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      •  Saturday Q&A

Saturday Q&A

One cannot help but notice that the number of Trump questions gets a bit smaller every week.

Q: With regard to the $1,400 stimulus payment that a significant percentage of the population will receive due to the COVID-19 bill that Joe Biden signed on Thursday (as I type this, our family's payment is already pending in our bank account), I'm curious to know what may be the future of payments along these lines.

Because we have a child under six, my wife and I will receive monthly payments beginning in July, literally because we have a child. Could this be the beginning of some type of "guaranteed salary" that some portion of the population may be looking to get on a regular basis, perhaps as early as 2022? What would the political ramifications of this be as this ends next year and people count on this, especially if the economy is still quite shaky a year from now?
R.M., Pensacola, FL

A: You've pretty well described a big part of the Democrats' strategy for the COVID-19 bill. They used the bill to backdoor some social welfare priorities, including: (1) money for lower-income families, and (2) Obamacare subsidies. These things are currently scheduled to expire, either next year (the child tax credits) or in two years (the Obamacare subsidies), but Joe Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), et al. are hoping and expecting that these initiatives will be so popular with voters that Congress will have to make them permanent. You can bet that the child tax credits will come up once or twice during next year's election season, since Republicans will be forced to either support making them permanent or to come out in favor of taking money away from poor children.

Q: In this interview that NPR Morning Edition did with Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), Smith says that the new COVID-19 bill could lead to $36 billion in cuts to Medicare. Is this true and what form are those cuts taking? L.P.G., Austin, TX

A: It is simultaneously true and very disingenuous.

Since 1990, Congress has passed a series of bills known collectively as the PAYGO Acts, the latest of which was the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010. In an effort to keep the deficit from exploding, these bills automatically cut funding to some programs if spending on other parts of the budget goes up. The term for this is "pullbacks." And so, there is indeed a possibility that the COVID-19 bill could lead to cuts in Medicare (and many other programs).

However, what Smith surely knows—but conveniently keeps to himself—is that Congress can waive this rule if it chooses to do so. And it pretty much always does whenever it comes up. It is true that an override this time would require some Republican support in the Senate. However, that Republican support would surely be forthcoming, because otherwise there would be steep cuts in programs the GOP strongly supports. By the terms of the 2010 PAYGO Act, cuts to Medicare (a Democratic priority) are capped at 4% of its annual budget. On the other hand, there is no limit to how deeply farm subsidies, border enforcement, and defense spending can be cut, and those things would all take big hits if Republicans did not agree to a waiver.

Q: The COVID-19 relief bill is 628 pages long, and this isn't the first. Why are bills so long?

It strikes me as a poor design decision, one that ultimately obfuscates rather than clarifies, to write long bills. How am I supposed to know why my representative voted one way or another?

Wouldn't many smaller bills (say, a single bill for $1,400 stimulus checks) be easier to debate, negotiate, vote on, and if enacted, execute? Wouldn't small, bite-sized bills further provide transparency to the people by allowing us to see definitively how our representatives voted on the particular issues we care about?
G.M., Scarsdale, NY

A: Part of this has to do with how Congress functions, especially these days. Yes, smaller and simpler bills would mean that both constituents and members of Congress would be better informed about what is being voted on. However, doing it that way would take up far more of Congress' time, would invite even more aggressive use of filibusters and other parliamentary tricks, would make it harder to get certain programs and initiatives adopted, and would effectively "waste" the limited number of reconciliation opportunties available to the majority party each year. An omnibus bill, while big and unwieldy, ultimately allows the majority party (and sometimes the minority party) to get more done.

In addition, bureaucrats, lawyers, and federal judges have all gotten more assertive over the years. For example, the law that created the federal income tax 100 years ago was a mere 14 pages in length. However, that meant there was a lot of room for interpretation, and for various stakeholders to exploit various loopholes they had discovered. Lengthy, highly verbose bills are an attempt (not always successful, of course) to forestall court challenges, manipulation by bureaucrats and members of the other political party, etc. Think how much easier the Democrats' lives would be right now, for example, if the 2,300-page Affordable Care Act had included just one more sentence: "This legislation remains in effect even if the penalty for non-compliance is set at $0."

Q: What do you think of Jared Golden (D-ME-02) being the only "nay" vote by a Democrat for the final passage of the COVID-19 relief bill? P.S., Portland, ME

A: We think that this is not surprising at all, and that he was probably given permission by Nancy Pelosi to vote "nay."

Beyond being fiscally conservative by Democratic standards, Golden barely won his first election (in 2018), represents an R+2 district, and lives in a state that uses ranked-choice voting. He would like to be the top choice of as many independent voters as possible, but he really needs to make sure that he is at very least their second choice. By breaking with his party in high-profile fashion once in a while, he makes himself palatable to those folks (who make up about 5% of the Maine electorate).

Q: I haven't heard much about this in the media, but isn't there any concern with all this "free money" being given out by the government that serious inflation will not eventually result? How is it possible to stave that off indefinitely? Or am I simply not understanding from where this money is originating? I know it isn't through tax hikes. P.M., Currituck, NC

A: We are not macroeconomic experts, though some of our readers are, so check tomorrow's mailbag to see if any of them (like J.K. in Short Hills) writes in with additional information.

Anyhow, inflation is certainly a risk. In fact, it's a likelihood. However, Joe Biden and the Democrats have concluded that the pandemic is the pressing issue, and that they will deal with inflation if and when it becomes an issue.

So, will it become an issue? Or, to use your parlance, will there be "serious inflation?" That's the $1.9 trillion question. Generally speaking, the Federal Reserve tries to achieve 2.0% inflation annually. However, it has fallen short of that numerous times in the last decade:

Year Inflation
2011 3.0%
2012 1.7%
2013 1.5%
2014 0.8%
2015 0.7%
2016 2.1%
2017 2.1%
2018 1.9%
2019 2.3%
2020 1.2%

The best guess is that the COVID bill will lead to 2.25%-3.0% inflation in 2021. If so, that could actually end up being something of a corrective to make up for the low inflation last year (and in the earlier part of the decade). To give a specific example, low inflation tends to mean low interest rates. And some analysts believe that years of low interest rates have encouraged investment in more speculative assets, like bitcoin. Higher inflation would likely push money back to more traditional, and less combustible, investments.

The extent of the inflation will depend less on the source of the $1.9 trillion (the government will borrow it), and more on how the money is spent. If it goes primarily toward goods and services, then that will be more inflationary than if it goes to, for example, paying down debt. For what it's worth, an unexpectedly large chunk of the money from the first stimulus package went to paying down debt.

Q: If the Senate can change the filibuster rules by a simple majority vote, why can't the current majority party vote to abolish the filibuster in order to pass something momentous—e.g., H.R. 1—then pass the bill with a simple majority, then vote to reestablish the filibuster as it previously existed? Sure, it's cumbersome and a little time consuming, but it might appease the Joe Manchins and Kyrsten Sinemas of the Senate, and allow meaningful reform to proceed while Democrats still retain the majority. P.S., Riverside, CA

A: In short, the reason is that once you've crossed the Rubicon, there's no going back.

What keeps the filibuster viable is that, to a greater or lesser extent, the majority has always respected it when they were in power. And they've done so because they expect (generally correctly) that the other party will behave in the same manner once they are in power.

If the Democrats suspended the filibuster long enough to pass H.R. 1, what would stop them from suspending it again when some other bill they really, really, really want to pass comes up next year? Or next month, for that matter? Similarly, what would stop the Republicans from suspending it the next time they are in power and they really, really, really want to pass a bill? As we've learned with the use (and abuse) of reconciliation, once a hole in the dike is opened, both parties will exploit it to its limits.

And so, whatever change is made, it will be permanent. Either a permanent killing of the filibuster overall, or a permanent killing of the filibuster in certain circumstances.

Q: Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) was interviewed and said that Senators Manchin and Sinema ought to come up with a rule to work around the filibuster to get H.R. 1 passed. What would such a rule look like, could it work, and how? P.R., Saco, ME

A: Molly Reynolds, a political scientist who works at the Brookings Institute, has written a whole book on this subject. Exceptions to the Rule: The Politics of Filibuster Limitations in the U.S. Senate covers 161 different ways the filibuster has been limited over time. Everyone knows about budget reconciliation and judicial appointments, but other things that are not filibusterable include trade pact approvals, military base closures, arms sales agreements, and reviews of regulations implemented by the executive branch.

What would happen, should Manchin and Sinema get on board, is that H.R. 1 would be brought up for a vote, and one or more Republican senators would invoke the filibuster. Then, one of the Democratic senators would call for a point of order, asserting that [X] bills should not be subject to filibuster. It takes only a simple majority for a point of order to be sustained. And so, if the 50 Democrats (with Kamala Harris as tiebreaker) sustained that point of order, then a new precedent would be set, and [X] bills would no longer be subject to filibuster. This would be entirely legal, and would be in keeping with the other occasions when the filibuster was trimmed back.

The only question, then, is what that [X] would be. It could be "bills dealing with voting rights." Or, more broadly, "bills dealing with civil rights issues." Or perhaps "bills that interpret and enforce the terms of Constitutional amendments." The Democrats are not terribly likely to go with that last one, however, as they would be inviting the Republicans to go nuts on the Second Amendment front the next time the GOP is in the majority.

Q: I'm puzzled by your frequent references to "reading the Alabama phone book" when discussing the filibuster. I hate to break it to you, but phone books don't exist any more. Maybe there is some historical reference there that I've missed (fill me in), but perhaps you should update that language...which will be an interesting challenge, since there are almost no large volumes of printed material anywhere these days. I thought of suggesting the Oxford English Dictionary, or one of those giant catalogs in the auto parts store, but such things are all digitized now. Good luck. L.S., Black Mountain, NC

A: Back in the days of the Jimmy Stewart-style filibuster, phone books were a popular choice because they packed a lot of words into a relatively small package. The Bible was also used, as were dictionaries and lengthy novels like War and Peace. Reading the works of Charles Dickens was popular in the 19th century. Huey Long once read Shakepeare on the floor of the Senate. Strom Thurmond read the Declaration of Independence while filibustering a civil rights bill. And yes, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-KY) once read Green Eggs and Ham to the senators while opposing Obamacare. His message was "I do not like it, Sam I am." Of course, in the end, the star of the book likes it very much. Cruz didn't mention that.

Meanwhile, we hate to break it to you, but phone books do still exist. You can go to this site to order the correct one for your ZIP code. Further, there is no reason that the time-killing book used for filibustering has to be current. The 1965 Atlanta phone book will work just fine. And one can easily buy a vintage phone book on eBay for a few bucks.

Q: Please help me to understand how the "talking filibuster" would help matters. Wouldn't Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) yield to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who would yield to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who would yield to Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) infinitum. As a result, the filibuster might never end.

Also, people who advocate requiring 40 votes to start a filibuster need advice from your staff mathematicians. Currently a 60-40 Senate split is required to invoke cloture. If the rules are changed in this way, a 60-40 split would allow the filibuster to progress unimpeded.
M.G., Los Altos CA

A: Assuming the talking filibuster is indeed reinstated, it depends on the parameters. Maybe it's possible to hand off the baton, maybe it isn't. Maybe each filibusterer has to speak for at least 6 hours before handing things off. Maybe each person can only take the podium once and once they hand it off to someone else, they're done, like a pitcher leaving a baseball game.

If the filibuster is limited to just one person, then that really defangs it. The longest one-person filibuster in Senate history was staged by Strom Thurmond in response to the Civil Rights Act of 1957, and lasted just over 24 hours. Sympathetic colleagues (such as Barry Goldwater) used a few tricks to allow him to go to the bathroom (one time) and to save his voice from becoming hoarse, but such things can only fight off exhaustion for so long. If multiple people are allowed to participate, without limitations, then the filibuster can indeed last much longer. The record for that sort of filibuster is 60 days, in response to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Still, the amount of time, energy, and planning it takes to pull something like that off is daunting, especially if there are only a small number of senators willing to participate. How often is Ted Cruz actually willing to stand on the Senate floor from 2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. reading the Dallas phone book?

As to the number of votes needed for a filibuster, we think you might be misreading things. Right now, one senator can invoke the filibuster all by themselves. That allows for silly stunts by folks like Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). It also allows large numbers of senators to avoid any repercussions for obstructionist behavior. If the Republicans really hate the idea of, say, giving money to poor children, they can have one member from a deep red state invoke the filibuster.

If it takes 40 votes to start a filibuster, however, then there has to be broad support for the move, and a large number of senators willing to stick their necks out. It becomes even more onerous if those 40 folks have to be in the room the entire time the filibuster is taking place, which is a possibility being discussed. In short, this sort of change would unquestionably make filibusters shorter and less frequent.

If what you are saying, however, is that it should take 41 votes to start a filibuster (and not 40), so as to make absolutely certain that less than 60 senators want cloture to be invoked, that's a fair point.

Q: There has been a lot of speculation about former President Donald Trump's legal exposure leading to him possibly going to prison. Given the events of January 6, 2021, I'm concerned about how Trump's supporters might react to such a development. Are there historical examples of cult leaders being imprisoned that might provide some insight on how the Trump supporters might react to such a development? G.W., Oxnard, CA

A: Generally speaking, people become members of a cult because they are not great at thinking for themselves. If the cult leader is not available to egg them on, they are far less likely to take action. That is sustained by the example of many cult leaders who have been sent to the hoosegow, including Warren Jeffs (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), Charles Manson (Manson family), Dwight York (Nuwaubianism), Sun Myung Moon (Unification Church), Shoko Asahara (Aum Shinrikyo), and Fred Phelps (Westboro Baptist Church). There was no attempt made by followers to storm the prison, or otherwise to engage in acts of violence in response.

In Trump's case, should he be sent to the crowbar hotel, there are two additional considerations. The first is that he basically threw his followers under the bus during and after the Jan. 6 insurrection. They may not be so excited to risk their lives again. The second is that it's one thing to attack a relatively lightly guarded U.S. Capitol building. It's another thing entirely to attack a prison. Certainly, far more than just one Trumper would be shot and killed.

Q: Following on your items about the Fulton County DA investigating Donald Trump. If (and that's a big if) Trump is convicted of some state crime in Georgia related to the election, couldn't the Georgia governor simply give a pardon to Trump, proclaiming it's a political witch-hunt? Or would this conviction be untouchable? D.S., Sumter, SC

A: We doubt that the governor of a state that just went for Joe Biden, and just elected two Democratic senators, would want to subvert the justice system in this way. And that is before we consider the fact that Trump has turned against Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) and vowed to destroy him.

All of that said, the answer to your question is actually a clear-cut "no." Georgia is one of the few states (Nevada, Connecticut, Nebraska, and Utah are the others) where the power to grant pardons and/or clemency is not in the hands of the governor, but instead of a parole board. In Georgia's case, that is the five-person Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Q: If you don't mention Donald Trump but do refer to the Trumpsters, will that count as a Trump-free day? R.J.C., Salem, OR

A: Nope. Our standard is that a search for "Trump" must produce no hits in the text of that day's posting (that excludes the "Trump" that appears at the top of the page by the EV count, as well as any incidences in the headlines from our past posts, or the headlines from Taegan Goodard's site). If we use "Trumper," "Trumpy," "NeverTrump," or any other Trump-derived term, then it's not a Trump-free day.

Q: Why don't left wing PACs or groups take out short ads every day on Fox or Newsmax to counter the lies being told (e.g., revealing that Donald Trump has asked for a mail-in ballot in Florida, that Trump played golf many more times than Barack Obama did, etc.)? Isn't the U.S. a free market? S.S., Harriman, NY

A: It is indeed a free market, which means that these channels are free to reject any ad they don't want to air. And that is exactly what they would do with such overtly anti-Trump ads (see here, here, here, and here for examples of Fox rejecting ads with left-wing/anti-Trump messaging).

Q: You wrote that the recent IA-02 race was "one of the closest House races in history." What would you say was the closest House race in history? W.H., San Jose, CA

A: The closest race in history was the 1826 race in PA-02, when Federalist John Sergeant and Jacksonian Henry Horn tied with 1,597 votes each. It's the only tie in a Congressional race in U.S. history, and was not resolved until a new election was held nearly a year later.

There have also been eight House races decided by a single vote. In chronological order:

  • MD-06, 1820: Phillip Reed (D-R) defeated Jeremiah Cosden (also D-R), 2,341 votes to 2,340
  • NY-29, 1822: Parmenio Adams (D-R) defeated Isaac Wilson (also D-R), 2,072 votes to 2,071
  • KY-02, 1829: Nicholas D. Coleman (D) defeated Adam Beatty (NR) 2,520 votes to 2,519
  • IN-06, 1847: George G. Dunn (W) defeated David M. Dobson (D), 7,455 votes to 7,454
  • IL-07, 1854: James C. Allen (D) defeated William B. Archer (R), 8,452 votes to 8,451
  • NC-07, 1868: Alexander H. Jones (R) defeated Plato Durham (D), 10,329 votes to 10,328
  • VA-01, 1882: Robert M. Mayo (Readjuster) defeated George T. Garrison (D), 10,505 votes to 10,504
  • NY-36, 1910: Charles Bennett Smith (D) defeated De Alva S. Alexander (R), 20,685 votes to 20,684

You didn't ask, but the closest U.S. Senate race in history was in New Hampshire in 1974, when Louis Wyman (R) defeated John A. Durkin (D), 110,926 votes to 110,924, a margin of just two votes.

Q: Before migrating to Texas, my wife and I lived in New York City (specifically, Brooklyn), where we delighted in watching Letitia James slowly rise to prominence, through the Working Families and Democratic parties, and after several setbacks, as you described in your item about her. I'm guessing it's a political outlier to go from losing two rounds of the same local council race to potentially being positioned as the prohibitive favorite for Governor of New York.

So, which politicians would earn your votes for "most unlikely" candidates to ever be elected President, senator, representative, and governor? I'm curious if these were all shocking, out-of-left-field election results, or cases where a perennial also-ran suddenly caught fire with voters, finally honed a message or campaign strategy, or was the beneficiary of the Overton window shifting.
M.P., Fort Worth, TX

A: For president, the most unlikely winner is surely Donald Trump.

For senator, we'll go with Paul Wellstone (DFL-MN), a nerdy poli sci professor who had never held political office, was outspent 7 to 1, trailed by as much as 20 points in the polls...and won by 9 points.

For representative, how about George Nethercutt (R-WA), who is the only person to unseat a sitting Speaker of the House in the last 150 years?

And for governor, our pick is Jesse "The Body" Ventura, who was not only a former pro wrestler with limited political experience, but who won as a third-party candidate (Reform Party; he was the only candidate from that party ever to win a major government office).

None of these underdog winners was a perennial candidate, really (although Trump toyed with presidential runs a few times before 2016). What they had in common was that they came along at a time when anti-establishment sentiment was high, and they successfully rode that to victory.

Q: I don't see anywhere in the Constitution a requirement that a person be eligible to vote in order to stand for election to Congress. Has there ever been a case where a person has been elected to an office in an election in which they were not eligible to vote? D.C., Brentwood, CA

A: There are a number of circumstances where this can happen, and has happened.

To start, convicted felons are generally barred from voting. For example, when Preston Brooks was re-elected after caning Sen. Charles Sumner (R-MA) in 1856, he had already been convicted of assault, and so could not legally vote for himself.

Further, the sense that women should be allowed to vote lagged, in some places, the view that they were suited for certain public offices, usually those having to do with education. For example, when Lydia Sayer Hasbrouck was elected to the Middletown, New York, Board of Education in 1880, she could not legally vote for herself.

It's also not unheard of for underage citizens to be elected to local office, particularly if that office is honorary. For example, Brian Zimmerman was elected mayor of Crabb, TX, in 1983 at the age of 11.

Finally, in the 19th century, many states had fairly stringent residency requirements for people who wanted to vote. And these meant that career military men often did not qualify. For example, in his first election (to local office), naval officer and future representative John Buchanan Robinson (R) could not vote for himself.

We know of no cases of people of color being elected to public office before the adoption of the 15th Amendment, however.

Q: Apropos of nothing, I've noticed that some media outlets and some public health officials are dispensing with an article when describing the vaccine. For example, they might say "the U.S. has administered vaccine to 12 million people." As far as I can tell, you two still use either the definite or indefinite article. For example, yesterday you wrote "the widespread availability of the vaccine..."

This is way off topic but since we delved into the world of linguistics recently, I thought I'd ask if there was a theory about this.
A.R., Los Angeles, CA

A: We cannot prove it, but we suspect that this is an instance of the battle between grammatical precision and readability.

Using an article, as we do, makes things more readable. However, it is also technically incorrect, since "the vaccine" implies that there is only one. There are, in fact, four different ones. So, foregoing the article is more accurate.

Q: In your item about Republican Senate retirements, you wrote "There's no sugar-coating it; this is bad news for the Republicans." That made me wonder where that expression comes from. Knowing that you two seem to have knowledge far and wide, can you educate us? M.W., Northbrook, IL

A: Much medicine is bitter-tasting and hard to swallow. Before more effective means of coating pills were developed in the 1940s and 1950s, it was common to coat them in sugar, or even to impregnate a sugar cube with the medicine. The latter approach is how many children were given the polio vaccine, and is also the inspiration for the song "A Spoonful of Sugar."

Q: This is a question, but not specifically for Messrs. (V) and (Z), but to the wider EV community. Being somewhat past my "sell by" date, I have not always kept up with the on-going evolution of terminology. I know folks who are L and G, maybe some B's; beyond those, not so much. Since I didn't know anyone who identified in the T and Q categories, I never felt the need to learn the ins and outs. However, I recently learned that I have a grandchild in another state who identifies as non-binary. I fear that direct inquiry might carry an implied disapproval, which I want to avoid. Reading your mailbag, it seems that among the correspondents there are a number of Nabobs of Nomenclature (not pejorative, just fun to say) to consult regarding the spectrum of human sex/gender/identity as perceived from within, and the preferred method of referring to each from without. Could I get a sort of "Handbook for The Evolving Neanderthal"? Also, on a somewhat related topic, what is the difference between People of Color and Colored People? All my Black friends are old like me, and they don't know either. S.S., Detroit, MI

A: Let's start with the latter question, because it is easier. "People of color" is a modern, and entirely acceptable, term that can be used to refer to any group of non-white individuals. "Colored people" was used in the past to refer specifically to Black people, and is now considered outdated and pejorative. Of course, if you asked someone not from the U.S. who doesn't know any of the history of colored > Negro > Black > African-American > person of color, he or she wouldn't see any difference between "colored people" and "people of color." We will also point out that some anachronisms are considered acceptable if they have a historical basis. So, the United Negro College Fund and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People retain their names, as opposed to becoming the United Black College Fund or the National Association for the Advancement of African Americans (the NAAAA?).

As to your non-binary grandchild, we would suggest you begin by asking them what their pronouns are, which is an acceptable question and will signal support. If they have decided to change their name, do your very best to respect that, and to avoid the name they've abandoned (which is known as their "deadname"). Beyond that, we open the floor to others who may care to weigh in.

Q: If you were on the committee to award Oscars for the best political actors, and you are choosing from among the ex-presidents, who do you pick and why?

Please let us, the readers, know.
H.N., Cleveland, OH

A: At the risk of being obvious, the professional actor Ronald Reagan used both his comic and his dramatic acting skills to great effect, and made himself into the most widely beloved president in the last half century. If we disqualify him for being a pro, then next on the list is probably Richard Nixon. The "Checkers" speech alone was a masterpiece of stagecraft; Lew Wasserman, then the president of Universal Pictures, said that Nixon should have won the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Q: You noted that when Alaska and Hawaii were granted statehood back in 1959, Democrats thought that Alaska would be Democratic and Republicans thought Hawaii would be Republican. The polar opposite is true today. How could they have been so wrong? K.B., Nashville, TN

A: They weren't wrong. Alaska's inaugural senators (Bob Bartlett and Ernest Gruening) were both Democrats and one of Hawaii's two inaugural senators (Hiram Fong) and its first governor (William F. Quinn) were Republicans. Back then, the Democrats had a wing that was populist-conservative (think: Joe Manchin) and the Republicans had a wing that was socially liberal-fiscally moderate (think: Gerald Ford). Those suited Alaska and Hawaii, respectively, just fine. As those wings shrank and largely disappeared, many Alaskans jumped ship in one direction and many Hawaiians jumped ship in the other.

Q: You have talked about the senators if D.C. and Puerto Rico become states, but I was wondering about the Presidential election. Will the 270 electors to win be the same? As in the states numbers are reapportioned or will the numbers be raised? If so, do you know what the new numbers would be? M.H., Council Grove, KS

A: In the short term, Puerto Rico would add 6 EVs to the tally, and the new state that splits off from D.C. would add 3, meaning that there would be a total of 547 EVs available and it would take 274 to win. Sorry, and!

In 2031, congressional representation would be adjusted, and reset back to 435 members, meaning that five of those nine new EVs would disappear, and the total would be down to 542 overall and 272 to win. It's also probable that the 23rd Amendment would be repealed, since the remaining federal capital would have very few residents left, subtracting another 3 EVs from the total. In that case, the total would be down to 539 overall and 270 to win, leaving one website back in business and the other one still needing to make a change.

Q: Who are the 10 best immigrants in U.S. history, and why? F.S., Cologne, Germany

A: We will define "best" as "having the largest positive impact on the country." And with that said, here is our list (the modern-day nation from which they came is in parentheses):

  1. Mother Cabrini (Italy): The first American to be made a saint by the Catholic Church; she helped many thousands of Italian-American immigrants cope with their new home.

  2. Kwame Ture (born Stokely Carmichael) (Trinidad and Tobago): In the inner circle of key civil rights activists, he did more than anyone to help fuse the philosophies of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.

  3. John Muir (U.K.): Arguably America's first environmentalist, he helped persuade Theodore Roosevelt to create the national park system and also founded the Sierra Club.

  4. Felix Frankfurter (Austria): One of the giants of the Supreme Court and, although a conservative, also one of the founders of the ACLU.

  5. Joseph Pulitzer (Hungary): One of the two towering figures of 19th century journalism (the other gets an item later this week), he did much to define the modern newspaper.

  6. Mary Harris "Mother" Jones (Ireland): One of the great labor organizers in American history; staged the children's march in a successful attempt to get child labor outlawed and also co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World.

  7. Andrew Carnegie (U.K.): His company produced much of the steel that allowed America to reinvent itself in the Gilded Age. Also preached "The Gospel of Wealth," helping to create an expectation that wealthy people should engage in charitable work. Debits against him include his role in the Johnstown Flood and his looking the other way while a strike was violently broken at his Homestead Steel Mill.

  8. Samuel Slater (U.K.): Perhaps the first "industrial spy," he brought British knowledge of manufacturing to the United States (in violation of British law), and in so doing created the foundation of America's industrial economy.

  9. Alexander Hamilton (St. Kitts and Nevis): It would not be too much an exaggeration to say that, as the First Secretary of the Treasury, he created the U.S. economy out of whole cloth. Also co-authored a little thing called the Federalist Papers.

  10. Albert Einstein (Germany): He contributed rather substantially to American victory in World War II, even if he was horrified that Harry S. Truman decided to actually use the atomic bomb. His contributions to science, and to the world at large, are obviously legendary.

Did we miss anybody?

Q: You wrote that traffic to "just about every news site was down in February compared to a tumultuous January". Which raises the question, how is traffic to your site doing? S.C., Mountain View, CA

A: We are not immune. We're off from about 70,000 unique visitors a day in October to 20,000 uniques a day in January to about 16,000 now. Our high point was Election Day, when we had 400,000.

Q: I've read your site every day for years. I firmly believe that an uninformed populace leads to unchecked corruption. On the other hand, I can't actually do anything about the vast majority of the political news available to me. What would you say to people who are exhausted and considering stepping back? S.S.L., Norman, OK

A: Sometimes, taking a break is just what you've gotta do if you're burned out. If so, hopefully you return once you're refreshed.

That said, if the problem is frustration with your inability to change the tide of things, we would point out that being informed is not only useful to being a good voter, but perhaps also to helping educate other voters. There's also the possibility of donating time and/or money to worthy causes that know how to fight the good fight (consider clicking on the banner at the top of the page to see some options).

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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