test with a higher false positive rate and a longer test-result phase is going to be in place for 8 weeks during which about 1/3 of the population will never be tested, a further 1/4 will be tested only once, and the remaining roughly half will have two or more tests. The information will be a good sample, but lagged, and because of the asymptomatic nature, will only catch breakouts once they're already established.

There will, with certainty, be an initial wave of cases. The biggest questions are how big the wave will be, and how bad will the wave be, in terms of serious illnesses and/or deaths of students as well as faculty/staff. The odds of a second wave, assuming that everyone stays in town, are very high. Incorporate sports, even limited to games within the conference, and the odds of a second wave (with people traveling between sites and all that entails) shoot up close to 100%, while the odds of additional waves are likewise high.

So, for me, sports are already right out and everyone knows it. The only real question is, given the capacity that schools have now, will it be possible to continue holding classes? My ultimate feeling is that some schools are going to get lucky, their initial breakouts aren't going to be too bad in terms of spread, and it will be manageable, but there will be schools where it isn't and where there are deaths and those schools will have to shut down.

To not end on such a downer, what I've seen does give me hope for the spring semester (which is already set to start delayed, with similar structural elements but much better testing capabilities). I'm not sure what sports will be like then. I think some sort of bubble (with those students taking all of their classes online) is the only way to do sports safely, and I just don't see that as feasible in the student-athlete setting (and outside of football and basketball, many of the student-athletes are very much more focused on being students and would be very much hurt, academically, by going to isolated learning).

T.B. in St. Paul, MN, writes: As a medical researcher with 20 years of experience and a Ph.D. in biostatistics, I feel compelled to comment on the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine research. Here is the posting for the Moderna vaccine trial. As can be seen, the trial has four primary objectives, and two of these objectives require two years of follow-up in order to be met. Typically, the FDA would not approve a drug unless all primary objectives are met. This is just standard practice. The primary objectives are drafted in collaboration with the FDA during the NDA process to ensure that the appropriate risk/benefit profile will be measured. Thus, I don't see any way that there can be an "October surprise" that comes from this trial. It will be more like an October, 2022 surprise.

There are also several other factors to consider in COVID-19 vaccine research. One is to keep in mind that the ascertainment of infection has been pretty terrible. The sensitivity and specificity of diagnostics tests have been low. Yet, the vaccine trials must rely on these tests to determine if infection is indeed prevented. The trials are randomized, so the ascertainment bias should be equally balanced between arms, but there is nonetheless a concerning missing-data problem because we don't know the true rate of infections avoided to balance against any risks associated with the vaccine.

Another factor is that there are big questions about whether a full or only a partial immune response can be built by the human body and how long that might last as the virus mutates. The vaccine trials currently running do not necessarily measure this, but it is important to note, and complicates any assumptions about reaching so-called herd immunity. The nature of the immune response must be understood better before we can reach any conclusions about the feasibility of attaining herd immunity, either through natural spread or via vaccine.

T.W. in Eaglewood, CO, writes: Regarding PD's comment on vaccinations: "I am not in any way an anti-vaxxer. However, I am only willing to get a vaccine that has been put through rigorous testing to prove safety and efficacy..."

I could not agree more, and I think it is caused by vivid memories from the 1960s of the unintended consequences of inadequately tested thalidomide prescribed to pregnant mothers for nausea and morning sickness. The results worldwide were over 10,000 children born with a range of severe deformities and thousands of miscarriages.

It makes one wonder about the unintended consequences of an inadequately tested vaccine routinely administered to, say, 100 million Americans.

Trans America

S.B. in New Castle, DE, writes: I felt surprisingly encouraged after reading your item "Trumpworld is Divided on Transphobia," and its Politico source.

As a transgender person and LGBTQ+ activist, I am acutely aware that transgender and gender-queer people are the best point of attack for those attempting to use our Rainbow Radiant community as a social wedge. For the entirety of its term, this administration has repeatedly and unabashedly attempted to legally erase us for the singular purpose of firing up their base. In addition to our political enemies, we who identify as TQ+ often struggle to be accepted by many within the LGB portion of our community. We have a unique and often socially difficult life experience. We are an easy target.

Nevertheless, if we step back and focus only on this election, I have to agree with those who think using transgender people as a means to improve turnout for 45 is a bad idea. Despite how easily we can be used as a whipping-person for whatever transphobic fear one may have, we still only comprise a piddling small percentage of the population and even then, a number of us remain fully or partially "in the closet." Very few people experience us in any meaningful way. Meanwhile, the pandemic that crashed our economy has now expanded from the blue states that Mr. Kushner apparently felt worthy of being written off, into the deep crimson South and Midwest.

Transgender issues, like athletic competitions, are admittedly thorny, but I believe the few undecided voters still out there are more likely to say, "Yeah, yeah, but what about my job, family, and house?" than "Godless transgender athletes are my ONE big issue! Now I'm going to vote full-on Trumpublican!" With so many schools and public venues shut down, transgender athletic and restroom concerns become even more irrelevant. The investment of any political capital to use us as a campaign wedge issue seems like a wasted effort, and as you pointed out, one that could easily backfire.

On an anecdotal note: I work in the nuclear power industry, which is very white, very male, and very conservative. My workplace is the last major battlefield where I struggle to be accepted as a transgender woman. After several months of slowly acclimating my students and peers to changes in my clothing, manner, and appearance, I've found that the vast majority are coming to realize that I'm still a competent reactor operations instructor, a fascinating person, and generally not the fearsome creature that the right-wing pundits would have them to believe I am. Certainly, I'm not fully accepted. Some people avoid me and likely make the same horrible remarks behind my back that I heard them say before they suspected anything about my gender identity. Still, I feel that as more people live and work with transgender and gender-queer people, the more the political conservatives will realize that beating us down is, as you wrote, a "final suicide mission in a war that has already been lost."

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: In your response to D.C. from Portland, concerning the Christo-fascist porn book, you wrote: "We would hope that it is obvious that the authors have a very particular definition of the word freedom, one that, say, the natives who greeted Columbus, or the Muslims who were attacked during the Crusades, would not share. Nor, for that matter, would some of the 5% who ostensibly live in "freedom" today, like BLM protesters, the desperately poor, the victims of homophobia and transphobia, women who are losing/have lost bodily autonomy, and so forth."

May I say, as a part of that five percent that deals with transphobia every day, thank you for remembering to not forget us transgender people, who suffer greatly in our society. I was floored, because too often, people say "homophobia" and forget "transphobia" in the mistaken belief that "homophobia" covers us, too. It doesn't. Homophobia and transphobia are two very different things, and I would argue that LGB Americans have a far greater level of social acceptance than is accorded to those, like me, who are trans. Of course, I have never let that stop me, up to and including my own run for NC Senate this cycle. While I did not win my primary, I performed far better than most had expected, given that I was the state's first-in-history openly-trans woman to ever run for our State legislature in a relatively conservative district, and up against an establishment favorite.

I will also note the last part of what you said about women and body autonomy—the right to have a say in what does or does not happen with your own body. Similarly, I see the obstacles we trans people face as body sovereignty issues.

Sunday Book Review

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: This past week I read the foreword to Michael Cohen's soon-to-be-published book about Donald Trump entitled Disloyal. I found it to be very compelling in a way that most books about Trump are not. Yes, I know that I am predisposed to believe the worst about Trump and that Cohen has many reasons to lie and exaggerate, but the prose seemed very direct and real. I was taken by the fact that Cohen states right up front that as you read the book you won't like him or approve of the things he does. I have to admire the amount of personal bravery it took to admit this point. So many people write these type of books to justify their actions—cough, John Bolton, cough—and to make the reader approve of them as human beings. Cohen does something similar for Trump, stating that he is not the cartoon villain that most of us view him as. He stated, "He (Trump) is capable of behaving kindly, but he is not kind. He is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he is not generous." I find that take surprisingly refreshing and for me makes me willing to believe Cohen.

At the same time, I also found it downright frightening. Cohen seems adamant in his belief that Trump will not be a gracious loser and will instead hold on to power by any means necessary, which of course has been a much discussed subject on this site. This got me thinking that maybe all of us are contemplating the wrong move by Trump if he loses. I don't think he will refuse to leave the White House, only to have the U.S. Marshals escort him out. For one thing the man is too vain to be seen being evicted—as a landlord, Trump knows that being evicted is one of the greatest humiliations that can be done to a person. He will want to defiantly march out of the White House because in his mind it will make him appear even more powerful as he plots his return. Because there is no way in hell that Trump will retire from public life after his presidency to paint portraits or to build affordable housing. No, he will be a Napoleon on Elba, declaring himself the legitimate president of a government in exile, and plotting his return to the throne.

Cohen says that Trump fears that he will go to jail once he leaves the presidency. By creating a government in exile, he could try to delay any charges by saying he is a victim of political persecution—and we all know his legal MO is to delay and draw out as much as possible. As a leader in exile he can play to his love of being seen as a martyr, and can do the things he loves, while avoiding the things about the job that he hates. He can go full-on Henry II with "Will no one rid me of this troublesome Biden?" He can incite his heavily armed and too-gullible devoted followers to all kinds of acts of violence and insurrection. Will he get away with it? Hmm, the jury is still out on that. It will depend how far the Democrats want to go in prosecuting Trump. It will depend on how far the Republicans want to go down the road of treason in their support.

We are about to go into a period of American history unlike any we have ever faced and our survival as a democratic nation is not assured.

A.B. in Chesapeake, VA, writes: Impeach him again.

I just finished On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. Written in 2017 by Timothy Snyder, the book is a quick read but very instructive as to the current state of political conflict in the US. The very first lesson is Do Not Obey in Advance. Snyder points out that heedless acts of conformity in 1933's Germany and 1946's Czechoslovakia could not be reversed. Democrats are guilty of still conforming to a system where accepted and understood norms are being violated by Trump and the Republicans daily.

The House should start the second impeachment of the President on November 4, 2020. Grounds are: talking to Vladimir Putin 7 times since Trump learned about the bounty on U.S. servicemen in Afghanistan without raising the issue, the illegal commutation of Roger Stone's sentence, interference with the Post Office, and violation of the emoluments clause as recently shown in the attempt to secure the British Open at Turnberry. It is absolutely necessary to show that such behavior will not be tolerated. Anything less, and the possibility of tyranny in the United States increases.


D.H. in Boston, MA, writes: As a graduate of Dartmouth College, I object to your description of my fellow alum Dinesh D'Souza as a "windbag."

I feel the term is too mild. In the future, please consider using terms like "wingnut" or "whack job" to describe him—assuming you want to keep using ones that start with "W."

J.R. in Caribou, Maine, writes: Perhaps "windbag Dinesh D'Souza" should be replaced with "felon Dinesh D'Souza." Those smart enough to thrive in the political world certainly know what they are doing when they commit felonies. Maybe best to point it out and give the readers the opportunity to realize that this guy is a felon due to a pardon from the most corrupt president in U.S. history.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot...Fire Away

A.F. in Warren, OH, writes: Can you please stop using the term "Rust Belt"? I realize it's not a new term, but ever since 2016 it's everywhere, and as someone who lives in a place that's often labeled as such, I despise it. I get that it's a convenient way for people to understand the region you're referring to, but I see it as a derogatory and dismissive label (like "flyover country"). While some people who live in these areas choose to either accept it or ignore it, it's very grating to many of us, and even a bit insulting. Why not just say something like the "Great Lakes Region"? I know that's not a perfect substitute but it's fairly close, and people would still have a good idea of what you're talking about. I'm a youngish progressive who rarely sees eye to eye with the older rural masses where I live, but I can start to understand why they feel so abandoned by the rest of the country with labels like "Rust Belt" conjuring images of a forgotten, decaying wasteland.

V & Z respond: We understand your argument, but it's not such an easy change to make. "Rust Belt" is the widely accepted metonym for the industrial states of the lower Midwest and mid-Atlantic. If we switched to "Great Lakes Region," we would get a million e-mails about how that suggests Minnesota is included and Pennsylvania is not.

D.K. in Iowa City, IA, writes: I have been a reader and admirer of your blog for many years but your selections of weekend questions and comments are not up to your usual standards. I suggest you either give them up and take the weekends off to recharge your engines as you were doing for a while or continue with your usual work on the weekends. There are almost 3 more months before the election; your work is important.

V & Z respond: Some people definitely don't care for the weekend stuff. However, you will have to take our word for it that the nay-sayers are a definite minority. We're also a little confused, since one of the questions we answered yesterday was submitted

J.D. in Rohnert Park, CA, writes: I can't for the life of me figure out your rationale for allocating electoral votes. The most rational and systematic method is to use an aggregation of credible polls, like FiveThirtyEight and Real Clear Politics do. But you don't do that. I believe your method is to use the most recent credible poll, but sometimes you don't do that either. For example, today the most recent poll had Joe Biden up +1 in North Carolina, but you still show that state for Trump. I follow several sources for polling daily, and I find your method chaotic. Or, as Martin Sheen said to Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now, "I don't see any method at all."

V & Z respond: Our method is not a secret; we've explained it several times on the main page, and it's also explained on the FAQ pages. We use the last week's worth of polls, however many that might be. If there are no polls in the last week, we use the most recent poll. If there have been no polls at all, we use the final result from 2016.

E.W. in Long Beach, CA, writes: You people have learned absolutely nothing since your loss in 2016...reading this entire article I would have at first thought it was written as comic relief but then realizing your polling and description of the state of the country was something you actually believe to be true is just well for lack of better words unbelievable...Trump will win this next election easily the senate will be held easily and with the incredible awful decisions by the left over the last few months most likely congress will hopefully fall...Thinking Biden and Harris which may be the two weakest and disgusting humans to ever run for public office much less the presidency and that Americans on both sides would vote for them is your further lack of understanding of this country and an insult to the people in it

But then again you have your ridiculous polling numbers to keep the fools on the left thinking they will somehow that work out for you 4 years arrogant fools learned nothing did you???

V & Z respond: Always good to hear from a fan. We left your letter 100% intact and unedited, so as to allow everyone full enjoyment of your authorial voice.


K.F. in Framingham, MA, writes: You can file this one under "totally meaningless and useless," or maybe under "just for fun." People often ask, "what's in a name?" Instead of names, though, we might want to ask "what's in a logo?" Just as you don't want to pick the wrong running mate, you also don't want to muck up the logo. Who can forget the hilarity that ensued when the original Trump-Pence logo was released in 2016, for example?

I examined the logos for presidential tickets from both parties (going back about 44 years or about 11 cycles) and noted interesting patterns. Here are the data for the past 40 years or so of presidential logos:

  • Tickets where both names were uppercase: 69% of those won
  • Tickets where both names were lowercase: Only 17% won
  • Tickets where the presidential nominee's name was larger than the vice-presidential nominee's name: 57% won
  • Tickets where the presidential nominee's and vice-presidential nominee's names were the same size: 36% won

It is interesting to note that Team Biden went with uppercase text while making his name slightly larger than that of his running-mate. The Obama/Biden ticket followed the same pattern in 2008, though both names were the same size in 2012. In 2016, Hillary Clinton's campaign featured lowercase text and her name and Tim Kaine's were of equal size. It's interesting that before selecting her running mate, Clinton went with a very classy "Hillary" logo. When it came time to add Tim Kaine, she had to revert to her surname, and the whole aesthetic was changed as compared to her original logo. Clinton/Kaine sounded good and had a great ring to it, but in print it looked fairly understated.

Next week, I'll examine the most and least melodious presidential ticket pairings. Just kidding.

C.T.P. in Lancaster, PA, writes: I am dismayed that you did not know that the title of the "Star Trek: The Original Series" episode is "A Piece Of The Action." It is my favorite episode of "Star Trek." I would also recommend the following: "I, Mudd," "The Doomsday Machine," "City On The Edge Of Forever," and, of course, "The Trouble With Tribbles." Quentin Tarantino seems to believe in the "Great Person" theory of history because he wants to remake "City On The Edge Of Forever." You may want to educate him on the matter. Living in Los Angeles, you probably see him regularly at the local espresso cafe.

V & Z respond: We knew the name of the episode, but deliberately kept things a bit unspecific so as to also make reference to the very similar "Star Trek" episode "Patterns of Force" (Nazis instead of 1930s gangsters) and the somewhat similar "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode "The Royale" (1950s Las Vegas).

And while (Z) does not drink coffee, he actually does see QT once in a while, at the theater that Tarantino owns. A few months before the pandemic hit, for example, Tarantino and Dan Aykroyd were both present to introduce a midnight showing of (Z)'s favorite movie, "The Blues Brothers."

B.L. in Ann Arbor, MI, writes: I loved the reference to Necco Wafers. It reminded me that there had been a plan to resurrect the defunct Necco factory in Massachusetts following its bankruptcy but, alas, the details fell through and the factory was sold to Amazon as a distribution center.

All is not lost, as there is time to put in a bid for several packages of wafers on eBay, with the seller claiming a 2023 expiration date. I always thought they were like Twinkies and would last forever.

V & Z respond: That was specifically inspired by this scene from the show "Night Court." And since the character who references Necco Wafers (Bob Wheeler) was played by Brent Spiner, who also played Data on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," that makes this our third Star Trek reference of the day.

S.L. in Monrovia, CA, writes: R.G.N. in Seattle was right—Malarkey has made a comeback.

Today's Presidential Polls

Another poll confirming that a blue state is hopeless for Donald Trump. Now that we've gotten Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts in the last two days, we assume Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, and Vermont are on deck. (Z)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
Connecticut 52% 32% May 19 May 24 SurveyUSA

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug15 Postal Service Warns that Voters May Be Disenfranchised by Mail Delays
Aug15 Saturday Q&A
Aug15 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug14 Trump Says the Quiet Part Out Loud
Aug14 Ron Johnson Says the Quiet Part Out Loud, Too
Aug14 Trump Announces Peace Agreement Between Israel and UAE
Aug14 Biden Presses for Masks Nationwide
Aug14 Trump Embraces Harris Birtherism
Aug14 About Madison Cawthorn, the "Next Face of the GOP"
Aug14 Democratic Convention Lineup Announced
Aug14 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug14 Today's Senate Polls
Aug13 The Day After
Aug13 The Delicate Art of Character Assassination
Aug13 Is QAnon Becoming the New Litmus Test?
Aug13 Silicon Valley Is Prepping for Election Night
Aug13 Looks at Books, Part I: Bob Woodward
Aug13 Looks at Books, Part II: George W. Bush
Aug13 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug13 Today's Senate Polls
Aug12 It's Kamala Harris
Aug12 More Voters Head to the Polls
Aug12 Democrats Appear to Prefer Vote-by-Mail
Aug12 Are You Ready for Some Football?
Aug12 The Vaccine War Is Well Underway
Aug12 COVID-19 Diaries: Research Notes
Aug12 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug12 Today's Senate Polls
Aug11 New National Poll: Biden 53%, Trump 40%
Aug11 Republicans Have a Strategy for November
Aug11 Democrats Will Feature Ordinary Voters in Their Virtual Convention
Aug11 How Biden Can Win and How Biden Can Lose
Aug11 Can the FDA Handle the Pressure?
Aug11 Democrats' House Prospects Are Looking Good
Aug11 Florida Democrats Failed to Register a Million New Voters
Aug11 Willie Brown: Harris Should Decline Veep Offer and Hold Out for Attorney General
Aug11 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug11 Today's Senate Polls
Aug10 More on Trump's Saturday "Executive Orders"
Aug10 COVID-19 Cases in the U.S. Hit 5 Million
Aug10 It's Official: The Election Is Russia vs. China
Aug10 Five States Vote Tomorrow
Aug10 Are Mail-in Ballots Bad and Absentee Ballots Good?
Aug10 DeJoy Reorganizes the Postal Service
Aug10 Trump Chews Out Adelson
Aug10 Trumpworld Is Divided on Transphobia
Aug10 What about the Exit Polls?
Aug10 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug09 Trump Signs Four Executive Orders on the Economy
Aug09 Sunday Mailbag