As you might have noticed, there was a bit of news this week. So, this is going to be a super-sized mailbag. The bad news is that certain discussion points, the ones that aren't too time sensitive, are going to have to be postponed to keep things manageable. Most obviously, watch for people's thoughts on what they want from Trump supporters next week. The good news is that, for the first time ever, we're going to lead with a letter from D.E. in Lancaster followed immediately by one from P.M. in Currituck. It's like The Beatles and Bob Dylan appearing on the same bill.
The Insurrection, the Big Picture
D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: I feel compelled to write this weekend, although I don't trust myself to adequately convey what I think. The insurrection on Wednesday is too close in time for me to feel assured that I'm not letting my emotions vent and that coherency won't fly out the window.
For over 20 years, I was proud to call Washington, D.C., my home. Call me overly naive or shamelessly sentimental but there is something about living that close to history and the siren song of worthwhile ideals that will bring a catch to my voice and rend my heart in two. While living there I came to the conclusion that there is a sublime symbology to the well known federal buildings and monuments. If you stand on the lawn on the west side of the Capitol, the side where protests, inaugurations and rallies take place, there is a trick to the perspective that makes it seem as if the Capitol is leaning backwards, its face straining upwards to our better angels. Again I may be hopelessly naive, but I do believe that despite the political games, that most people in that building are dedicated to those lofty ideals which founded our nation. I know this because in my 20 years living in D.C., I have known many Congressional staffers and aides. These people come from all across America, from small rural towns I had never heard of, from famous metropolises, and from every place in-between. These people are incredibly smart with degrees and honors that are sometimes mind boggling. They didn't come from all across the country to make money, because most could go to Wall Street and big business to make several times the salary they make on Capitol Hill. This might seem like it comes from a Jimmy Stewart movie, but the vast majority of them come because they sincerely and deeply believe in the ideals of democracy and freedom.
I lived in D.C. on that very horrible day of Sept. 11, 2001. I know there is some debate about the ultimate destination of the fourth hijacked plane, UA 93, whether it was the White House or the Capitol. Personally, I always thought it was the Capitol because it is a more obvious target to spot from the air and that it is more symbolic (after all the White House is just a home and not a palace, so as to remind us that our President is just one man—maybe one day a woman—and not some demigod). The reason why UA 93 terrorist hijackers' target is unknown is because the passengers and crew tried to wrestle control of the plane from the terrorists, causing the plane to crash into a field in Shanksville, PA. Among the passengers was one known gay man who helped rush the cockpit to try to take control of the plane. A gay man whom most of Trump's supporters would gladly deny rights to and who would think nothing of calling him an offensive name, because after all they don't know any "queers," so why should they be bothered? Among the crew of UA 93 were three Black Americans, who also fought and struggled with the terrorists—you know, the people that most Trump supporters don't think deserve dignity and respect and who somehow think it's funny to call them "thugs" and "ni**ers." People whom Trump supporters can't be bothered with showing respect to because they spent their entire lives trying not to get to know any, by hiding away in all-white suburbs and rural enclaves. But because of the heroic actions of those Black, gay and other Americans the U.S. Capitol, symbol of Democracy, still stood intact after that dark day. In the dark days after 9/11, I took comfort seeing the light lit in the Capitol's Tholos, knowing that our Democracy was still functioning. How disgusting it is to me that our Capitol was damaged by an angry mob of entitled white bigots, more bent on destroying our nation than a group of religious extremists could ever do. Who needs foreign terrorists when you have "citizens" like that?
And let's look at this mob. Not one of them has ever been fired because their boss didn't approve of who they loved. Not one has ever been awakened in the middle of the night with news that their son has been shot by the police because of his being in a car at night, and probably a sign of a drug deal in progress. Not one of those rioters was hurting for money. They clearly have a lot of disposable income to blow on their militia drag and their Trump trinkets. Considering that some flew in to D.C. from as far away as Arizona and California, taking several days off work, and stayed in D.C. hotels (not cheap), they clearly had more disposable income than I do. And yet they are so enraged and angry but about what? I've watched a lot of the footage and while I saw an overabundance of rage I also saw an equal amount of smugness and belief in their own superiority. What I didn't see was anyone trying to secure their basic rights, or someone protesting an unjust war or police brutality. Yet all these thugs overflowed with arrogance as they looted and vandalized the U.S. Capitol, the very acts that they sneeringly berate Black people for doing. "Even if the police are being racist towards Black people, that's no reason for them to destroy property and loot," the Trump supporters like to scream. To me, one of the most iconic images from the Insurrection was that smugly smiling jackass carting away Speaker Pelosi's podium. What's up dude, you couldn't find a flatscreen TV to steal? I am waiting for Fox News to start hawking "My Grandparents rioted at the Capitol and all I got was this lousy letter from Speaker Pelosi's desk" t-shirts.
So many letters on this site have complained about how the left does not listen or try to understand the right's point of view. Before Wednesday, I said that I think that with all the diner interviews we have tried, and while we don't see what you are angry about, we will try to keep listening. After Wednesday, I say we have heard enough! The howl of uncontrollable rage was loud and clear and it was the same howl a spoiled three-year-old has, kicking and screaming in a tantrum. We saw the flags of hatred, racism and fascism clearly on display. If you are a Trump supporter and don't think you believe in racism, fascism, vandalism, terrorism, propaganda, lies, dictatorship and insurrection, then I really think you are long overdue for some serious self-reflection on which leader you chose to follow. If you denounce Trump, then we on the left will continue to try to listen to you and invite you into the national conversation. If not, then you need to be ostracized—and I use that word purposefully with an understanding of its Greek origins.
I have been reading about how the insurrectionists are being identified through social media. Many have already been fired from their jobs. That means loss of income at a time when they need money for lawyers. Most will face jail time and/or heavy fines—and more serious charges will probably be coming as the investigators get a better picture of what happened. Gone for good is their disposable income, as most will find it very hard—if not impossible—to find jobs at the level they are accustomed to after they are released. For "He-Men" who pride themselves as provider and protector of their wife and children, they are forcing their families into poverty and destitution. Some will lose their homes. Many will be divorced and estranged from their children. I was somewhat surprised to read that many of these "good people" were already alienated from family and friends because of their radicalization. Their ostracizing is only going to become more pronounced. And for what? Because they were so stupidly guilible as to believe the lies of one man-child trying to hold on to power to stroke his own petty ego. He doesn't love you or even think of you as individuals. If he thinks of you at all, it is merely as instruments to inflate his own ego. He will not think twice about how you have really ruined your lives. Trump stood on that stage on Wednesday in front of his rabid fans and encouraged them to attack the Capitol, saying that he would be with them all the way, but then he scurried back to his bunker. Just like Osama bin Laden hid in a compound while his followers rammed jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Trump played the coward. Just like Charles Manson hid in the car while he sent his followers to commit the brutal Tate-LaBianca murders, so Trump could appear to have "no blood on his hands." If I can give some advice, you should always know you're following a false messiah when he gets you to do his dirty work while he cowers in comfort.
In conclusion, let me just say a few random things that I feel need to be said: I fully and wholeheartedly support Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) push to impeach and remove Trump from office and hopefully bar him from ever running for office again. I also fully support Rep. Joaquin Castro's (D-TX) bill to prevent any federal buildings from being named after Trump. While I can't believe I'm saying this, I fully support Twitter and Facebook banning Trump from their platforms and hope they extend those bans to his spawn, lawyers and most rabid supporters. I feel that Trump without Twitter is a serpent defanged. I would also like to urge Speaker Pelosi and soon to be Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to expel Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Representatives Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) from their respected bodies—or, at the very least, they need to be censured. Thanks to (V) and (Z) for pointing out that censuring means members can not assume leadership position or chair committees, which is like telling an actor they can act but never have a starring role.
I also want to be sure to applaud Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Pat Toomey (R-PA). While we might disagree politically on some issues, I do think that they acted as honorable citizens and I am proud to call them fellow Americans. I need to apologize to Senator Toomey, because the last time I corresponded with him I inquired about his lack of spine—clearly he has one. I will even give the shifty Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and that odious little worm Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) the benefit of the doubt—while it is very likely their remarks were made to try to save their political skins, there may have been some patriotism in there as well, and it only takes one drop to make any bucket overflow. I will even give other Republicans a week or so to sense which way the wind is blowing and to redeem themselves for still voting to support Trump's lies after the insurrection—you still have a chance but the door is swinging shut quickly.
The only good thing to come of this whole sorry incident is that Sen. Josh Hawley's (R-MO) political dreams are in ruins. His name will lie on the trash heap of American history along with Benedict Arnold, Trump, Aldrich Ames, Robert Hansen, John Wilkes Booth, and Lee Harvey Oswald, where it belongs. As Romney responded to Hawley, "The best way we could show respect for the voters who were upset is by telling them the truth. That's the burden. That's the duty of leadership." With that in mind, I hope after the immediate concerns of getting Trump out of office, expelling or censuring Hawley, Cruz, Gaetz, Greene and Gohmert, and arresting all the insurrectionists are all taken care of, a serious look is given to how Fox News and other conservative media peddle disinformation and conspiracy theories to their viewers. They need to be held accountable for giving these insurrectionists a place to thrive. As we have laws that make sure we know what is in our food (in other words, that a company can't take rat meat and label it as beef), we need cable and Internet news to clearly differentiate between reporting and opinion. Way too much opinion is masquerading as news, and while everyone is entitled to an opinion, they are not entitled to have their nonsense be given the sheen of authenticity. These things might seem harsh to some, but harshness is what is needed right now to convince those that can be redeemed that Trumpism should go the way of fascism in Germany after World War II. These might seem to all be one-sided against the Republicans, but there wasn't a single Democrat, liberal, socialist, Antifa, or progressive breaking windows, stealing lecterns or tracking their barnyard bathroom habits across the rotunda. Some in the Republican party, and all in the alt-right movement need to grow up, clean their rooms and get their sh*t together. And that's not harsher than they deserve. Stop acting like the two year olds and join the adults at the table, where you will always be welcome, but your howls of rage and self-pity now fall on deaf ears.
P.M. in Currituck, NC, writes: What we saw on Wednesday was absolutely horrible, and I was nearly driven to tears by it.
I spoke with a number of my friends and family in Luzerne County, and we all agreed that the peaceful protest outside the Capitol was fine—but once the building was entered and things started getting smashed, the individuals doing that turned into domestic terrorists. That action by a few caused everyone else assembled there to become guilty by association. The Trump supporters I know in Northeastern Pennsylvania are peaceful, law-abiding citizens who have strong feelings and opinions, but would never engage in or condone any violence. Thanks to the insurrectionists, they too have been damned. That is profoundly unfair, and I fear it will cause others to view all those who support Trump to be cut from the same cloth. I would ask that folks use discernment going forward, and to not paint everyone with the same broad brush.
One other point—beginning with the endless lawsuits trying to overturn the election results, and culminating with the invasion of the Capitol, we should all take some solace in this: these people are terribly incompetent. They marched into the Capitol with seemingly no real ideas in mind of what they were going to do, and apparently were satisfied with trashing the place and leaving calling cards for Nancy Pelosi. If these miscreants were capable of any type of long-term planning, then what occurred could have been much, much worse. As it was, their own incompetence and stupidity resulted in the damages being comparatively light; and, for that, we should all be grateful.
A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: We've seen this movie before. Any one of us could have written this script. Donald Trump does/says another outrageous thing and his followers take violent action in response. Trump winks at them, and Republicans who aided and abetted the behavior, and actively incited the mob in this case, express faux condemnation in the immediate aftermath but then go right back to the same lies and rhetoric that led to the insurrection. The only thing missing here was a statement of "concern" from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
Anyone who thinks these seditious acts will spark a change in the Republican Party has been living on another planet the last 20 years. Trump called into the RNC meeting the next morning and was greeted with cheers and screams of "we love you!" They regret nothing. This has been building long before Trump exploited these terrorist groups and it will continue to build after he's gone.
The weak and inept law enforcement response has only emboldened the violent extremists. Only 80 people were arrested, as compared to 300 who were arrested at the peaceful June protests. After ransacking the Capitol and stealing government property, the terrorists posed for selfies and gave interviews and then walked away to boast about their exploits. These are now recruiting videos to show how easy it is to start an insurrection. Until these terrorists are actively put down, they will grow in strength and numbers and this violence will have been just the tip of the iceberg.
Trump is the festering sore and the most obvious manifestation of a disease that will prove fatal to our democracy if it continues to go untreated.
S.M. in Pepperell, MA, writes: I know Democrats hate to use or hear the word "Benghazi;" But I find the similarities striking:
- There was ample warning in both cases: The infamous yearly State Department email warning about the 9/11 anniversary; vs. a well-planned demonstration at the Capital.
- There was hours of delay in sending help: The delay of the order to send additional security personnel to the embassy stationed hours away from Benghazi vs. the White House delaying approval of the request to use National Guard for about an hour and a half.
- American citizens died: 4 vs. 5
- Both incidents were terrorist attacks: foreign vs. domestic
Of course, the insurrection is much worse because Americans died at the hands of Americans at the U.S Capitol, it was instigated by the President himself and his supporters, and, of course, because it was an insurrection. I wonder if the Republicans will be interested enough in what happened to do 7 separate investigations?
E.D. in Dansville, NY, writes: As you noted, C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley died on the same day as John F. Kennedy. Wednesday had a new high of 4,100 deaths from COVID-19, upstaged by the invasion of our capitol building.
The Insurrection, the Rioters
R.C. in Lenexa, KS, writes: I understand that participants in the Trump insurrection were looking for Mike Pence in order to hang him. Also, Trump election attorney Lin Wood tweeted that Vice President Mike Pence will "face execution by firing squad" in a string of tweets that prompted questions about his sanity. He called Pence a "coward" who will "sing like a bird and confess ALL."
I'm sure there's more, but what are these people thinking? Are we living under a new order, where Mike Pence deserves execution for a lack of proper loyalty to the "Dear Leader"? One is compelled to ask: In this new order wouldn't the incompetent, deranged, and imbecilic individual who selected Mike Pence to be the Vice President also be subject to execution?
In what version of the Republican party does a lifelong loyalist such as Pence deserve execution, and for what "crime" exactly? One always hesitates to bring up a Hitler or a Stalin, but doesn't this sound Stalinist? Have we come to a point where politicians, whose oath is only to uphold the Constitution, deserve execution for being insufficiently loyal to a person such as Trump?
S.D. in San Francisco, CA, writes: I suggest that you call it the "Trump Statuary Hall Putsch" in memory of the Hitler Beer Hall Putsch of 1923.
Hitler was arrested and convicted of treason, but it didn't turn out well.
G.B. in Buffalo, NY, writes: Over the past few months, you argued that Donald Trump was not a fascist, and you laid out several arguments to support your view, one of them being that he wasn't using violence to achieve his means. I guess that, before Wednesday, one could reasonably debate whether Trump was an actual fascist or simply a proto-fascist or a fascist wannabe, even though in my opinion his character, his tendencies, and his behavior never left any doubt. After Wednesday, however, there can be zero doubt that President Trump is a bona-fide fascist, and I hope you will join those of us who had recognized this long ago.
T.F. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: Most historians on fascism and authoritarianism say that if Donald Trump is not immediately removed via 25th Amendment or impeachment, it will further perpetuate the idea that it's acceptable to have a despot as the leader of the U.S. And those who supported Trump in his coup attempt should also be thrown out. They have all violated their oath of office.
Further, with so much of my extended family living in the Fox News/Parler/Breitbart/right-wing-evangelical echo chamber, I can tell you with assurance that they see Trump as a martyr of sorts—if he is impeached/removed, this admiration will increase, but that should not be a reason to not impeach him. These relatives feel the end of times is near, when all men will see their errors and have to account to God. And that Trump has not only shown them the way but also preserved religious freedom for them to continue believing what they believe. And that all people need to do is turn off "mainstream/lamestream media," and then they will be enlightened. In this believed alternate reality, all the Q conspiracy theories are real, credible media should be burned, and I, as a Democrat, represent the evil in the world. At this point, these false and twisted beliefs are so ingrained that even if Trump were to disappear there's plenty of other people to take his place to continue with the justification. Basically, they are gaslit so deeply, black is white and white is black.
Having tried to reason with my relatives for years, I can tell you there is no better option than to cut off that which is gangrene—for me and my family, that means hard boundaries about our relationship. There is a right and wrong. There is no reasoning to be had with those who live in a twisted despot universe, so I only speak with them when I can wish them happy birthday, merry Christmas, or check in on their health and well being. For Trump and his enablers and partners, the boundaries need to be clearly drawn as well—only stricter and more severe; there must be swift expulsion and denouncement of Trump and his enablers/partners. No amount of "lessons to learn" will change their course—there must be a line which they can no longer cross. And we have reached the point whereby they must be permanently removed.
A.S. in Hawkins, IN, writes: The party that has branded itself as the Party of Morality, the Party of Fiscal Responsibility, and the Party of Law and Order now has a new brand: The Party of Sedition.
Or, given the reports of pipe bombs and a truck found laden with explosives, perhaps "The Party of Terrorism" would be more apropos.
M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: Guess Hillary Clinton called it right, declaring half of Donald Trump's supporters to be "a basket of deplorables."
J.T. in Greensboro, NC, writes: Theory: Fox News's ratings were down during the insurrection because their viewers were inside the Capitol taking selfies.
D.Y. in Windsor, UK, writes: You and many others have correctly pointed out that the mob's invasion of the Capitol is an example of white privilege. There is little doubt that if most of the mob were black or Muslim, as Joe Scarborough said, police would have used deadly force instead of opening the doors.
But I would suggest that there's something else at work too: Republican privilege.
As a historian, I recognize the limited value of counterfactuals, but it's not too hard to imagine what would have happened if the situation in 2000 were reversed, with Al Gore ahead by hundreds of votes in Florida but thousands of potential Republican ballots uncounted. If Democrats had perpetrated the Brooks Brothers riot and deprived George W. Bush of victory rather than the other way around, the right wing would have blown a gasket.
Could you imagine what Tucker Carlson would have said if a Democratic senator objected to Florida's Electoral College votes in 2000? If Democratic members of county election boards refused to certify a Republican victory? If Democrat-controlled state legislatures considered appointing their own slate of electors? If a Democratic candidate filed over 60 lawsuits to change the vote counts? If a Democratic president kept insisting that he'd won against all evidence? If a mob of Democrats swarmed the Capitol? And if Democratic politicians then claimed that the mob was infiltrated by right-wing insurgents?
Trump supporters in 2016 called Democrats "snowflakes" and told them to get over it. Seems to me that in addition to often being hypocrites and white supremacists, many are themselves snowflakes, unable to cope with loss and unwilling to accept facts they don't like. Trump supporters seem to believe that Democrats cannot legitimately exercise power. This week proves that it's actually Republicans who cannot be trusted to legitimately exercise power. Trump supporters also said that if Democrats won elections again, America would become unrecognizable. Well, given this week's events, I might have to agree on this point—but it's the Trump supporters who made it so.
P.S.: On the brighter side, the Georgia election results reminded me of the 1996 film "Independence Day," where a Black guy and a Jewish guy save the world. In these troubled times, one can hope that Democrats winning a federal trifecta might do that, right?
M.G. in Baltimore, MD, writes: I think Wednesday's events are the epitome of why the majority of the country (judging from November's election results) have had it with P.M. of Currituck and other "white-working class" people's "Oh, we must be understood" bulls**t.
The Insurrection, the Politicians
R.M. in Kansas City, MO, writes: Your depiction of Josh Hawley as radioactive and then defense thereof on Saturday are almost certainly way off base, or at least premature. As someone who has devoted his career for the last 17 years to staffing and managing Democratic and progressive campaigns in Missouri, I'd like to elaborate.
Missouri is very, very unique. In between Kansas City and St. Louis, on the western and eastern borders of the state respectively, the northern part of the state is identical to rural Iowa. The southwestern part of the state is pretty much identical to the Oklahoma Bible Belt, while the southeastern part of the state is Deep South and descends into the Mississippi Delta. Finally, there are the two large urbanized and suburbanized cities. St. Louis is the westernmost and southernmost industrial legacy city, while Kansas City is the easternmost and northernmost cowtown frontier city. All else being equal, this recipe should result in a purple state or possibly a blue-leaning swing state. But both of the major metropolitan areas straddle a state border. Much of the moderate Kansas City area is in Johnson County, Kansas, and much of the minority vote is in Wyandotte County, Kansas. Likewise, there is a significant area of blue voters that are in the St. Louis metro but on the other side of the Mississippi river in Illinois. The result is a state where the Democrats can almost run the tables in statewide landslides in 2008 and 2012 and then get completely wiped out in 2016 and 2020.
Missouri has been undergoing a rapid, but shapeshifting, transformation since the late 90's. At this moment in time, it is unequivocally Trump country. On Friday, you cited a poll where almost half of Republicans approve of the riots. Missouri has an acute shortage of New England-style suburban Republicans, and a disproportionate share of Trump true believers. Without having data on hand, it is reasonable to assume in Missouri the riots and Hawley are largely approved of by state Republicans. As it stands right now, there is no evidence Hawley is facing any danger regarding renomination. Finally, as a week is a year in politics, and there are 199 weeks before his next general election, let's wait at least another political century and a half before we start handicapping Hawley's reelection.
C.L. in Durham, UK, writes: There is a precedent from this side of the pond for a head of state to encourage violence against the legislature, namely Charles I of England against the English parliament. I forget how this turned out.
B.B. in Detroit, MI, writes: As much as I dislike Mitch McConnell, I think he must have a very good speechwriter. Both of his short speeches on Wednesday—at the start of the proceedings and at the re-start of the proceedings—were well crafted and delivered the right message perfectly.
L.E. in Santa Barbara, CA writes: In your item on the violent attack on Congress, (Z) indicted Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser as being very culpable for the violence that occurred.
After reading this article in The Los Angeles Times and then subsequently watching this video in USA Today of Bowser explaining the relationship between the District and the federal government, I am a bit confused why (Z) called out the mayor of D.C.
It is hard to see her as more responsible for what transpired than either the Senate or House sergeants-at-arms, or the Chief of Capitol Police. Or, for that matter, the Secretary of the Army, who waited 90 minutes to approve the Maryland governor's request to send National Guard troops to assist.
V & Z respond: You're right, we dropped the ball there. The reason that we wrote what we wrote is that, very early on (around 2:15 p.m. ET), Bowser conducted a telephone interview with CNN. And during that interview, she strongly implied that she was taking a leading role in handling the response to the insurrection. Further, when you are the chief executive (mayor, governor, president), the buck often stops with you, even if you were not personally responsible for the things that happened on your watch.
So, we went with that, because when trying to produce more than 5,000+ words on a tight schedule, you can't double- and triple-check everything, and our focus was on getting the main points correct. The observation about Bowser was, in the end, just a one-sentence aside. If we could do it over, with a fuller understanding of the jurisdictional issues, we would not include that sentence. Numerous readers quite rightly took us to task, albeit some more constructively than others.
M.A. in Arlington, VA, writes: Quite unsurprised and appalled to see you try and blame Muriel Bowser for an armed mob of Republican terrorists storming the U.S. Capitol building and occupying it with the collusion of the U.S. Capitol Police and federal agencies.
Just FYI (you could have, I dunno, Googled this?), the U.S. Capitol police are under the control of Congress (have either of you actually visited Congress?). It is not under the control of the occupied territory of Washington, D.C., and certainly not under the control of the mayor. You will of course never apologize or acknowledge your insane bothsides-ism, but you should just read this letter and feel a deep and abiding shame that on a day when an armed Republican mob murdered people and dropped bombs and occupied the U.S. Capitol, you tried to blame the Black Democratic mayor of a U.S. territory that doesn't get to have representation in either house of Congress. You're real big strong men and your readers will really appreciate your genius level Ph.D insights that are completely wrong.
The Insurrection, "What's Next?"
E.K. in Brignoles, France, writes: Just like my fellow French citizen P.B. in Lille, whose comment was published on Wednesday, I have no words to describe what my feelings were while watching CNN on Wednesday, besides the fact that I was crying, barely believing what I was seeing, for several hours.
I've grown up admiring the United States, its political system, its writers, its movies, and its culture since I was 7, and what I saw was just devastating. Our social media/misinformation era has allowed the creation of a death cult revolving around a guy who used to be a laughingstock, a TV-reality-show charlatan, a notorious crook, claiming to "save America." Actually, he tore apart the America that I and so many people across the globe love and admire. Not very original, I'll give you that, but my life is literally driven by U.S. politics, and this violence, this fanaticism, are just psychologically destructive for someone like me.
But the system that I care so much about still works. Joe Biden, the guy for whom I have had a deep affection for many years (because of who he is and the fact that he knows what suffering means) is going to be inaugurated, and the wonderful people of Georgia, driven by Black folks I previously wrote about, have sent a Black man and a young Jewish guy to the Senate to—finally—make Mitch McConnell the minority leader. Thank you for that (again), Georgia.
I want to believe that, with a unified Democratic government, with Joe, Nancy and Chuck in charge, better days are coming. Decency. Honesty. Humanity. That's why I still love you, America.
J.K. in Short Hills, NJ, writes: According to Forbes, several polls have indicated that roughly half of the country want the President removed from office immediately. Most prefer the exercising of the 25th amendment over impeachment. I am confident that Democrats overwhelmingly compose the group that wants Donald Trump to begin his post-White House career sooner rather than later while most Republicans do not.
We have all heard of the importance of "unity" and "coming together" as a nation since the election and, most notably, in the past week. While leaders of a particular party need to throw red meat to the base every so often (or in the case of Trump, every few minutes or so), Nancy Pelosi would arguably better serve the incoming Biden Administration by tabling the articles of impeachment. It is certainly reasonable to conclude that the President committed a "high crime or misdemeanor," yet achieving some measure of "unity" requires throwing some meat to the other side of the aisle on occasion, especially with the executive branch turning over nine days from when the House of Representatives would vote on the article at the earliest. If Trump refuses to resign, then the best outcome for the country as a whole, in my opinion, is to let him serve out his full term.
K.F. in Framingham, MA, writes: In addition to impeachment, there is another path to barring Trump from future office. It's the 14th Amendment; Section 3. It states: "No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability."
I consulted a friend of mine who is an expert on politics and the law. He explained that all it would take is an act of Congress. Trump would not even have to be formally convicted. Congress could easily investigate Trump's involvement in this act of rebellion and make a specific finding that he engaged in an insurrection or rebellion against the United States. A simple majority vote in the House and Senate should suffice. The clause requires a 2/3 vote in each House but only in the case of removing that "disability." Unfortunately, this same clause could not be easily enforced against the likes of Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, because there is far less damning evidence (thus far) of their involvement in the insurrection. But, with any luck, they have already destroyed their political futures.
S.H. in Phoenix, AZ, writes: Like most people, I am trying to reconcile what I've seen this week—an all-too-fitting culmination of the last two months and the last four years.
As everyone struggles to process this week's horrible events and their implications, we often hear a particular phrase meant to invoke our better angels: "This is not who we are."
Perhaps this is not who we, as a nation, want to be, but the reality is that "This is who we have become." The sooner we can collectively acknowledge and accept this uncomfortable truth, the sooner we can make the necessary positive changes.
S.W. in Middleton, WI, writes: While it makes sense that we have focused on the immediate violence and shock of the insurrectionists' actions, the noose they erected and the Confederate flag they carried inside the Capitol reminds us of the racism that permeates and drives these Trump supporters. My heart goes out to people of color in our nation who must witness again and again the tepid response to dangerous people. But of course, my sympathy as a white person is not needed and accomplishes nothing. We need a Truth and Reconciliation commission for restorative justice. Listening to Joe Biden talk about America as a beacon of freedom and democracy made me cringe. I am ready to trade American Exceptionalism for an honest and critical reckoning.
B.R.J. in San Diego, CA, writes: It is obviously tempting to blame the horrific events and behaviors of Jan. 6 on Trump and so-called Trumpism. Tempting, yes, but also as wrong as it is incomplete. Trump and his mindset are a symptom or culmination, not the spark or catalyst for the anarchic behavior we all watched in stunned silence. It was birthed by several malign midwives, a bonfire of malignancy set by numerous arsonists. People for years monetized the spread of anger, fear and hatred upon a gullible, frequently ignorant audience in search of something or someone to blame.
Newt Gingrich owns it.
Rush Limbaugh owns it.
Sean Hannity owns it.
Roger Ailes owns it.
Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, Alex Jones and their countless clones own it.
The Manaforts and Stones roasted weenies on that fire. Trump himself (and most of his children) tried to dance around it with a gas can. Can it all go back in the box now? Can it at least be isolated and ostracized, or, like any other physical fire, simply deprived of oxygen and fuel so that it cannot grow, and will ultimately die out? I don't know for sure, but surely the aftermath of the disgusting scenes of Jan. 6 can lead to the beginning of that process?
A.B. in Jonesboro, AR, writes: If the events of the past week or so are any vision of what is to come, I fear we may be in the situation of The Year 2021 telling The Year 2020 "Hey y'all, hold my beer and watch this!"
The Insurrection, the Palate Cleanser
S.S. in Detroit, MI, writes: Coming soon to fine stores everywhere:
P.W. in Valley Village, CA, writes: It's only a coup if it's from the coup d'état region of France.
Otherwise, it's just sparkling white terrorism.
V & Z respond: A similar joke circulating online is that the insurrectionists should be called "Y'All-Qaeda."
P.V. in Kailua, HI, writes: You wrote "[Rudy] Giuliani advised the crowd that 'trial by combat' would be necessary. Was he proposing that he and Biden would each mount their trusty steeds, hold their lances, and gallop toward each other at full speed?"
If you watched "Game of Thrones," you would know that each side is allowed to choose a champion to represent them. Biden might want to consider Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX).
R.V. in Pittsburgh, PA , writes: This has to be the best cartoon ever:
This Wednesday truly will go down as one of the worst 1-2 days in American history.
C.Z. in Sacramento, CA, writes: Randy Rainbow does it again!
H.B. in State College, PA, writes: You missed a great opportunity for a pun when you wrote: "And there you have it—the Trump reality show is going to keep going until the bitter end."
It could have been: "And there you have it—the Trump reality show is going to keep going until the Twitter end."
V & Z respond: Wish we had thought of that.
D.G.G. in Durham, NC, writes: Another possible explanation for Donald Trump's effort to claim Georgia's electoral votes: Even symbolic wins matter to him; recall his insistence on claiming a bigger inaugural crowd than Obama's. Biden won the same number of electoral votes in 2020 as Trump did in 2016. If Trump could claim Georgia's, he could claim a bigger victory than Biden's.
E.S. in Arlington, MA, writes: You have written several times that Trump's seeming omnipotence and imperviousness to scandal would continue until it didn't. This prediction is beginning to come true, and I think in two weeks, we will look back in hindsight and consider that what once seemed impossible was always inevitable.
E.V. in Derry, NH, writes: I think it is most unlikely that Trump will resign. He could just declare victory—no change there!—and pick up his ball and go home. It will be harder to spin without Twitter, of course. But it would be Mike Pence who replaces him—the most loyal sycophant becoming the last and ultimate betrayer. And Pence did it live on a national stage on most networks, after the assault on the Capitol. Trump will never give him a "win" by resigning.
J.B. in Bend, OR, writes: If I were Donald Trump's legal counsel I would tell him that if he issues a self-pardon, that will force the Biden administration to challenge it simply because acquiescing would be an admission that the President is above the law. However, if he does not issue a self-pardon the Biden administration would probably conclude that charging an ex-President would be a political mistake and no charges would be filed.
Since all clients ask for odds (as a lawyer, I know this firsthand), I would tell him that being charged after a self-pardon is close to 100%; being charged after simply leaving office would be less than 50%.
L.X. in Denver, CO, writes: To your list of reasons that this is Donald Trump's worst week ever, let's also include "The equivalent number of deaths as eight 9/11s or 2/3rds of the battle deaths in 10 years of the Vietnam War."
F.M. in Hatfield, PA, writes: While A.M. in Ithaca, New York, observes that Donald Trump "did not start a war costing thousands of lives," they appear to ignore the nearly 400,000 Americans dead by COVID-19. Many of those could have been saved had Trump spent as much time trying to contain the disease as he spends in a single hour trying to overturn the election.
A.M. in Ithaca, NY, writes: I haven't yet heard anything about the glaring issue for Republicans from national media: one of the two main reasons that so many Republican legislators seemingly still support Trump. The first, and the obvious one, is their concern for their own political lives—that the Trumpers have such a large influence in the primary process. But what seems even more powerful is that they are concerned for their actual lives. (Lindsey's Graham's taunting by an angry Trump mob at the airport this week is a case in point.) At a very fundamental human survival level, I believe most of these people—being from majority red areas—are simply afraid for themselves and loved ones. We've seen how crazy and unhinged these Trump supporters are, anything seems possible. This is not an excuse for displays of cowardice; rather an understanding of what I believe to be the primary reason for it.
M.J. in Newton, IA, writes: I have heard it said that Vladimir Putin wasn't as concerned with getting Trump elected as just sowing confusion/lack of confidence in the election process and democracy. If this is the case, he must be sitting there with a huge grin on his face. I don't think he could have scripted what has come to pass any better. I just hope that a light has been shined on this whole thing and we will get legislation to fix these problems going forward.
D.B. in Midwest City, OK, writes: Maybe the "Trump Experiment" is finally over. My next-door neighbor had been flying a Trump flag instead of an American flag since Election Day. He's flying an American flag this morning, as if that somehow excuses his encouragement of the insurrection.
Given that Merrick Garland and Fani Willis (newly sworn Fulton County, GA, District Attorney) will be in a race to mount his orange head on their respective trophy walls, Trump might be considering someplace to sit and brood besides Mar-A-Lago, like a place where U.S. arrest warrants are ignored. But where could that be?
- North Korea: His buddy Kim Jong-Un would be thrilled to house the former American president, for propaganda purposes if absolutely nothing else. But it's no stretch to imagine Kim opening up a stadium for Trump, filled with cheering fans, MAGA signs, all the fanfare Trump loves, and then grabbing a flamethrower and going O Sang-hon on him.
- Russia: His buddy Vladimir Putin would likely give him the Edward Snowden treatment at first. But at some point, Putin would show Trump what happens when a "useful idiot" is no longer useful. Siberia has plenty of no-longer useful idiots.
- Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, or UAE: Trump has lots of oil barons for buddies in these countries, and they might be willing to host him for a while. But one of their neighbors will offer gifts, concessions, maybe even peace, for a price. Iran will want Trump for the death of Major-General Qassem Soleimani, and will lay a lot on the table for the PR victory of capturing, convicting, and executing an American ex-president for crimes against Iran.
Much of the rest of the world that doesn't have U.S. extradition don't have the amenities that Trump would demand, are still angry with him for being called "sh**hole" countries, or would be economically swayable by Iran. Indonesia is probably Trump's best bet. Or he could just plea-bargain for a minimum-security prison where Secret Service could still protect him...unless he's impeached and convicted.
T.G. in Daleyville, WI, writes: I remain of the opinion that Donald Trump will go into exile. The blowback from the insurrection will be ugly, and Trump will be made uncomfortable, at the least. I thought he would likely skate in the name of "looking forward" before yesterday, but I'm not so sure, now. Lines got crossed.
He, his eponymous buffoon spalpeen, and his insane attorney, incited a coup on TV, then retired to the West Wing to watch it all unfold on Fox—while sipping Diet Cokes, no doubt.
He has nothing left but a wag-the-dog war, and I think the military got all of the excuse they needed yesterday to ignore him. He'll be out of the country by the inauguration.
S.G. in Washington, D.C., writes: If we want to reduce the danger Donald Trump poses for America, in the next couple weeks and beyond, we may have to resort to the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" holodeck solution. Build a replica of the Oval Office and White House residence somewhere. Move him in there while he's sleeping. Tell him he scared us all so much we decided to let him be president for life. Give him fake social media accounts so his posts go nowhere. Give him a little fake staff for him to bark orders to who then go away and do nothing. Make some fake right wing TV to watch. Supply him with plenty of McDonalds.
V & Z respond: It worked with Professor Moriarty.
S.L. in Denver, CO, writes: Donald Trump's time in the White House is almost an exact metaphor for "Frankenstein," the great 1931 movie:
Mad scientist, Dr. Trump, creates a new life form from diverse parts of the body politic that he stole or dug up. He creates it for his own power and aggrandizement to do his bidding. The Villagers are terrified of the Monster as it roams the nation. Dr. Trump has power and adulation and the Villagers fear him and his creation. The Monster causes havoc and turmoil, which only adds to the Doctor's feelings of being a God who can be all powerful. As he sends his Monster to do his bidding, most of the Villagers cower before him. But then the Monster develops a mind of its own, and Dr. Trump loses control of what he has created and does not realize that the Villagers have turned on him. As the Villagers vote with their torches and pitchforks and storm the White Castle where he has isolated himself, he demands more of his Monster, who turns on him and goes on a rampage in the Capitol village. The Monster flees and the Villagers force Dr. Trump into exile. There, in his madness, he plans to build another Monster to do his bidding. Beware, the sequel, "The Bride of Trump."
T.W. in Norfolk, UK, writes: It is my 50th birthday on Jan 20. I'm not allowed a party as the U.K. is in lockdown, but I'm damn well having a celebration.
G.K. in Southfield, MI, writes: The D.C. City Council submitted to its voters a proposed constitution detailing a framework for an executive, legislative and judicial tiered state government. The proposal set out boundaries and even proposed a name "Washington, Douglass Commonwealth." The voters of the District passed the measure with 86% in support.
Originally, Congress did not act on the recent D.C. matter, but the George Floyd protests in June 2020 brought attention to racial injustice. President Trump's controversial use of the D.C. National Guard to clear peaceful protesters from near the White House angered the city government, and fueled further the call for D.C. to possess a state government. On June 26, 2020, the House of Representatives passed the D.C. Statehood Act 232-180, largely along party lines. It was the first time statehood was ever approved by either chamber for the District of Columbia. The bill already laid out the boundaries between the new state and the remaining federal district (which would include mostly Capitol Hill, the Mall, Supreme Court and other federal buildings). Its proposed constitution also spelled out for a 21-member legislative assembly as well, and to promote the D.C. Court of Appeals to state supreme court status, which is how it effectively operates already. The mayoralty would become the office of the governor, etc.
Joe Biden has shown more support for D.C. Statehood than he has for Puerto Rico, although I think he would not be opposed to both becoming states. Aside from racism, I can't see logically why Puerto Rico or D.C, are not already states. I've read the opposition's arguments, and they seem so silly and patronizing.
S.D.F. in Jersey City, NJ, writes: It seems like the political crown jewel of the Democrats' "kill the filibuster" scheme is D.C. and Puerto Rico statehood as this would potentially add 4 senators to their caucus. While eliminating the filibuster entirely may be politically dicey, a selective elimination of the filibuster is much easier. It's also been done several times already, so changing the rules to eliminate the filibuster solely for issues involving statehood seems fairly routine at this point.
This approach could work for a number of reasons:
- It wouldn't be a landmark "no more filibuster" moment that would make some skittish.
- Moderate Democrats would likely be on board.
- Progressives will likely complain it's not sweeping enough (underscoring that it's not that radical).
- There isn't really a mechanism to remove a state from the union, so the Republicans' hands are largely tied after it's done (I don't think the citizens of Nebraska or Texas or Wyoming would vote to split the state into eight parts).
V & Z respond: This seems like a pretty shrewd way to thread this particular needle.
H.F. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: President-elect Joe Biden's choice of Judge Merrick Garland to head the Justice Department was judicious, but had Biden named Hillary Clinton instead, her first act as Attorney General would have been to prosecute Donald Trump and Lock Him Up. That would have been poetic as well as prosaic justice.
C.C. from Rochester, MN, writes: Your item on student debt neglects to mention the biggest hidden problem with loan forgiveness. Namely, by forgiving a large portion of student debt, the federal government is signaling to colleges and universities everywhere that if students have to take out too much in debt, it will be forgiven. In other words, the sky is the limit! It would not only NOT solve the problem of student debt, it would actually make the problem even worse for incoming students. Any loan forgiveness program needs to address the rising cost of post-secondary education in a way that does not just pass the buck to the next generation.
A.N. in Phoenix, AZ, writes: You wrote that "People who never made it to college or who paid their loans off already or who had their education paid for, but who have credit card and other debts, will be furious that (former) college students get a break and they don't."
I'm a small-business owner who has fully paid off my $42,500 in student loans and I have $500,000+ in "credit card and other debt," and I, for one, would not be furious that (former) college students get a break and I don't. I would be delighted to see my fellow Americans' student loans partially or completely forgiven.
M.L. in St. Paul, MN, writes: I like your prediction that Barack Obama is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Joe Biden. My hope is that Biden also awards one to Stacey Abrams.
D.S. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: On his first day in office, Joe Biden should award the Medal of Freedom to the following public servants who bravely testified in Trump's impeachment trial: Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill, George Kent, and any others who I have neglected to mention.
A.C. in Eugene, OR, writes: I think Joe Biden's first Presidential Medal of Freedom will go to Anthony Fauci, not Obama. And shouldn't it?
V & Z respond: While it is possible for a person to win twice (Colin Powell and Ellsworth Bunker are the two two-timers), we will point out that Fauci already has won, having been awarded by George W. Bush in 2008.
The Georgia Senate Races
M.K., West of Lake Wobegon, MN, writes: You suggested that if a black man (Jaime Harrison) were to win a Senate election in South Carolina, maybe the Civil War would finally be over. On Tuesday Raphael Warnock was elected senator from Georgia...and by the end of the day on Wednesday, a Confederate flag was being carried in the Rotunda of the Capitol by an insurrectionist mob.
I was reminded of what historian Barbara Fields said in the last episode of the 1990 documentary "The Civil War":[T]he Civil War is in the present as well as the past. The generation that fought the war, the generation that argued over the definition of the war, the generation that had to pay the price in blood, that had to pay the price in blasted hopes and a lost future, also established a standard that will not mean anything until we have finished the work. You can say there's no such thing as slavery, we're all citizens. But if we're all citizens, then we have a task to do to make sure that too is not a joke. If some citizens live in houses and others live on the street, the Civil War is still going on. It's still to be fought and regrettably, it can still be lost.
That caught my attention when I first watched the series. I'm convinced the Civil War is still going on...and it's being lost.
B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: I spent the first 45 years of my life living in the Deep South (Memphis, Tennessee), though 6 of those years were actually in the Upper South (Nashville, Tennessee). I am a Southerner by birth and training (though not by profession).
We Southerners don't like it when anyone who is not a Southerner has the unmitigated gall to try to explain the South. As if someone who is not a Southerner could understand the South!
So I read your piece on the Warnock race with keen interest and I intend to protest in the strongest terms any misrepresentation of the South that I find in that piece, though I've now read it a few times and have not yet discovered anything to argue with.
But as to the piece on Mississippi, as I have stated for the record, I am (unlike Elvis), a native-born Memphian and pretty much anyone from Memphis could tell you that although Jackson is technically the capital of Mississippi (because the state legislature happens to meet there), the real capital of Mississippi is Memphis. In the heyday of the newspaper, the best-selling newspaper in the state of Mississippi was not the Jackson Clarion-Ledger but the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Not being a Southerner, you're probably saying to yourself, "But that was 50 years ago." Somewhere else—where you live, for example—50 years ago was 50 years ago. But not in the South. In fact, someone asked me one day, "How far away is your home town from here?" And I said, "How far are we from Memphis? I'd guess about 25 years."
K.B.C. in Raleigh, NC, writes: You wrote: "Excluding assassinations, that's not only the worst week Donald Trump has ever had, it's gotta be the worst week that any president has ever had." I would actually disagree with your assertion. And as a longtime follower of the site, I definitely recognize the setup for a list. My ranking, completely off the top of my head, would be:
- The week of December 7th, 1941. The Attack on Pearl Harbor, and the entry of the U.S. into World War II.
- The week of August 9th, 1974. Richard Nixon spent most of the week inebriated and depressed, in the lead-up to his resignation. This is probably the most similar to our current situation. "Crumpled in a leather chair in the Lincoln Sitting Room, his favorite of the 132 rooms at his disposal in the White House, Richard Milhous Nixon called for his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. Nixon was drinking, Nixon was exhausted, Nixon was physically and mentally unwell and, hours earlier, Nixon had finally realized that he had no other choice but to become the first President in United States history to resign his office."
- This week.
- The week of October 29th, 1929, when the Black Tuesday stock market crash marked the end of the "Roaring Twenties" and the beginning of the Great Depression, dooming President Hoover to inhabit the bottom five of most Worst Presidents lists.
- The week of January 9th 1861, when Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama joined South Carolina in declaring secession from the United States. You could also argue for April 12th of that year, instead, when the war formally began (the Battle of Fort Sumter). Abraham Lincoln, of course, rose to the challenge, but neither of these were good weeks for him (or the nation).
I will note that, with the exception of Nixon, most of these were due to events largely beyond the president's control. This last week certainly stands out in that regard...
N.E. in San Mateo, CA, writes: The rock bottom for bad presidential weeks still seems to me to be the first week of Oct. 1919, where Woodrow Wilson's stroke left him debilitated and eliminated any possibility of salvaging the Versailles treaty and League of Nations. Arguably a fate worse than death, it also led to a shadow presidency for the last year of his term.
J.R. in San Francisco, CA, writes: P.S. in Arvada asked: "I was wondering: What is the worst crime committed by a high-ranking politician that went unpunished?"
In your answer, you omitted President Obama's tan suit.
V & Z respond: We already made one tan suit joke this week, and so exhausted our weekly allotment.
J.F. in Arlington, TX, writes: I loved your list of most consequential presidents. However, I believe you shortchanged the accomplishments of two on the list. Certainly Social Security (FDR) and Medicare (LBJ) should have been mentioned, since these programs are pillars of U.S. life more than a half century after becoming law.
V & Z respond: Medicare was an oversight, you're right, but Social Security is part of the New Deal, which we included.
J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: R.H. in Santa Ana thinks it is obvious that in 200 years Barack Obama will be on the list of the most consequential presidents, solely by virtue of being the first Black president. Given how different race relations are in the U.S. today versus 200 years ago, I would expect them to be vastly different. Maybe naive to expect, but perhaps the races will be fully integrated and enfranchised and invested in the U.S. system. Maybe even race as a concept will have faded in political significance. Perhaps by then we will have had a first Black, first Asian, first Native American, first woman, first lesbian, first etc. etc. etc. president, and Obama being the first Black president will not seem noteworthy at all.
If he is to be included at all, hopefully it would be for his substantive achievements, and not for his racial identity. As far as that goes, I notice that EV.com credits him for Obamacare. But Obamacare is mostly a half-measure as far as healthcare goes, and I notice you didn't credit Lyndon Johnson for the half measure Medicare/Medicaid.
In 200 years, the president who makes the short list for bringing healthcare to all Americans will probably be whoever finally cracks medicare for all or equivalent. AOC 2036 or who knows. Not Obama or Johnson.
In my opinion, we're listing Obama solely due to a recency bias and our partisan leanings, and his will end up being a forgettable presidency.
E.D. in Tempe, AZ, writes: In the Q&A last week, there was some discussion about what our current time period might be called. Not that I, nor really any of us, get any say in the matter, but I suggest that "The Digital Dawn" might be suitable.
First the Internet, and then wireless data, have touched and transformed so many facets of modern life, it's futile to try and enumerate them. And while I'm certainly no futurist, I think it's pretty safe to say that what changes have already happened are here to stay, and progression may continue apace. "Dawn" marks the beginning.
You suggested that this time might be known as "The Internet Age." I think this makes it sound like this is all temporary, finite, and coming to an end. Unlikely. You also suggest "Age of Terror." Future historians might think the fear stoked by terrorism is the defining characteristic of the day, but I think its impact is well shadowed by the colossal global changes brought by ubiquitous cheap computing and connectivity.
B.H. in Sherman Oaks, CA, writes: First off, the current era is still the Reagan Era, which I would date to the Iranian Hostage Crisis and the reactive jingoism from much of the American public. Reagan rode this wave of vitriol to two White House victories, and during his presidencies he coupled shallow, image-based patriotic displays with far-right economic policies that led, ultimately, to the two-class society we have today. The Democrats acquiesced in both aspects of Reaganism, with both the Clinton and Obama campaigns obsessing about image and marketing, while proffering neoliberalism, a.k.a. "supply-side lite."
Since 1994, Republican politicians, aided and abetted by right-wing media, have grown increasingly more extreme and more shameless about their extremity, evidenced never more clearly than in Mitch McConnell refusing to allow confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland because it was February of an election year, but allowing confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett in spite of it being October of an election year. The election of Donald Trump, and his presidency, could not have taken place without a Republican apparatus already dedicated to power über alles. Power at any cost. Power for its own sake. And did you know, "Power for its own sake" also happens to be Mitch McConnell's middle name?
What should we call this post-1994 era, itself a subset of the still-ongoing Reagan Era? The Age of Assault? The Sopranos Years? The Apocalypse of the Counterrevolution? The Right Wing Sh**storm?
Perhaps the best term I've heard to describe both the Reagan Era and its repercussions and offshoots is "The Great Unraveling," a good term because it encompasses the shredding of the middle class, the disintegration of the social fabric, the deterioration of infrastructure, and the end of well-functioning government. But I don't think it goes far enough in recognizing causality. For that, we have the Powell memo, we have the Federalist Society, we have the Gingrich generation and their successors, we have ALEC, we have Citizens United. "The Great Unraveling" makes history sound too much like entropy, a passive natural process. Instead, let's call this era what it is: "The Deliberate Destruction."
D.F. in New York, NY, writes: Regarding the possible retirement plans of Justice Stephen Breyer, you wrote: "All that might be needed to seal the deal would be for both Stanford Law School and Harvard Law School to offer Breyer a professorship, giving him the choice of living on the East Coast or West Coast. Although if he chooses to subject himself to Boston winters, as opposed to Palo Alto winters, that's proof that his mental faculties don't belong on the Harvard faculty."
Since this commentary on a particular season and the ideal location to experience same was written by an accomplished individual who has wintered both in Boston and in Berkeley, one might think that he has a point here. However, since he has chosen to live in a place notorious for terrible winters, his judgment may be somewhat suspect.
V & Z respond: It was Amsterdam resident (V) who wrote that item, but it was actually Los Angeles resident (Z) who added that joke.
J.S. in New York, NY, writes: You suggested that Stephen Breyer could choose between Harvard and Stanford for his post-SCOTUS career, though choosing Boston winters would seem unwise. Michael Dukakis showed how to avoid choices like that. After leaving the governorship Dukakis spent the winters at UCLA and the summers at Northeastern University. Smart man, that guy.
V & Z respond: (Z) thought about mentioning that, since that is the reason he was able to have Dukakis as a professor while he was an undergrad.
J.M. in Sewickley, PA, writes: Last sentence—Ouch! That's cold! But having lived in both the Northeast (Ithaca) and Berkeley...fair.
M.R. in New Brighton, MN, writes: You wrote that the word "data" as an uncountable noun is a grammatical error. I'm not sure why you thought we needed one more thing to argue about, but I'll take the bait. My native language is English, but I'm studying a foreign language, so I can relate to your readers who may be studying and learning English. I want to tell them that I never use "data" as a plural noun, nor do I ever hear it used that way—it's used as an uncountable noun here in Minnesota. Can we compromise and tell them that both usages are acceptable?
N.R. in Wellesley, MA, writes: I have to push back on your grammatical correction of Brad Raffensperger. Although 'data' is most certainly plural in Latin, its predominate modern English usage is as a mass noun, such as water or sand or information. In general, speakers do not think of, or use, "data" as a collection of discrete elements, each one being a "datum," a fact supported by the very infrequent use of the word datum. When one wants to refer to an individual piece of data, common usage is to refer to a data point, just as one would refer to a grain of sand.
W.G. in Providence, RI, writes: Your asides are typically humorous and welcome.
They were completely out of place in your Thursday post on the insurrection.
I'm hoping it was a attempt to hide your horror and that you don't actually find humor in Wednesday's events.
V & Z respond: In fact, the humor is evidence of our horror. There's a reason Shakespeare always inserted a clown scene or two into his tragedies—to keep things from getting TOO dark.
J.M.P in Asheville, NC, writes: In response to O.Z.H. in Dubai, UAE: who wrote: "I am a bit confused about the trajectory your Q&A is taking. Your site is a political site focused on elections and the results thereof. Why, then, are you responding to questions about the longevity of Hollywood stars (past vs present) or answering questions about historical facts that have nothing to do with politics, per se?"
I have been a reader of your site since its inception in 2004, when it was just (V). Even in those early days, I quickly noticed something more at play than just facts and numbers: There were some well-timed cultural references and a bit of snark, which gave your site personality (a trait many sites lack). Part of the joy of reading your site is the (deserved) cheap shots at Susan Collins, the (obvious) inferiority of USC and the (open) secret of Canada's attempt to infiltrate and overthrow the United States. The news on "elections and results" are what brought me to the site. The cultural references (even the outlandish ones) are what keeps me coming back day after day. Don't ever change.
V & Z respond: Thanks! When (Z) took a writing class in grad school, the professor said the hardest thing about writing is developing a unique voice. She was right, we think.
L.E. in Santa Barbara, CA, writes: Regarding what O.Z.H. in Dubai wrote last Sunday: I certainly am not lazy, when it comes to searching the web for information related to politics and elections. I spend far too many hours online, much to the detriment of my housekeeping. However, I am also not all-knowing and often don't even realize that there is more to a topic than the one, narrow aspect I am familiar with. When something new comes up, I immediately go down that rabbit hole, with an excellent push from the two of you.
Further, I believe that understanding and following politics and election law is far more than simply understanding the nuances of politics or media coverage du jour. When I was in high school (back in the Watergate Era), I spent a year abroad and discovered that history, as taught in the country I visited, encompassed much, much, much more than the narrowly-defined topic in the United States. My history class covered the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The course covered the politics and intrigues of the day, along with scientific and technical advancements making the rounds in Europe, during those years.
But I also learned about the relevant literature that led into that time period, the literature during that period, and the literature as a response to that period. In addition, said literature was tied to the study of physical artwork and the artists, and the music and composers of the era. The "arts" were expressions of not only the politics and science of the era, but overlapped and intertwined with one another, reflecting the politics and advancements in science. In other words, the politics of the era was not the sole focus of that course. The instructor made sure that our study of the era incorporated all aspects of life during that period, as politics do not exist in a void—nor do any of the arts. Essentially, we had a literature survey, art history, music appreciation, political science and economic history, and a science survey course all rolled into one, and he made sure to show us the links to our current world political and cultural norms. ("Political Science," as a subject, was not taught separately—it was all part and parcel of historical studies.)
My view of the Saturday and Sunday portions of electoral-vote.com is similar to my view of the history course I had while abroad: Whatever is happening in our politics will be reflected in and influenced by our history, arts, science, and culture; and vice-versa.
This is how one learns and grows. I, for one, hope that you, (V) and (Z), never stop being teachers.
F.L. in Denton, TX, writes: Your response to O.Z.H. in Dubai reads, in part: "Maybe [self-discovery learning] will not always result in valuable insight, but sometimes it does, in the same way that not all scientific studies generate significant results, but some do."
That reminds me of a quote by Nobel laureate Richard Feynman: "Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that's not why we do it."
I don't think your website is quite that good, but it is great fun. Keep up the excellent work.
V & Z respond: That's why our slogan is "Almost as good as sex!"
J.B. in Bend, OR, writes: As a Packer fan since 1968 and part-owner (one share, but nicely framed), I applaud your endorsement of the Packers as eventual Super Bowl champs. However, I fear that if they win with a second-half comeback, their opponent may question how it is possible that they were leading in the first half only to mysteriously end up with fewer points at the end. The winner may be decided by SCOTUS.
V & Z respond: Reportedly, Sidney Powell already has her lawsuit ready to go.
C.L. in Durham, UK, writes: That was an appalling comment you made today. Everybody knows this year's Super Bowl will be won by the Chicago Bears.
V & Z respond: We are pretty sure it's not possible to win a Super Bowl after losing in the first round of the playoffs.
R.L.D. in Austin, TX, writes: I think reasonable people can disagree what the Christmas characters' political leanings might be. But since when has Frosty the Snowman worn a red cap? "Silk Hat" is the canonical head covering. I don't know where this red cap stuff is coming from, but I'm agin' it!
V & Z respond: (Z)'s grandmother, as big a fan of Christmas as there ever was, had this Frosty ornament on her tree:
S.K. in Saint Ives, Cambridgeshire, UK, writes: Regarding the comment: "Scrooge is undoubtedly a capitalist, and would fit in very well with the Republican Party."
Have you read "A Christmas Carol"? Scrooge may have started out as a capitalist, but at the end of the tale he is certainly a reformed character. That's the moral of the story, and as it is set in London, it's unlikely he was a member of the Republican Party.
V & Z respond: So he went from Tory to Labour, then? And note that comment was from a reader, not from us. "A Christmas Carol" was the favorite book of the grandmother mentioned in the previous comment, and so (Z) has read it dozens of times, and is in possession of her personal copy.
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan09 Twitter to Trump: "Bye!"
Jan09 Saturday Q&A
Jan08 Calls for Trump's Removal Are Now Out in the Open
Jan08 Facing Potential Removal, Trump Reads Speech from Teleprompter
Jan08 Electoral College Challenge Could Backfire
Jan08 Is There a Double Standard on Police Response to Protests?
Jan08 Other Fallout from Wednesday's Events
Jan08 Trump Is Working on His Pardon List
Jan08 Pence Will Attend the Inauguration
Jan08 Who Will Run the Senate?
Jan08 How Stable Is Control of the Senate?
Jan08 Bowser Is Hopeful that D.C. Will Become a State
Jan08 Liberals Are Already Pressuring Stephen Breyer to Retire
Jan08 Biden Fills the Last Two Cabinet Positions
Jan08 A Way to Stimulate the Economy and Bypass Congress
Jan07 The Insurrection WILL Be Televised
Jan07 Ossoff Wins
Jan07 It's Garland for AG
Jan07 Reader Predictions
Jan06 Georgia on Everyone's Mind
Jan06 Republicans Plot Their Electoral Vote Challenge Strategy
Jan06 Thanks, Lindsey
Jan06 EPA Administrator Creates Roadblock for Biden
Jan06 Bush Will Attend Biden's Inauguration
Jan06 In the Year 2021, Part II: Our Predictions
Jan05 The GOP Is a House Divided
Jan05 Trump May Have Crossed the Line This Time
Jan05 Trump Is the X Factor in Today's Senate Runoffs
Jan05 About Those Pro-Trump Protests...
Jan05 Trump Wasn't Cheated
Jan05 In The Year 2021, Part I: Pundit Predictions
Jan05 Today's Senate Polls
Jan04 Trump Tries to Blackmail Raffensperger
Jan04 2020 Is not 1876
Jan04 Former Secretaries of Defense: The Election Is Over
Jan04 Congress Convenes
Jan04 Trump Calls the Georgia Senate Races "Illegal and Invalid"
Jan04 Warnock Is Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Jan04 The Homes of McConnell and Pelosi Have Been Vandalized
Jan04 Mississippi Has the Largest Percentage of Black Voters, But Is One of the Worst States for Democrats
Jan04 Another Big 2021 Election: Mayor of New York City
Jan04 Today's Senate Polls
Jan03 One Becomes a Dozen
Jan03 Sunday Mailbag
Jan02 Missed It By That Much
Jan02 Missed It By a Mile
Jan02 Saturday Q&A
Jan01 Over 100 Republicans Are Planning on Challenging Biden's Victory
Jan01 Vaccinations Remain Way Behind Schedule