As you might expect, answering a small handful of questions about Donald Trump is more fun than answering a dozen or more questions about Donald Trump.
Q: In your opinion, what is the probability that a sitting senator will be indicted for their role in the insurrection against the United States? I can think of 4 possible seditionists: Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Ron Johnson (R-WI). P.M., Simi Valley CA
A: Close to zero. Legally speaking, it would be very hard to make a strong enough case that the senators bore responsibility for what happened. After all, there was no direct communication between them and the mob on Jan. 6. Politically speaking, indicting a sitting senator would be throwing a giant Molotov cocktail into an already hyper-polarized political climate. AG Merrick Garland might do it if he had no choice, but not with a case as shaky as these would be.
The one senator who could be in trouble, legally, is Graham. Not because he could be popped by the feds, but because he really left himself exposed in Georgia, and so may get popped by the authorities there.
Q: There were reports that some member(s) of Congress helped organize reconnaissance tours of the Capitol right before the insurrection. Why has there been no further mention of these tours and the person(s) responsible? Security film footage must exist, right? S.R., Auburn, CA
A: First of all, the FBI and the DoJ are not in the habit of sharing details about their investigations until they absolutely have to do so (e.g., they have to make a court filing). Second, it's been less than three months since the insurrection; these things take time. Third, the clear focus right now is on the insurrectionists themselves; more than 300 of them have been tracked down and charged. The representatives, if they did indeed aid the insurrectionists in this way, would be accomplices and would get lower priority.
But yes, there is security footage. And so, it's entirely possible that one or more representatives will find themselves in hot water eventually. In this case—assuming clear-cut proof of guilt exists—Merrick Garland would have little choice but to pursue the matter.
Q: If the FBI is looking into the possibility that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) aides gave false data on nursing homes, how come it could not investigate Trump that he did not initiate any national measures, much less accept the enormity of COVID-19's presence in the country? H.N., Cleveland, OH
A: Because fraud is a crime and incompetence/inaction is not. Trump's response to COVID-19 may have been underwhelming, divisive, and self-serving, but it's hard to see what crime he might have committed. When the coronavirus hit Sweden, the government's official policy was to do nothing in order to achieve herd immunity as quickly as possible. That is a political decision they were free to make. If Donald Trump were indicted for "doing nothing," he could defend himself by saying: "The pandemic will never be over until we have herd immunity, so given that there is no vaccine currently available, I was trying to achieve herd immunity as fast as possible." You may not agree with him, but it is a defensible position and at least one country even said it out loud. Policy decisions aren't crimes. Fortunately for folks who would like to see him behind bars, he's left himself exposed in many other ways.
Q: In view of the recent re-emergence of issues surrounding Brett Kavanaugh, I have two
questions: (1) Is it possible to directly prosecute a Supreme Court Justice or do they have to be impeached first?
and (2) Do Supreme Court Justices have any form of legal immunity from felony or misdemeanor charges at state or federal
We know that the Senate will never convict an impeached Republican. If impeachment is required first, doesn't that give a Supreme Court justice complete legal immunity? P.D., London, UK
A: To start, there is only one person in the United States who is (potentially) above criminal prosecution, and that is the sitting president. And even then, the president's immunity is limited to their time in office and is only conferred by a 1972 Dept. of Justice memo of dubious legitimacy.
So, a federal judge can be impeached. Or they can be prosecuted criminally. Or both. Neither of those things is a necessary condition for the other to take place (i.e., a judge can be impeached without being prosecuted, or can be prosecuted without being impeached). That said, they often happen together, since an offense worthy of one is likely worthy of the other as well. For example, then-federal judge (now representative) Alcee Hastings was prosecuted (and acquitted) in 1983 for bribery and perjury, and was impeached and removed in 1988 for the same incidents.
Kavanaugh is not likely in danger, since the current accusations—that his background check was not especially thorough—have to do with behavior by the FBI, and not behavior by Kavanaugh himself. Even if it's demonstrated that the background check was a sham, there is no provision for removing him for that reason. If he somehow does exit the Court earlier than he planned, there are really only two ways that would happen: (1) it is proven that he perjured himself during his hearings, and this leads to impeachment and conviction, or (2) he ends up so badly damaged by the current scandal (or by some future revelation) that his continuance on the Court threatens the integrity of the Court itself, and he's forced to fall on his sword.
Q: In your item "Untruth and Consequences," you mentioned that Rudy Giuliani was at risk of losing his bar card—and not the one from his local brewery. That got me to wondering: "Where is Rudy?" He seems to have disappeared from all news everywhere. Is he golfing with his "ex" in Mar-a-Lago, or did he return to the coffin the late night hosts often joke about? S.B., New Castle, DE
A: He has certainly managed to make himself radioactive. The right-wing news channels don't want him on because he might say something that would help Dominion Voting Systems, et al. to make their defamation cases. The other news channels don't want him on because he's a shameless liar. His law career is in shambles, since everyone now knows that his skills have deteriorated to the point of being useless. He hitched his wagon to a politician who is out of power and broadly out of favor. He made himself into the butt of the joke with the Four Seasons screw-up, the hair dye running down the face, and additional embarrassments. And he's got a bit of a #MeToo problem, as it certainly looked like he was trying to have sex with an underage woman.
And so, he did drop off the radar. It appears that he spends most of his time these days ranting on his podcast, and on Twitter.
Q: When I received my COVID vaccine, I received a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card from the CDC.
This is the same card that President Carter held up in that former Presidents' PSA.
So why can't I just use this card or a photo copy of the card to prove I've been vaccinated? Why do we need anything else? L.S., Greensboro, NC
A: You can, but at the moment, those cards are just vaccination theater. If someone is determined to avoid the vaccine, but needs to "prove" they were inoculated, it would be an easy matter to whip up a convincing fake. In fact, we found a photo that an Ohio mayor posted of their card on the Internet, and in two minutes Photoshopped it to have a false name:
The cards would be more meaningful if there was a quick and effective way to verify their accuracy. However, that would require substantial infrastructure that does not currently exist, and would raise significant privacy and security questions that we noted in our item on the subject.
Q: Given that people are currently suggesting that vaccine passports may be needed for travel, what did governments, businesses, and organizations do in the past regarding this type of thing? I vaguely know that some schools currently have requirements that students are vaccinated against some diseases, but I don't recall ever reading about requirements for vaccinations otherwise (for example, in the mid-twentieth century when polio vaccines were introduced). Are there any other historical precedents for requiring vaccinations for work, travel, study, or other activities? G.B., Manchester, UK
A: Past and current experience on this front speaks to the challenges of mandating a COVID-19 vaccine.
School districts have been requiring proof of vaccination for generations now—only a few of them originally, then a few more, and now it's most of them. However, there have always been ways to get around the rules. In many cases, it's possible to claim religious objections. Alternatively, nearly every anti-vaxx parent knows a few doctors who will happily write up a vaccine exception note. Private and religious schools are less likely to require vaccination, so sometimes parents just send their kids to one of those. Some states, with California a notable example, have tried to crack down and to tighten the loopholes. However, it's not easy to separate those kids who have legitimate medical or religious needs for exemptions from those kids whose parents have the ability to work the system and who are willing to lie.
Similarly, both of the public universities that (Z) has taught at require faculty to get flu shots every year. And (Z) gets the shot annually—not because The Man says so, but because he does not want to get the flu. So, he is in compliance with the policy. However, he's never actually been asked by either university to prove that, which means that the "rule" is ultimately pretty meaningless.
Q: A hype man's gonna hype and a broken clock is right twice a day. Did Warp Speed actually do anything to hasten the rollout of vaccines? A.B., Spokane, WA
A: Of the four vaccines in use, three of them were funded in part by Warp Speed money (Johnson & Johnson got $1.46 billion for theirs, AstraZeneca/University of Oxford/Vaccitech got $1.2 billion for theirs, and Moderna got $2.48 billion for theirs). However, we would suggest that the exception—Pfizer/BioNTech—proves the rule: There was so much reward to be had in developing a successful vaccine that these companies would have put the pedal to the metal even without U.S. government funding.
That said, Warp Speed probably does deserve some credit for the speed with which people in general, and Americans in particular, have been vaccinated. First, the money allowed these firms to gamble, manufacturing tens of millions of doses of vaccines that they weren't yet certain were viable. Second, the U.S. government's support allowed the U.S. to be at the front of the line once doses began to be distributed.
Q: I've been reading Charlie Cook's pieces for some time now and I don't understand why he has
the argument that Joe Biden should have met Republican senators in the middle with the COVID-19 legislation. I've read
three separate articles from him basically saying the same thing.
Cook even acknowledges the issues that former President Obama had when attempting to do the same, but then pivots to Biden needing to be bipartisan. Is Cook just pragmatic or does he simply dislike unilateral actions by either party? D.E., Atlanta, GA
A: We're confused, too, since Charlie Cook has been doing this for a long time and knows his stuff.
For more than a decade now, Congressional Republicans have shown virtually no interest in reaching across the aisle. This has been true when they've been in the majority, and it's been true when they've been in the minority. Every time the Democrats flex their muscles, or threaten to, Mitch McConnell talks about how that will poison the well, and ruin Congress, and yadda yadda yadda. However, he's been more than happy to do his own muscle-flexing, from the Merrick Garland nomination, to the tax cut, to several members of his conference trying to overturn Joe Biden's election.
Given this track record, and given that the Republicans have lost control of the House, the Senate, and the White House, the onus is on them to do some bridge-building. However, with the COVID-19 bill—and the clock ticking—they showed no interest in working on it when they were in (lame-duck) power, and once they were out of power they spent little time reaching out to Biden or to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)/Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), while finding plenty of time to go on cable news to complain about how nobody was reaching out to them. Meanwhile, their opening offer (about 1/3 of the money Biden wanted) was not serious. If you were selling a car for $5,000, and someone offered you $1,500, is there really any further purpose in negotiating? They're not dealing in good faith.
Put another way, a football team that is not having luck with the run eventually needs to try the pass. An investor who is not doing well with bonds eventually has to take a look at stocks. A person who is not losing weight with daily exercise eventually has to look critically at their diet. And similarly, reaching across the aisle hasn't gotten the Democrats anywhere in a long time. Tactically, it makes sense for them to try another tack; maybe that is what it will take to get the Republicans to take them seriously. One cannot help but note that, within about a week of the COVID-19 passage, there were all of a sudden 10 Republican senators willing to join a "Gang of 20" in order to try to get some things done.
We are surprised that Cook does not see things in this way, especially since he doesn't really explain why anything might be different this time as opposed to the past 20 times the Democrats have tried to play nice.
Q: Is there a formal process for sending a bill to the president for signature? Perhaps it is placed in a ceremonial large box, driven in a limo to the White House, and then presented with appropriate flourishes? Or is it just e-mailed with "sign here" stickers? S.S., Fort Lauderdale, FL
A: There is a formal process, but little of it has to do with the physical movement of the bill from the Capitol to the White House.
Once a bill is approved, then it must (by law, unless Congress grants a special exception) be printed to special paper (parchment, although synthetic parchment as opposed to the parchment made from animal skins that were used in the 18th and 19th centuries). Either the Clerk of the House or the Secretary of the Senate has to sign a certification that is appended to the bill, as does the Speaker of the House and the presiding officer of the Senate. And the text has to be conveyed to the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), which is required to promulgate copies of the bill publicly. These days, the Congress-to-GPO transfer is done electronically.
As to the Congress-to-White House transfer of the parchment and of the certification, that is usually handled by a congressional clerk. They can drive or they can walk (it's about a 30-minute walk), but either way, they deliver the paperwork in a plain box or envelope to the Executive Clerk of the White House, who is responsible for collecting the presidential signature. The Executive Clerk is a career bureaucrat and not a political appointee, and so the current clerk—David E. Kalbaugh—served under both Barack Obama and Donald Trump prior to Biden.
Q: You have referred many times to "cabinet posts" and "cabinet-level posts," both of which require Senate confirmation. That brings up a few questions: (1) What's the difference?, (2) Why do both require Senate confirmation?, (3) There's no mention of a formal body like the cabinet in the Constitution—how did it come to be formalized and why was the Senate given a voice over nominees? J.B., Bend, OR
A: "Cabinet-level" is largely a symbolic distinction. A president generally declares a position to be cabinet-level for one (or more) of three reasons: (1) because they want that person to be a regular attendee at cabinet meetings, (2) to send a message about their priorities (hence Joe Biden's elevation of his science adviser to cabinet-level status), or (3) to create additional high-profile patronage positions for use in satisfying elements of his party.
"Cabinet-level" status has no particular legal basis, and can be awarded or revoked at any time. By contrast, cabinet positions are given that status by Congress. So, Biden could decree tomorrow that, say, the trade representative is no longer cabinet-level, but only Congress could decree that, say, the Secretary of Energy is no longer a cabinet official. Further, the actual cabinet officials are in the presidential line of succession, while the cabinet-level officials are not.
When it comes to approvals, the government made a decision a long time ago that the Senate needed to have a say in anyone appointed to any high-profile job. And so, there are about 700 executive branch jobs that require Senate confirmation. They also approve all federal judges, of course, as well as high-ranking military officers (anyone appointed to the rank of major or higher in the Army/Marines/Air Force, and anyone appointed to the rank of lieutenant commander or higher in the Navy/Coast Guard). As you can imagine, the military approvals are generally pro forma; they don't often drag some poor lieutenant colonel to the Hill to be grilled by the Senate Armed Services Committee.
And finally, when the Constitution was written, pretty much everyone knew George Washington would be the first president. And the framers were kind of tired of the hot Philadelphia summer, and also knew that the more stuff they put in the Constitution, the more ammunition they would give to enemies of the document. So, they adopted a general understanding that "Ah, George'll figure it out." He did, and thereafter Congress has passed a vast amount of legislation formalizing the situation and then tweaking it.
Q: Since the District of Columbia currently has 3 electoral votes for presidential elections, would they really get an additional 3 votes? Based on their population (705K, depending on the source) puts them squarely between Vermont (624K) and Alaska (732K). Both states have 3 electoral votes. Puerto Rico has about the same population as Utah (3.2M), putting them squarely at 6 electoral votes. M.L., Franklin, MA
A: Every time we write about this, we get many e-mails telling us how very wrong we are. Many are rather less polite than yours.
By the terms of the Twenty-Third Amendment, the federal capital is entitled to 3 EVs. It does not matter, legally speaking, if the capital is its current size or is shrunk down to one square millimeter. It does not matter, legally speaking, if the capital has its current population or if its only residents are the president and their spouse. As long as the Twenty-Third Amendment is on the books, the capital gets 3 EVs.
If Washington, D.C. is granted statehood, then the current federal capital will be split into two separate pieces. One of those pieces will become the 51st state. That state, whatever its name, will be entitled to two senators and one representative, and thus 3 electoral votes. The other piece will be the (now much smaller) federal capital. It may be much smaller, and it may have virtually no people residing in it, but again, as long as the Twenty-Third Amendment still exists, it too will be entitled to 3 EVs. So, the split would add 3 extra EVs to the overall tally, with 541 EVs available and 271 needed to win the presidency.
By the terms of the Twenty-Third Amendment, Congress gets to decide how the federal capital's 3 EVs are awarded. So, they could allow the small handful of remaining residents to award them, or they could decree that they go to the winner of the national popular vote. Either approach would give them to the Democrats more often than not. This fact, as well as the obsolescence of the Twenty-Third Amendment once a 51st state is carved out of D.C., is why we believe the amendment would be repealed.
"[T]he odds of the Republican Party claiming the trifecta
again, anytime soon, are pretty low. By the time they do, the Supreme Court will have already decided, one way or the
other, if it's sticking with Roe v. Wade, while America's auto fleet will be well on the way to being all-electric."
Obviously there will not be a trifecta prior to 2024, and while you may have been engaging in some hyperbole and crystal ball insight I am surprised at your reference to the odds being pretty low anytime soon. Given an extremely narrow majority in the current House and an actual tie in the Senate, coupled with the historical trends that favor the Democrats potentially losing one or both between now and 2024 and an Electoral College that can turn significant popular vote victories into losses, can you elaborate on your thesis? Or do you think America's auto fleet will be well on the way to being all-electric by 2024? D.R., Thousand Oaks, CA
A: There are quite a few obstacles in the Republicans' way. Washington, D.C., could be granted statehood. The 2022 Senate map is not great for them. The COVID-19 bill is popular, and an infrastructure bill (if passed) will be too. It could be that party shifts mean that midterms now favor the Democrats. The Republicans have won the popular vote in one of the last 8 presidential elections, demographic trends don't favor them nationally, and the Democrats will be incumbent in the White House in 2024, and may well be in 2028 as well. This does not mean that things cannot all line up for the Republicans, either in 2024 or 2028, but it does mean that the odds are against it.
Meanwhile, GM wants to be all-electric by 2035, and other automakers have set similar goals. The mere fact that the automakers have set that goal means that the future is not in expanded petroleum extraction, even as of this moment. We are inclined to think that the Republicans' next viable chance at the White House (and thus even the possibility of a trifecta) is 2028, by which point GM (and others) will be very far down the EV road, and certainly past the point of no return.
Q: Is Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) the only person to have been a governor in one state (Massachusetts) and a senator in another? R.H.D., Webster, NY
A: There are two others, but the other two did it under rather different circumstances. They are William Wyatt Bibb (U.S. Senator from Georgia, then governor of Alabama) and Sam Houston (governor of Tennessee and then both governor and U.S. Senator from Texas, which also makes him the only American to be governor of two different states). In both of these cases, the men began their career in an existing state, then moved to a territory in search of opportunity, and then were elected to office after those territories became states.
Q: It seems absolutely bananas that it only requires 1.5 million signatures to trigger a recall in
a state with nearly 40 million people living in it. Apparently the law is that the signature threshold is equal to 12%
of the total number of votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election.
Fewer than half of all states have a recall provision at all, and of those that do all have much higher bars to clear (higher signature thresholds, the requirement that the governor actually have engaged in malfeasance or a violation of their oath, a trial, etc.) than California where, apparently, 4% of the state can trigger a burdensome and expensive recall for no particular reason at all!
How is it that California ended up with a law that makes it so easy to trigger a recall? J.T., Greensboro, NC
A: As chance would have it, the California recall law was designed to do exactly what it's doing, namely to give outsized power to a minority without the courts having to get involved.
The key here—and you wouldn't expect this, but it's true—is the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862. It created two corporations to build the transcontinental railroad; the western one of those was the Central Pacific (CP). The CP was headquartered in Sacramento, and the four men (Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington, Charles Crocker, and Mark Hopkins) who owned it became very rich and very powerful and dominated state politics for decades, so much so that they are known as the "Big Four" of California history. Even once they were dead, their personal and business heirs continued to run the show in the Golden State into the 20th century.
The upshot is that for a long time the state government was run by people concerned with the needs of wealthy people and corporations. And they stacked the state courts with judges who felt similarly. This made progressive and populist Californians very angry. And so, in the 1910s those folks engineered the recall law in order to try to balance the scales. This turned out to be unnecessary; the power of the Big Four and their heirs had waned enough by that time that progressive forces were able to seize a fair bit of political power (including the governor's mansion, thanks to Hiram Johnson) in the normal way. And so, the recall law was used (unsuccessfully) against a trio of state senators, and then basically forgotten until Gray Davis was thrown out on his ear in 2003.
Q: About the (very probable) recall election coming in several months in CA, given that Gov.
Gavin Newsom (D-CA) cannot be on the ballot (besides by winning a majority of "Noes" to the recall question), what do
you think is the best strategy for the Democrats? Is their best move to stick with him and say "It's Newsom or nothing,"
or to present a serious candidate as an alternative, therefore taking the risk that some Democrats will vote "Yes" to the recall
(maybe because they don't like Newsom personally) and split the blue vote?
I have the feeling that this recall is a conundrum because it could create a weird coalition of Trumpists, old-school Republicans, and "not-a-Newsom-fan" Democrats. E.K., Brignoles, France
A: That coalition is exactly what the Republicans are hoping for, because that's really their only viable path to victory.
That said, "Newsom or bust" is just too risky for the Democrats. In the event that the "not-a-Newsom-fan" Democrats want a Democrat in office (just not him) you've got to give them (and the other Democrats) someone to vote for as a replacement. Further, the Democratic Party is more disciplined than the Republicans are. And so, they will likely put forward one viable Democratic candidate, just as they did in 2003 (back then, it was then-Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante). That gives them two paths to victory if the recall is successful: (1) the majority votes for the viable Democrat, or (2) enough people vote for the viable Democrat that he or she outpaces the Republicans, whose vote is likely to split across several candidates.
Q: You wrote "[James Gordon Bennett] was also physically accosted and beaten on the streets of New York on multiple occasions by the targets of his insults." What was the source for this statement? I wish you had time to cite your sources for history articles. C.L., Berkeley, CA
A: You're right, citations are not especially viable. First because of the time issue, as you note. Second because not everything we write is based on sources that are online. So it is here. As chance would have it, (Z)'s undergraduate honors thesis was on...James Gordon Bennett. So, he wrote that entire item off the top of his head, based on the research he did (many years ago).
That said, even if this was a formal journal article, that particular tidbit would likely not have gotten a citation because it's widely enough known (at least, among 19th-century historians) to be an established fact. It would be like citing that Abraham Lincoln wore a stovepipe hat, or that Andrew Jackson fought a lot of duels.
However, we're happy to expand upon that point a bit. One famous (and violent) adversary was James Watson Webb, who twice accosted and beat Bennett with a heavy cane. Webb was a devoted Whig and a newspaperman in the old style, and so he found Bennett's business model threatening, and his (often Democratic) politics offensive. It did not help that Bennett often mocked Webb in the pages of The New York Herald. Anyhow, the Webb-Bennett confrontations were well enough known that Webb was sometimes portrayed in cartoons carrying a club; readers were expected to know that was a reference to his beatings of Bennett.
The most famous attack on Bennett, meanwhile, took place in 1850. He editorialized against John Graham, who was a candidate for New York City DA that year. When Graham lost, he and two of his brothers blamed the Herald, and they beat the tar out of Bennett. We know about these incidents because Bennett had no problem with sharing the gory details in the pages of his newspaper; here is his item about the 1850 incident:
Q: I have long read and admired your site. I recommend it to friends and family. As an independent centrist, I try to remain informed and open to views from a certain spectrum of perspectives. I place y'all on the center-left. Is there a comparable website you respect on the center-right side of the spectrum? I'm not much interested in sites representing views beyond hailing distance of the center. L.A. in Washington, D.C.
A: The best center-right publication is The Economist, but it's British and expensive and has an economic focus. Also very good is The Wall Street Journal, which is American (though owned by an Aussie), but is also expensive and also has an economic focus. It's probably not a coincidence that the most reliable right-leaning sources are economic in their emphasis; they have to remain in the world of facts and data for that portion of their coverage, and if they go too nutty elsewhere, they will undermine faith in their core mission.
Among non-financial sites, you should take a look at The Bulwark, if you don't know them already. And The National Review sometimes has good stuff, although they are just barely centrist enough to qualify as center-right. The Hill, RealClearPolitics, and Drudge Report are all center-right aggregators, where you can pick and choose what looks interesting.
If any reader has additional suggestions, we'll run them tomorrow.
Q: It seems to me that it would be easier to build a right-of-center and right-wing coalition after the Dutch elections. VVD, PVA and CDA alone are 42%; and if you throw in SGP/CU/FvD you will reach well over 50%. Am I misreading? N.C., Tustin, CA
A: There is no PVA. You might have meant PvdA, which is like the British Labour Party, center-left. VVD + PvdA + CDA is a right-left-center coalition. It is definitely a possibility, especially if you add D66, but that makes it a more left than right coalition and the VVD probably doesn't want that as its first choice (although it could live with it if it had to).
Or maybe you meant PVV. They are anti-Muslim bigots. No other party wants anything to do with them. The FvD are neo-fascists. Maybe they could work with the PVV but together they aren't big enough and no other parties want to work with them.
The CU is in the current government, so they are potential partners. The SGP is very religious and strongly against abortion. VVD and D66 are very secular and never going to accept that. Can you see Elizabeth Warren working out a deal with Jerry Falwell to govern jointly?
Also, on top of the left-right politics, parties have different views on the European Union. GL and SP are both left-wing but have opposite views on the EU. Suppose the EU proposes to harmonize all tax systems. GL might (grudgingly) accept that but SP will never accept that because then it will have to accept Germany's top tax rate, which is much lower than it would like.
Finally, as in all political systems, some leaders simply don't like other leaders and don't want to work with them because they find them obnoxious, belligerent, stubborn, ignorant, or whatever.
Q: With two days of early voting and absentee voting only for those over 70, both for the first time ever, if the Netherlands were a U.S. state, it would be seen as highly restrictive and as suppressing the vote. Why does the Netherlands have these restrictive policies? D.M., Santa Rosa, CA
A: The model here, and pretty much everywhere in Europe, is that everyone votes on Election Day in person. Also in the U.S. In 1845, Congress passed a law stating that there should be a single Election Day for federal office to prevent people from crossing state lines to vote twice. Only in 2001 was early in-person voting allowed, when the Supreme Court "reinterpreted" (i.e., discarded) that law to mean that elections must end on Election Day. So early voting is a very recent addition to the system and only happened because a court overruled Congress, which clearly wanted a single Election Day.
If the U.S. were a European Country, it would be seen as very undemocratic because if a U.S. party gets 5% of the votes it doesn't get 5% of the seats in the House, as it does pretty much everywhere in the EU.
Another practice that the U.S. has that is seen as undemocratic is the whole concept of "voter registration." In most of Europe, everyone has to be "registered" with the city they live in. There are no separate registration databases for voting, taxes, marriages, or anything else involving the government. It is all in one place, run by the cities, and very simple. The view from across the pond is that having to specifically register to vote (and possibly be purged if you don't) is very undemocratic.
Another difference with the U.S. is that a week before the election, every voter (i.e., every citizen above 18) is mailed a postcard telling where their precinct is and when it is open. It is printed on security paper (with some unique text in metal embedded in it) so it is virtually impossible to counterfeit. Voters must bring that to the polling place as proof that they are eligible to vote. For the absentee ballots, it has to be included in the outer envelope so the absentee ballot can be verified before the inner envelope (with the ballot) can be accepted. The system of permanent registration for everyone plus the election board sending everyone a secure postcard for proof of eligibility would go a long way toward safeguarding election integrity (which the Republicans want) and making it easy to vote (which the Democrats want). But of course, neither of them want the features that the other wants.
Q: I noticed Monday's blog was particularly Trump heavy (I then didn't notice Tuesday was Trump free). Did you clear the backlog of Trump stories to set up Tuesday? A.P., Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
A: Nope; as promised, the first Trump-free day (and the second, which was yesterday) happened organically. (V) writes most or all of the material on Mondays and (Z) does Tuesdays, and we don't really coordinate what we're going to write about, except on major stories.
Q: Since your political writing is the first thing I do with my coffee in the morning, I wonder if you get more "hits" in the morning. I have found myself hitting refresh several times at 7 or 8 a.m. waiting for the day's writing. Just curious. S.M., Louisville, KY
A: Yes, we get the great majority of our hits in the morning, which is why we try to be live by 6:00 a.m. or so ET. We do not always succeed, of course, especially on weekends.
Q: The current "political fatigue" you have described makes a lot of sense. However, I am wondering: How was your site (as one representative of the genre of political websites) doing in other post-election periods? Even if we omit the extraordinary Trump win in 2016 as another special case: How were you doing, say, after the 2012 and 2008 elections with more "normal" election outcomes respectively? Actually, let's also include 2004; I understand you were up and running then as well. I would think that traffic on all political websites—and especially electoral websites—was down after each of these elections as well. How do the numbers compare? Just the relative numbers before versus after each of these elections. Maybe that puts the recent drop in perspective. O.L., Munich, Germany
A: Unfortunately, usage statistics are an imprecise enough quantity (a problem that gets worse the further back we go in time) that meaningful direct comparisons aren't especially instructive. We can tell you that, broadly speaking, your general assumption is correct. There is always a sizable drop off in traffic after an election. Some people get burned out, or they read about politics to be an "informed citizen" as opposed to it being "fun," and so they give themselves a break. We also doubt that Donald Trump had that much of a positive (or negative) impact on our traffic over the last four years. Yes, he gave us a lot to write about, but we don't do clickbait-type items.
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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