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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

Web 1.0

J.T. in Greensboro, NC, writes: Count me as among those who have come to love and appreciate the weekend Q & A and Comments features. I feel like they provide a level of entertaining, erudite, and civil level of discourse and access to a broad spectrum of thoughtful political and historical thought severely lacking pretty much anywhere else on the Internet.

It also reminds me, as a person who grew up in the age of Web 1.0, that it had a lot of things to commend it in comparison to the unfettered largely unmoderated discourse of Web 2.0 and the social media age. I mean this in the best way possible, but I teach writing and communication at a major university and I use your Website in my discussions of source assessment as an example of the principle that design can be very misleading. The lesson being that your low-tech site provides much more reliable information than any number of flashy high-tech sites. I feel like electoral-vote could easily become a headache inducing cesspool (like, for example, the 538 comments section) if you ever went the Web 2.0 route.

Keep up the good work.

T.O. in Minneapolis, MN, writes : Allow me to add my support for the weekend Q & A and letters. It's a nice diversion from the wonderful weekday material. I look forward to the peek into the queries and opinions of my otherwise invisible league of electoral-vote followers.

E.K. in Bignoles, France, writes: I don't necessarily write this in order to be published. I've just finished your today's post, and I must confess: what literally keeps me awake at night is that people like this E.W. from CA have the right to vote. You can think I'm an arrogant guy, but this "comment" is just beyond my comprehension. How an illiterate crook who's been bankrupted several times, has a fascist behavior, and wants to ruin everything from your institutions, your beautiful environment to your USPS can generate such an admiration? I don't understand, really. Those are the dumbest people, really.

Besides, you really make a really great job. You have my full support. However, just because we enter in the "money time" before Nov. 3, I'd really like to see you run usual items on Saturdays, and keep the Q & A (which is very useful) for the Sunday. It's just a suggestion, and, as Sideshow Bob would say it: "by the way, I'm aware of the irony of writing a comment in order to decry it." So don't bother pointing that out. I know (Z) will recognize the episode, and I'm just suggesting a pause until November, nothing more.

Thank you both, and keep going!

D.R. in Thousand Oaks, CA writes: I want to add my voice to those who appreciate the weekend questions and comments sections which I believe provide all of us with a broader perspective, something sorely needed in these politically polarized times.

So, taking a cue from (Z) and his frequent use of pop culture and movie references, I offer an update to a famous scene from Casablanca, one of my favorite movies, to characterize the comment from D.K. in Iowa City, IA last Sunday regarding the weekend questions and comments:

D.K.: "I'm shocked, shocked to find that questions are being answered here!"
V & Z (handing a piece of paper to D.K.): "The answer to your question, sir."
D.K.: "Oh, thank you very much."

F.C. (no location given), writes: I have to say it's interesting getting the other voices. I may not agree, but it's still interesting to see how others view your posts. Please keep it going.

I'd also like to comment about your suggestion for a conservative counterpart to your site. While he does also play with the polls, etc., what he doesn't do is the analysis you do. I find his site dull, and not one I care to read on a daily basis. (Unlike yours.)

Do you have any site recommendations for an alternative analysis that isn't made up of wack jobs? I may not agree with your conclusions, but they are at least (generally) rationally derived.

V & Z respond: is a roughly comparable site to ours, with polls and a map. It is run by Scott Elliott, who says about himself: "I am a Christian. Jesus is my life and my purpose." He is very conservative, but his numbers appear to be honest. He has a different map algorithm so we are not always in sync, but he's not making it up. His commentary and links come from a different perspective. Also, Jesus apparently likes ads because the site is full of them.

P.M. in Currituck, NC writes: You wrote the following: "The big question, though, is how many Latinos will vote. The poll showed that 20% of them say they have a 50-50 chance of voting. It's hard to imagine that so many members of a group that Trump has demonized so much and for so long don't care who is president, but that is what the poll showed."

I believe the last sentence of this shows your bias; and, indeed, the bias that many in both academia and the media have regarding politics. The reality is -- as much as certain segments rave about and analyze political matters to death—most Americans (of any race or ethnicity) simply don't care. Most people get up, pay their bills, take care of their kids, and live life. They don't obsess incessantly about political matters. People who discuss this stuff constantly live inside their own little bubble, and think everyone else is like them. They aren't.

I have followed your site since 2004, and enjoy it every day. Your postings are concise, thoughtful, and contain a dose of deadpan humor. But comments like this prove you are living in that reflective bubble—and, I would posit, the same is true of most readers here. It might serve you well to keep that in mind, and to not assume that something which you see as blatantly obvious is true for everyone.

V & Z respond: We have no doubt that most people don't follow politics like readers of this site. But we lament the fact that they don't realize that politics has real consequences for them. How much tax do I pay and where does the money go? What difference does it make? Private health insurance or government health insurance? What's the difference? If there is a pandemic or an economic crisis, maybe the government will deal with it, maybe it won't. No skin off my back. If the government wants to increase defense spending or education spending, who cares? Maybe we'll keep Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Maybe we'll abolish them. I could care less either way. Who cares if the minimum wage is $7.25/hr or $15/hr? The list goes on. I guess our view is, if you don't vote, then don't whine later.

The Election

B.S. in Berlin, Germany, writes: It seems that there are two things that every presidential election that has taken place during my lifetime have in common: First, every presidential election is labeled the "most important election in American history" by both major parties. If that were true, then one could only imagine by how many orders of magnitude the Election of 1992 (Clinton vs. Dole) must have been compared to the Election of 1988 (Bush Sr. vs. Dukakis).

I am not, of course, denying that the Election of 2020 is important, but does anybody seriously think it is MORE important than, say, the Election of 1860 (Lincoln vs. Breckenridge), whose result led to the American Civil War? Or the Election of 1800 (Jefferson vs. Adams Sr.), which resulted in the first peaceful transfer of power to the opposition in U.S. History?

The second thing I have noticed is that if a member of the Democratic presidential ticket is also a member of Congress (which is often the case), that person is immediately ranked as the "most liberal" member of that chamber. Al Gore was supposedly the most liberal Senator in 1992, John Kerry and John Edwards were supposedly two of the most liberal Senators in 2004, and now, predictably, Kamala Harris was awarded that honor the moment she was chosen to be Biden's running-mate. Does anybody seriously believe Kamala Harris is somehow more liberal than Bernie Sanders?

C.K. in Union City, CA, writes: For the states where voters can get absentee ballots only for specific reasons detailed in state law and COVID-19 isn't among them, why does no one see the simplest of all possible workarounds? Every voter can plan a vacation over election day, get an absentee ballot, return it, and decide to cancel the vacation. Maybe it's illegal in those states to choose absentee voting because of the virus, but it can't be illegal to cancel a vacation because of COVID-19 or taking steps to prevent it.

D.G. in Silver Spring, MD, writes: In Canada, a large country not too far away, their federal parliamentary elections, by law, must run between 36 and 50 days. Quite a difference from the country just to its south. Here's my suggestion on how to shorten our presidential campaigns to less than a year. It would probably require a Constitutional amendment to make it work:

  • Forbid any candidate to declare their candidacy before January 1 of the election year. Prohibit political advertising before that date.
  • Hold the primaries (possibly by region) in March through May, during which time the candidates could hold a series of debates.
  • Hold the party conventions in July and August.
  • Hold the general campaign in September through November.
  • Schedule the presidential and vice-presidential debates at that time.
  • Hold the election on the first Saturday or Sunday in November.

Get rid of big money contributions to candidates. Have public financing of elections. There are plenty of other reforms that we could make, but the main point here is to reduce the length of presidential campaigns to one calendar year.

F.G. in Salt Lake City, UT, writes: K.M. used Virginia as a bellwhether state in 2016 and felt that, although Clinton won Virginia, the fact that Trump led there at first indicated a Democratic weakness. The statement was even made that Virginia is a red state. This does not reflect the current state of affairs in VA. Virginia has a number of small counties with about 5K to 50K total votes. These get counted early and give any Republican a lead.

By contrast, Fairfax county has about 500K votes, goes heavily Democratic, and takes a while to get counted. While VA was a red state, it now is a blue state. Do not regard any count in VA as indicative of anything until at least half the Fairfax county vote and the other northern VA counties have been counted. In the last 3 presidential elections, the pattern has been for the Republican to get an early lead but for the Democrat to win by about 5% and I expect that pattern to continue (although it wouldn't surprise me if the final margin is greater than 5%). By contrast North Carolina looks to be very close and is a much better choice to see how the election is going. Another state to look at (as always) is Florida.

Personally, I intend to watch Pennsylvania and Michigan. If Biden wins both of these or one of NC and FL, I'll break out the champagne. Actually, I'll open the champagne no matter what—either to celebrate or to get drunk.

H.S. in Agoura Hills, CA, writes: In each state if voters show up at the polls, in person, their votes will become provisional. That means that those votes will be counted after the mail in ballots to make sure that there are no duplicate votes. That thwarts Trump's entire scheme of declaring victory when initial in person tallies come in. He thinks that the initial votes will show him in the lead because more Republicans plan to vote in person. He can then declare victory and say mail in votes are fraudulent. That's not happening because the in person voting will be counted after the mail in tally. So, we will have to wait a week or so to finally get the mail in votes totals, then another week to match up the provisional ballots. That's why the GOP lawyers are trying so hard to thwart mail in voting.

K.P. in Resort Twp., MI, writes: So on election night, Republican voters will show up in person in the central and mountain time zones and get counted relatively quickly. If people go to bed before California closes polls and other states count up mail in and absentee ballots, DJT is likely to have a lead in popular and electoral votes "on election night". Then if the Biden vote creeps in slowly over the hours and days to gradually overtake the Trump vote it may feel like a conspiracy. It will feel like a conspiracy.

J.L.C. in Longview, TX, writes: I noticed that one of the objections you stated to the use of sports venues as voting locations, was that it would be difficult to find your specific precinct. I can't speak for all states but here in Texas, we have "county wide" voting which means that on Election Day, you can vote at any official polling place. No more driving all over the county to go to your assigned place. It's proved popular with voters, election administrators, and poll workers.

J.L. in Paterson, NJ, writes: You're right that noncitizen X.S. in Paris can't legally buy stamps to aid a campaign for federal office. Foreigners may, however, help nonpartisan organizations like, a 501(c)(3) that therefore can't endorse candidates. Astute selection of recipients can accomplish partisan goals. For example, Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates is also a nonpartisan c3, but it operates in Cuyahoga County (including Cleveland). As a practical matter, most of the people whose votes it facilitates will be Democrats.

J.E. in NY, NY writes: From your Monday write-up: "Our guess is that he simply doesn't think about the consequences of his actions. He just does things that feel good right now and the future be damned." When an elected official behaves as though they won't have to face the voters, or in ways that are demonstrably counter to public opinion, here are a few simple explanations:

  • The official is showing leadership, doing the unpopular thing even though it is right (e.g. LBJ and civil rights)
  • The official is a lame duck, who isn't facing re-election and can thus do what he is she pleases, within reason
  • They don't have to face re-election because there won't be one, or re-election is so safe that it doesn't matter

To me, the only reasonable explanation for not only Trump's behavior, but the Republican party, is option number 3. The Republicans in the Senate have repeatedly behaved as though they will be in power forever—you have noted often that they wouldn't the results if Democrats did the things they did, such as like running out the clock a supreme court appointee were they in the minority. McConnell isn't stupid, so the only logical reason to behave as he has, destroying norms and traditions of the Senate, is he does not believe the Republicans will ever be out of power. Similarly, Trump's counterproductive behavior is premised on his not accepting the results of an election, or of never having one in the first place. Trump has openly stated his goal is to suppress voting, and that he may not accept the election results in any case, and he has attempted to poison the well to delegitimize results that do come in. Trump is behaving as though he will be in power forever. I am sure your resident historian can come up with numerous examples of counterproductive behavior on the part of despots.

Given that, we should all be very, very frightened, because if one party is behaving as though elections will not affect their prospects, they either know something the rest of us don't or don't plan to allow election results to affect them one way or the other. In that situation, it seems to me that we are dealing with a party and a president that has every intention of ending democracy in the United States as we know it, or at the very least returning to the days when only white men could vote (or get them counted) and of attacking people of color and sexual minorities at every opportunity. Trump's behavior in particular with respect to the coronavirus is instructive; he knows it kills brown and black people in higher numbers because of health disparities and has made it clear he does not care. The elderly who are vulnerable have served their purpose already by voting for him once; as far as he is concerned they aren't needed anymore if there will be no further elections that matter.

The GOP Senate hasn't stopped Trump because they simply do not believe in democracy—at least not for anyone but white men.

J.T. in Marietta, GA, writes: Regarding your Wednesday bewilderment at the polling of the Georgia-B Senate race: the two Republicans are not viewed by the Republican electorate as "fraught" with problems; both are well within the requisite conservative wheelhouse. Like Texas, Georgia is still basically a red state. The problem is that their Democratic opponents are virtually unknown to the state as a whole. Even if Lieberman (or Warnock) were to leave the race, it would still be unsettled. It's unfortunate for Democrats that Ossoff chose the Georgia-A race, which already had excellent candidates. Those two were overwhelmed by his name recognition in the primary, and it was too late to switch to Georgia-B.

M.M. in Atlanta, GA, writes: One explanation for the difference in polling between the Special Election and the regular Senate race in Georgia is that Ossoff is much more well-known and well-funded than Warnock or Lieberman. Ossoff is already known and fairly popular in the Atlanta metro area, and he is advertising quite a bit. His run for Congress against Karen Handel was extremely publicized and locally is considered a bellwether for the 2018 blue wave. Warnock and Lieberman are virtually unknown and are not—at least as far as I can tell—advertising much. (I have seen one Lieberman ad on social media and zero ads for either candidate on TV.) Meanwhile you literally cannot watch TV without seeing Kelly Loeffler touting her Trumpism and demeaning Doug Collins as a "liberal" who likes to vote for tax increases.

M.D. in PA writes: Trump's voter suppression is at least working in the county where I live in Pennsylvania. I brought up adding ballot drop off locations for the election at our County Election Board meeting and was told that nothing can be done until Trump's lawsuit against all 67 Pennsylvania counties is completed. They won't even plan for locations. These as well as additional election offices throughout the county are all within the law the Republican run legislature negotiated with our Democratic Governor last year. And we have a Democratic majority of Commissioners and Monroe barely went for Hillary in 2016, despite having a 47% plurality of registered Democrats to about 35% of registered Republican voters in the county. Trump's bullied people his entire life so that's all he knows. Sad that so many people won't stand up to this evil sociopathic idiot so his tactics work.

P.D. in Memphis, TN, writes: It does appear to me that Trump has very likely shot himself and the entire Republican Party in the foot with his mail mishandling schemes. This is the most heavy handed bit of attempting to tamper with the votes since at least WWII. I can think of no time in the past century when such an obvious and overt attempt to damage the vote was made across the entire country.

And everyone who is either a Democrat or a thinking Independent knows about it. Certainly the younger voters know about it, and they are seething, if my daughters are any indication.

I strongly believe that three quarters or more of the Biden vote will be locked in by the 18th of October, whether through absentee ballot or early voting. Republicans are being constantly soothed by Fox News and other sources that nobody is tampering with the mails, the election will be fine, coronavirus is just a Democratic Party conspiracy to dethrone Trump, and so forth. They aren't feeling any pressure to get their ballots in the mail early, or to go to the polls early.

This is much more likely to tip close states to Biden and Democratic Party control than to tip the election to Trump.

As for the persons from other countries who are concerned about what they can do, I will point out that quite a few, about a million Canadians for example, hold dual citizenship in the US. Most of them can vote. Many seem to think they cannot.

R.H. in Macungie, PA, writes: With all the concerns about the Post Office (the only sorting machine in the Lehigh Valley was removed), I thought your readers might find this interesting. Here is my Timeline for Mail-In Ballot: Lehigh County, PA:

  • July 7: Applied online for mail-in ballot
  • Aug. 10: I found a link where status of mail-in application could be found. Nothing there for me
  • Aug. 14: Called elections office. Cheerful young lady informed me they had just staffed up
  • Aug. 18: Received email confirmation that my applicaton was approved
  • Aug. 20: No ballot yet

R.G.N. in Seattle, WA, writes: On Sunday a writer to your Website ventured an opinion that the majority of Asian Americans tend to lean conservative. Having a third generation (Sansei) Japanese American wife, my own kneejerk reaction was that Asians have a strong liberal bias. I checked the 2018 Asian American Voter Survey and found that Japanese Americans have the strongest record of voting for Democrats of any group of Asian Americans. That explains my bias. In the 2018 survey, with two exceptions, Asian American groups tended to vote for Democrats. Filipino American votes were pretty much evenly split between the Republican and Democratic parties and Vietnamese Americans tended to vote for Republicans. Sixty-two percent of East Indian American voters voted for Democratic Party candidates for the Senate and sixty-six percent voted for Democrats in the House races.

In a USA Today 2018 exit poll, seventy-seven percent of Asian American voters reported voting for a Democratic party candidate. It would seem that the local demographics of Asian Americans tends to influence an individual's opinion of the political views of Asian Americans. In regions where Vietnamese Americans are the dominant Asian American group, Asian Americans may appear to tend to the conservative side, but nationwide, the majority of Asian Americans tend to vote for Democrats.

R.F. in Waukegan, IL, writes: I saw your comment that Trump's campaign is suing Iowa counties for prefilling PINs necessary to get a vote by mail ballot. I have a better idea. The Republican Secretary of State said they can't pre-fill that form on the application. There's nothing stopping the county election boards from sending a blank application with a cover sheet that says "In box such and such, your PIN is WXYZ. Please make sure to fill in this PIN number" very prominently. If they start now then by the time it gets to court, it may be dismissed as moot since they aren't pre-filling it anymore.

D.S. in Silver Spring, MD, writes: On Friday, you wrote about how important state legislative races are to the post-2020 Census redistricting process, and that many donors are "pouring millions into high-profile races... while bypassing candidates for state legislatures, where $100,000 could flip a state Senate seat. There are probably half a dozen state chambers that could flip in November if enough money were directed to the right candidates." Those of your readers who would like to influence next year's redistricting likely wondered, "who are the 'right' candidates?"

Fortunately, Sam Wang and his crew at the Princeton Election Consortium have produced "Redistricting Information: 'Moneyball,'" which reports on their model designed to identify "the races where voters have the most leverage to prevent partisan gerrymandering in 2021." The page is here. Anyone interested in maximizing the impact of their donations on redistricting could use that resource to identify key state-level races (Wang, et al, give their readers the benefit of the doubt, assuming they favor more fair, less partisan redistricting).

S.L. in Monrovia, writes: I suggest that in lieu of holding rallies in swing states, the presidential candidates should visit these and travel around to iconic local destinations to film televised speeches (as ads). These visits could be coupled with (socially isolated) interviews and meetings with important individuals or small groups (5-10). Appearing at a local site where a black man was killed, a hurricane struck, immigrants were deported, or needed medicine went undelivered, etc. could be poignant.

The Convention

B.M. in Birmingham, AL, writes: Biden delivered a very good speech. If Democrats are honest with themselves, the bar was very low and much of the accolades for the speech come from the fact he didn't go off script and make another huge blunder or worse fall over during the delivery. I am glad, however, that he was able to come through. It should give him and the party confidence that he can now actually have a campaign where he answers non-prescreened questions from all wings of the media. He did so well, we may actually get a Trump/Biden debate; something the country needs to see before this decision is made.

C.K. in Albuquerque, NM, writes: Having just watched the Democratic National Convention, I could not be more impressed with what I saw. Joe Biden was not my first choice for President, nor was Kamala Harris my first choice for his running mate. I was a Warren supporter, which, fitting perfectly with the profile you suggested on your site, means that I am a pragmatic progressive who would have preferred something to the left of Sanders but am perfectly happy to settle for literally anyone but Trump, even without needing Warren on the ticket to win my support (though I did love her convention appearances!). Biden and Harris did not need to try very hard to earn my vote, is what I am saying here, but they blew me away regardless.

What I found the most striking, and the reason I am writing to you now, is the way the convention accentuated Biden's empathy and compassion. I felt something stirring, something that I haven't felt in a long time, since before 2016. Is this what it's like to have a Presidential candidate who is warm and open, one who wants to serve all Americans (not just the ones who voted for him), one who even (my God) appears to love his wife and family?? I had forgotten this feeling, and experiencing it again was like a gentle rain in a parched desert.

At this point, the only thing that can stop me is disenfranchisement. Which, to that end, I found out recently that my voter registration has in fact been deactivated, and my attempts to reregister are in limbo due to some alleged confirmation letter that I never received (thanks, USPS!). I caught this early enough that hopefully there is still time to fight it and make everything right before the election. I'd be in trouble if this had happened a week out. Moral of the story: If you're reading this, check your registration RIGHT NOW, and tell everyone you know to do the same. Take it from me: It happened to me, and I live in a fairly solid blue state. Don't let it happen to you! Don't assume everything is fine. Check now!

D.C. in Hartford, CT, writes: The format of the DNC this year was absolutely fantastic. And, it was even better when watching it cleanly online without the TV pundits talking over the content. The compressed schedule, the smooth and instant transitions between segments, the tour around the country (particularly during roll call) was all so much more preferable than watching screaming delegates partying on the floor of a big room. The speeches were much more dense in terms of content and avoided the campy applause lines, the editing was crisp and the tone struck a perfect balance of urgency, policy, personality and entertainment. There were cheesy parts as well, but that actually added to the charm. It would be great to see them stick with this format in the future, except maybe spread it out over four consecutive Mondays to maximize the impact and anticipation.

N.A. in Hopkinton, MA, writes: Your Website has been my go-to for all things political since I spent October of 2004 in Florida trying to get Betty Castor elected to the Senate and John Kerry POTUS. I base my opinions on the numbers and you supply them like nobody else.

But I am both puzzled and dismayed at the snarky tone you have been using to describe the Democratic "Unconvention." To me it has been mostly pitch-perfect, exactly what is needed on every level. I suspect Aaron Sorkin designed it, but that's a good thing.

The cumulative effect of all those different faces of America is stunning. A desperately needed reminder of who we really are and what we can be. There is even the right amount of slickness and the right amount of kitsch. The crossroads location for Kasich should have been cliché, but, instead, was just right. A great deal of the language used by political pros and just plain people is elegant.

The contrasts are beautiful: picture perfect presenters, down-right odd-looking presenters, fat and slim, dressed for TV and without a clue of what "works" on television. Strong opinions, strong leaders, heartfelt opinions, innocence, sophistication, north, south, east, west, well-established, newly arrived. I think it's wonderful. Reminds me of why I'm a Democrat, what American exceptionalism really is, what is still possible in spite of the devastation wrought by Trump—and deliberate Republican policy over the past 3-4 decades. Please watch it all again and rethink. This Unconvention is a beautiful thing.

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: I found it interesting that Trump had such a low key response to Biden's speech. I wonder if Trump lives in such a fantasy world that he actually believes the drivel that pours out of his lips. So, he probably really believed that Biden was barely competent and unable to put two words together without stumbling. When Biden actually gave an excellent speech, far beyond Trump's own capabilities, I suspect Trump was so flabbergasted that he didn't know how to respond.

Speaking of speeches, I've read several articles lately stating that Trump's advisors are holding up his Mount Rushmore speech as a paragon to use as a model for his convention speech. Are these people really that clueless? That speech was a disaster. It did nothing to convince Americans that their president has any comprehension of what's going on in this country. It didn't even help us to believe in his sanity. His approval ratings dropped after the speech. I think his advisors are guilty of malpractice if that's what they're urging him to reprise.

Finally, a note on Brayden Harrington's incredibly moving speech. I'm sure everyone is affected differently, but for me that moment when he held up his speech to show us that he followed Biden's advice just hit me right in the heart. Then to see the later released video of when the two first met would bring tears to a stone. The thought that we might actually have a decent human being as president next year is enough to give me a sliver of hope in these dark days.

Other Topics

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: Biden is actually more in line with the values of the GOP. That's actually probably true, if we're talking about the Republican Party of George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon. My father landed in France and shook hands with the Russians at Torgau, two Purple Hearts, one Bronze Star, battlefield commission. He would have walked over broken glass and through a blazing fire to vote for Ike. He probably voted for Tricky Dick, and Saint Ronnie reluctantly. He was a Minnesota farm boy, die-hard Republican when being a Republican meant something. It would not have surprised me if I had been able to look over his shoulder to see him "X" Hubert Humphrey or Fritz Mondale. By the time Bush 41 came on the scene he was no longer with us. I seriously believe that Joe Biden has more in common with Eisenhower than any of the ones you mention and most certainly with the error of our ways currently residing in OUR house.

A.M. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: Perhaps you were trying to be pithy when you described China as a "smart business partner and a tough negotiator" on Friday. I think that is a shameful way for educated, humane people to characterize a country whose human rights abuses have grown exponentially. China is imprisoning and torturing a million Uyghurs. The world is overdue in confronting China about this, and the next secretary of state cannot remain blind to cultural genocide.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: OK, guys ... not sure where you get the notion that Lloyd is Progressive. He's not. He's progressive for Texas, certainly ... but totally what we would call a blue dog Democrat. I can say this with some insight, since I was proudly represented by Lloyd for five years when I lived in Texas, and worked on two of his campaigns. In fact, it was Lloyd who worked on my behalf with the State Department to get me a passport so that I could go to Thailand to get my gender-confirming surgery in 2002 ... nearly ten years before Hillary did what she did at State to make this process easier for those of us who choose medical tourism.

I like and respect Lloyd. He always talked frankly with me. I fondly remember him telling me, on more than one occasion, "I am with you ... but that dog won't hunt in the House." So, you could say Lloyd was an idealist with Progressive views, but with a ton of pragmatism about what is and is not possible in a given political climate.

I do not know much about Rep. Neal, but if Doggett can be considered more Progressive than Neal, I would say that Morse has a good chance of offing him, seeing as Neal is from MA. To be a MA Dem, and thought of as less Progressive than a TX Dem....can't be good!!

Anyway, I am rooting for Lloyd here, because I like and respect him, and I will never forget that he always treated me with courtesy, dignity and respect. I can say, to be trans in the early 2000's—and in Texas—you did not expect to be treated with courtesy, dignity or respect, but Lloyd always treated me that way. His constituent service has always been fabulous. He and his staff were always eager to help, and thorough in their assistance.

A.N.P. in Holland, MI, writes: I'm very glad you published the comment by A. F. expressing distaste for the use of the term "Rust Belt." I've been intending to write you about this for weeks, but never got around to it. Originally from California, I came to the Midwest for my schooling and have spent more than forty-five years here. Still, as a non-native Midwesterner who hasn't heard a lot of native complaints about the term, I wondered whether I was entitled to take issue with what seems to me to be a demeaning identifier. But it really is clearly pejorative. Do political scientists commonly pick out other geographical regions using equally insulting language? I suppose the "Bible Belt" might count for some, but I don't see it used very often any more, and certainly not in the context of political discussions that otherwise seem uninterested in causing gratuitous offense. When I was considering writing earlier, I was going to suggest "Great Lakes States," but you've nixed that. You describe the intended region as the industrial states of the lower Midwest and Mid-Atlantic; I'm betting a shorthand version of this such as "the Industrial Midwest" would be pretty effective in conjuring up in most people's minds the intended region. Better a slightly imperfect moniker than an outright insulting one, but that's just a California transplant talking.

V & Z respond: Like Bill Clinton, we feel your pain. We just can't find a better term. "Great Lakes states" would include Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and New York. Philadelphia is not in the Midwest. MIWIPA maybe. We're open to a better term. Maybe "the three former blue wall states," but it is kind of long.

K.S. in the Great Lakes region writes: Two comments concerning your response about using "Great Lakes Region" term rather than the derogatory "Rust Belt"

1. You said "Great Lakes Region" would not include Pennsylvania. The citizens of Erie County, PA would disagree. The Erie Triangle has been part of the commonwealth ever since PA bought it from the Feds in 1792 and even without it, PA would have still had a very small shoreline along Lake Erie at the Ohio border.

2. Not being able to think of a less derogatory term is not an acceptable excuse for continuing racial slurs so why should it be for regional slurs. Every region has good and bad attributes. Why must you continue a descriptor that slurs millions of citizens for a tough part of their history, but ignores the many wonderful facets of life here?

B.W. in New York, NY, writes: In your item called "Three Polls tell Two Stories" (18 August), you described a CNN poll that showed a closer race than some others. You were critical of its top-line numbers, saying that "for whatever reason, CNN's poll looks much more like a partisan poll than it does a neutral poll." You editorialized that you're "not buying that CNN poll" and suggested that they willfully "ran with shaky numbers," speculating on their motives for doing so.

For the record, I'm hoping that Trump suffers a landslide defeat this year.

V & Z respond: We didn't mean to suggest CNN or SSRS did anything improper, just that this result was a statistical fluke and shouldn't be taken too seriously.

B.B. in Bangor, ME, writes: You have repeatedly, and most recently in "Biden is Doing Better Than Clinton Was Preconvention", described the libertarian movement and Libertarian Party as "conservative", or at least strongly implied that this is the case (saying that people who are more conservative than Trump would vote Libertarian). (The most memorable example to me is when you said this as part of an analogy used to explain Israel's problems forming a government.) The Libertarians would not call themselves "conservative," and it is not an accurate description of their philosophy or identity. Although their views on economic freedom and the role of government are more historically associated with those of conservatives, they also do not believe in forms of government intrusion that conservatives have and do strongly support: the Libertarians support free access to abortion, support legalization of all or almost all drugs, want to legalize prostitution, oppose the death penalty, want to abolish state-sanctioned marriage, and call for greatly increased if not unlimited immigration (the Libertarian Party platform states all of this). These are not positions that anyone would describe as "conservative." (There is an actual ultra-conservative party: the Constitution Party.)

This inaccurate portrayal of the Libertarian Party and movement in general is not conducive to your readers' understanding of them or their effects on elections. I ask that you refrain from describing them this way in the future.

C.R. in Canton, OH, writes: I read a wide variety of political news articles daily, including all of what's published on this Website. I feel it's important to have diverse viewpoints, so I type "political news" into Google and read most of what comes up except the paywalls (NYT and Wash. Post in particular).

What's striking to me is the sheer difference in headlines. For all but Fox News, there generally is balanced coverage, although at times there does seem to be more negative articles about the GOP/Trump. Even those negative articles though usually are fact based and don't read as editorials.

Then we come to Fox News, who literally seems to be in a different country. On average, 80-90% of their headlines are what I'd consider "exclusive" (in this case not a major story for any other news Website), and a lot of it is written like oppo research for the GOP/Trump, and most of the rest is a definite conservative bias. They rarely have more than 1 or 2 articles that are similar to the other news Websites. As an example, their five takeaways from the second night of the Democratic convention were clearly written with a conservative audience in mind, and far different viewpoints than the six found in a CNN takeaway article.

I've been reading news this way for a couple years now, but only in the last couple months have I noticed such a severe difference, which gets worse as time goes on. I can say I fully understand why (V) and (Z) mention the Fox/OANN bubble a lot, because to me at least, it's true.

D.E. (location not given) writes: While reading the letter yesterday by R.M. from Pensacola, Florida about his family's experience with being infected by COVID-19, it occurred to me that any enemy of the United States that has watched how Trump's response to the disease resulted in the largest per capita infection rates in the world is surely taking notes. I don't believe that COVID-19 is a bioweapon, but there are extremely deadly biological weapons out there in the hands of Russia, China, and others; weapons that have a far higher fatality rate than COVID-19. They've now been given valuable intel on where and how such an infection could be spread and used to take down a country's population without all the nasty side effects a nuclear strike leaves behind. I'm certain one and all of them are thanking Donald Trump right now for his staggering incompetence in this regard.

G.A. in Berkeley, CA, writes: News more important than the political conventions, the post office, or even the latest report about the Kardashians has received almost no coverage. A scientific study has concluded that, due to climate change, the Greenland ice sheet can no longer be fully replenished and, over time, will melt off. This means that the seas everywhere will rise about 18 feet. Of course, the Arctic and Antarctic, as well as other ice sheets are also melting. At one point in Earth's history, there was no ice. The seas then were 250 feet higher than they are now. Totter out to any shoreline and look up 250 feet. This is where we are (slowly) heading. Yet catastrophic, human-caused climate phenomena do not seem to concern most voters.

J.K. in Germany writes: Sunday's mail bag was heavy again, but I liked some pieces.

1. Thanks for mentioning Thalidomide in connection with proper drug testing procedures. Here in Germany people still remember what happened in the early 1960s with thousands of babies that were born without legs or arms. Around 1980 I had a schoolmate who was a victim of this scandal (he had no arms but still was a quick soccer player). It was instructive to read why the U.S. was left almost unharmed. At the FDA there was an individual who would be called a "whistleblower" today.

2. I liked your reference to the United States Holocaust Museum ("Early Warning Signs of Fascism"). This reminded me of a quote: "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." Unfortunately, the source of this quote seems a bit dubious, but I still like it.

R.M. in Lincoln City, OR, writes: I agree with your comment: Clearly, one of the agenda items a potential Biden presidency needs to tackle is appointments. I have some other items to add.

  • Reverse the DOJ policy that says presidents cannot be indicted.
  • Strengthen the Inspector General position. A president should not be able to fire an IG except for cause and unless Congress approves
  • Strengthen the emoluments language. This can be done by statute. Define emoluments.
  • Ensure that Presidents and Vice Presidents are subject to the same conflict of interest rules as anyone else.

Trump has done such damage to the Rule of Law that it is imperative for new administration to take immediate steps to assure the American people that such a travesty cannot happen again. Put this another way. American citizens have a right to expect a certain type of behavior from their president. What we need is a Bill of Citizens' Rights.

S.E.Z. in New Haven, CT, writes: On Tuesday, regarding the new House bill to increase funding for the Post Office, you listed 6 options the GOP might do to thwart the plan to save the USPS. You seem to have neglected the move that I consider most likely. Why wouldn't the Senate pass the bill, the President sign the bill, and the President respond to the current critical emergency by redirecting the $25 billion to building the wall to save us from the Hispanic invasion? How can you possibly think the Don of the GOP Family would stop at merely impounding the funds?

V.P. in New York, NY, writes: For the last several days I've invariably had a Trump ad at the top of my YouTube homepage as well as popups in the middle of videos. I've seen other commenters on the your Website in the past express annoyance over this, but as a Google shareholder (albeit one whose ownership fraction is best expressed in scientific notation) I wholeheartedly support this transfer of wealth from the idiots who donate to the Trump campaign. What's that old proverb about fools and their money...?

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug22 Saturday Q&A
Aug22 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug22 Today's Senate Polls
Aug21 That's a Wrap
Aug21 Biden is Doing Better than Clinton Was Preconvention
Aug21 Biden Leads with 2016 Nonvoters and Third-Party Voters
Aug21 Trump Must Give His Tax Returns to Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance
Aug21 Not All Republicans Are against Mail-in Voting
Aug21 Stephen Bannon Has Been Indicted for Fraud and Money Laundering
Aug21 In a Biden Administration, It Will Be America First
Aug21 Howard Could Help Biden
Aug21 Downballot Democrats Are Seeing Green
Aug20 Unconventional, Night Three
Aug20 Democrats Are Rethinking Their Absentee-Ballot Strategy
Aug20 Trump Sues Iowa Counties for Helping Voters
Aug20 Latinos Haven't Heard from Either Campaign
Aug20 Biden's Agenda Could Depend on an Obscure House Primary
Aug20 COVID-19 Deaths in Florida Pass 10,000
Aug20 The Republican Convention Is the Start of the 2024 GOP Primary
Aug20 Sports Teams Are Getting Involved in Politics
Aug20 Harris Is Famous All the Way to India
Aug20 States Differ Greatly on Voting by Mail
Aug19 Unconventional, Night Two
Aug19 Trump's Goat Is Officially Gotten
Aug19 More Voters Head to the Polls
Aug19 Bipartisan Senate Committee Issues Damning Report on Trump Campaign and Russia
Aug19 DeJoy Backs Down
Aug19 House Democrats Want More Stimulus Votes
Aug19 Many Businesses Won't Participate in Trump's Payroll Tax Plan
Aug19 Today's Senate Polls
Aug18 Unconventional
Aug18 Three Polls Tell Two Stories
Aug18 Biden Gets One or Two High-Profile Anti-Trump Endorsements
Aug18 Democrats Will Push the Envelope
Aug18 Trump Goes 0-for-2 in Court on Monday
Aug18 UNC Pushes the 'Eject' Button
Aug18 COVID-19 Diaries: The Land Down Under
Aug18 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug18 Today's Senate Polls
Aug17 Democratic National Convention Begins Tonight
Aug17 National Poll: Biden 50%, Trump 41%
Aug17 Are There Shy Trump Voters?
Aug17 How Harris Can Help Biden
Aug17 Absentee Voting Is Still a Hot Topic
Aug17 Democratic Super PACs Will Coordinate--with Each Other
Aug17 Three States Will Hold Primaries Tomorrow
Aug17 Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf Is Not Really the Acting Secretary
Aug17 Trump Has a New Medical Adviser
Aug17 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug17 Today's Senate Polls