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      •  Saturday Q&A

Merry Christmas! And to those who don't celebrate, we hope your Chinese takeout is enjoyable.

Saturday Q&A

Just remember, you can't spell "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" without m-a-n-c-h-i-n. We wonder if Who-ville was actually supposed to be written as Who-Ville.

Current Events

J.S. in Germantown, OH, asks: At the beginning of the latest congressional term, I felt that the Democrats would be better as a minority party without Joe Manchin (?-WV) rather than as a majority party with him in the caucus. You and others had managed to convince me that I was wrong but now I'm not so sure. Do you feel it is worth re-evaluating this?

V & Z answer: It depends on what your goals are. However, with Manchin's vote, the Democrats were able to get a major COVID relief package passed, along with the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Joe Biden has gotten 43 judges confirmed to the federal bench (a record for a president's first year), with 33 more nominations pending. The President has also managed to get some pretty lefty people appointed to key posts in the federal bureaucracy, like HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, whose confirmation vote would have failed 49-50 if Manchin had switched sides. Oh, and there has been no possibility of the Senate launching investigations into...whatever a Republican majority might dream up.

If the Democrats had lost either of those Georgia U.S. Senate races, then most of these things would not have happened. Even the bipartisan infrastructure bill happened, at least in part, because Republicans were trying to use that (possibly successfully) to derail the larger reconciliation bill. No Manchin means no reconciliation bill and possibly no need for the Republican conference to support a bipartisan bill.

M.B. in Montreal, QC, Canada, asks: Why doesn't Joe Biden rewrite the BBB to drop all expenditures in West Virginia and offer the money to Alaska and Maine? In return, of course, for the votes of Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

V & Z answer: You can bet your last dollar that both the President and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have checked in with this duo to see if their votes are available, and have learned that Manchin is still more gettable than either of them.

Beyond that, as noted in the previous answer, the Democrats need Manchin for more than just this one vote. If Biden pokes the Senator in the eye like this, then Manchin will poke back by refusing to vote for Biden's judges, or for the President's budget, or for other things that pass on a party-line vote.

A.S. in Fishers, IN, asks: Wouldn't it be better for the Democrats if Joe Manchin left the party shortly before the midterm elections next year and became a Republican? If he did that, the Democrats could campaign on him being a traitor and declare that the base must elect more "real Democrats." Also, the Democrats would no longer control everything, so people could no longer "blame the Democrats" for not governing.

If Manchin stays a Democrat and sabotages the party, then the Democrats look bad for not governing. If he leaves the party, he is a traitor and that may motivate low-engagement Democrats to vote.

V & Z answer: We don't think it would matter very much if Manchin did this. First, the Democrats would have controlled the government for the better part of 2 years, and could hardly blame their lack of accomplishments on losing one vote for a couple of months. Second, this kind of maneuvering is inside baseball; most voters are voting for or against the party of the person in the White House and don't much concern themselves with the dynamics of Congress. Third, the Democrats' problem in 2022 is holding the House, and pointing the finger at one "rogue" senator is not a great way to solve that problem.

P.L. in Denver, CO, asks: I am wondering if this is a strategy the Democrats could employ: Break the BBB bill into smaller bills that the public could understand and that would be paid for, and have the Senate vote on each one. Joe Manchin, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and the Republicans would then need to weigh in on why they don't like low insulin costs, etc. Maybe the Democrats would not get everything, but maybe a good chunk?

V & Z answer: This is certainly a possibility, and will be "Plan B" if Plan A doesn't work out. However, getting even one Republican vote is a tall order, much less getting the ten votes needed to kill a filibuster. That means that the only way to get these bills passed is through reconciliation, and there is a limit on how many times per year reconciliation can be used.

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, asks: Who decided that Anthony Fauci is "the nation's top infectious disease expert"? I get that he is the National Institute of Health's point man and that he is the Chief Medical Advisor to the President, but how does that translate to "top infectious disease expert"?

Aren't there some people at Harvard, NYU or Yale whose expertise is more closely focused on infectious disease?

V & Z answer: Sometimes, the person serving as attorney general is referred to as the United States' "top cop," not because they are necessarily better at law enforcement than anyone else, but because they are the highest-ranking law enforcement official in the government. Similarly, Fauci is the nation's top infectious disease specialist by virtue of his position as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

In other words, it's not a subjective judgment, it's an objective description of the position he holds in the federal bureaucracy. That said, Fauci has a lengthy CV and a distinguished career as a researcher, and he also has more hands-on public health experience than an academic physician at Harvard or Yale could possibly have. So, he might be subjectively worthy of that appellation, as well.

B.M.S. in Pittsburgh, PA, asks: Just a clarification, if you would: If Arizona has two predominantly Latino districts, wouldn't this mean that the rest of the Latino population is scattered few-and-far-between throughout seven other districts? How is this not racial gerrymandering—lumping most of the Latino citizens of Arizona into two districts?

V & Z answer: Majority-minority districts are not, in and of themselves, illegal. It's only a racial gerrymander if steps have clearly been taken to substantively dilute the voting power of minority groups (usually by taking a majority-minority community and splitting it across several districts). In Arizona, most of the Latinos just so happen to live along the Mexican border or in the city of Phoenix. So, the majority-Latino districts are acceptable.

J.C. in Farmington, NY, asks: Donald Trump lost his appeals of Joe Biden's decision to release the records from 1/6 to the House Select Committee. The Supreme Court might yet overturn these rulings. If it did, isn't it true that such a ruling would apply only to Congress's access to the 1/6 records? Couldn't Garland still use these same records as evidence in criminal prosecution, even if the subject is Trump, who is now an ex-president and no longer protected from criminal prosecution?

V & Z answer: That is correct. This is what made Richard Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre necessary. He invoked executive privilege to try (ultimately unsuccessfully) to stop Congress from hearing the infamous "smoking gun" tape. But that wasn't plausible for Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, who was himself a part of the executive branch as a functionary of the Department of Justice. So, Cox had to be fired.


M.C. in Simsbury, CT, asks: I'm curious which states have provided the most consequential politicians of the past 25 years (without considering states that have produced presidents)? Perhaps Georgia, due to Newt Gingrich's Contract with America and courting of evangelicals to the Republican base, along with turning blue in 2021, thus allowing Democrats to control the Senate? How about Kentucky providing the Machiavellian Mitch "Darth Turtle" McConnell (R), as well as Sen. Rand Paul (R), who made ridiculous stunts and random acts acceptable in politics?

V & Z answer: We're going to start by pushing back at bits and pieces of your suggestions. First, the Contract with America was 27 years ago, and so technically outside the scope of the question. Second, Rand Paul is great at getting lots of attention, but we're not sure he's been very consequential. Certainly, he doesn't get sole credit for making ridiculous stunts acceptable.

Those things said, Georgia and Kentucky are pretty good suggestions. However, we would say the most consequential state of the last 25 years has to be California. It is home to the current vice president and three members of Joe Biden's cabinet (Alejandro Mayorkas, Xavier Becerra, and Isabel Guzman). Further, both party leaders in the House, namely Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R) are Californians. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) was chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) led one of the two impeachments of Donald Trump and is a key figure on the 1/6 Committee, and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) has been a bomb thrower on the level of Rand Paul. Jerry Lewis (R) is no longer in office, but he was a key power broker in the House for years, ultimately rising to the chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

There are also cases to be made for Illinois, New York, Ohio, Texas, Florida, and Wisconsin, but we think California comes out on top.

S.S. in West Hollywood, CA, asks: Which states best reflect the swing/suburban voters Democrats need to win a presidential election and should that be the priority in deciding which states hold the first primaries? Having South Carolina/Nevada go first to give Black/Latino voters a larger voice in picking the candidate seems like the right thing to do, but is there a chance that could give us a candidate less electable in crucial swing states for the general election? The path to finding the candidate most likely to win the swing states is the path I want to support. What's that path?

V & Z answer: That is indeed the fundamental tension. That is to say, the process is currently designed to identify the candidate who is acceptable to the largest number of Democrats. It certainly could be redesigned to identify the candidate most likely to get independent/crossover votes, although the tradeoff there is that some of the base—particularly minority and progressive voters—might find the chosen candidate unpalatable.

Anyhow, if you want to find the candidate who is most electable in the general election, that implies a primary that has three features. First, the state must be small or medium-sized, so as to give lesser-known candidates a chance to break through. Second, the state must be swingy. And third, the state must have an open primary, so that non-Democrats have the chance to show their support for the would-be Democratic nominee. The state that probably best checks all those boxes is...Wisconsin, which is clearly swingy these days, has an open primary, and is about the same size as South Carolina, population wise. Georgia is another possibility; it's even more swingy than Wisconsin is, though it's also got twice as many people.

M.B. in St. Paul, MN, asks: Your item on Kevin McCarthy's priorities if the Republicans take the House back does not mention anything about impeachment. Of course they are not going to say it out loud, but I always assumed that the minute the Republicans had the keys back, they would find something to impeach Joe Biden for. I found it interesting that you didn't mention it. Do you think impeachment is off the table right now?

V & Z answer: The last time the Republicans tried that stunt, with Bill Clinton, they took it in the teeth at the ballot box. And Clinton had actually committed a crime (just not one worthy of impeachment, per the general consensus). If McCarthy tried this, he'd be taking a huge risk, especially as he tried to find something to use as pretext. Hunter Biden? Presidents are not responsible for bad acts committed by their relatives, even assuming Hunter committed some. Afghanistan? That would lead to lots of questions about the withdrawal treaty, negotiated by...Donald Trump. Inflation? Do the Republicans really want to set the precedent that the behavior of the economy constitutes a high crime and misdemeanor?

Meanwhile, the people who are going to hate Biden, and who are going to believe horrible things about him, don't need an impeachment. They just need Fox, OAN, and Newsmax to tell them what to believe.

So, there is limited upside to such a stunt (assuming Biden doesn't do something that's actually impeachable), and significant downside. Consequently, we think impeachment is probably off the table. But if the base and Tucker Carlson absolutely demand it, Kevin McCarthy (whom Carl Linnaeus would classify as an invertebrate were he still around) could cave and do it anyway, the consequences be damned.


H.S. in Edmonton, AL, Canada, asks: My 11-year-old grandson is interested in U.S. politics (he is Canadian, after all!). He asked me a question which you could answer better: If Donald Trump had personally led the march on the Capitol, could the election results have been overturned?

Assuming at least the same proportion of Trump adherents in the police, National Guard, military and Congress, it seems to me you would now be ruled by a President-for-life.

V & Z answer: If Donald Trump had taken a position at the head of his "army," it would have changed...very little. Everyone knew that he desperately wanted to stay in office, and that wasn't going to happen if the process played out. Team Trump also had key people in place, so as to encourage the former president's desired result (i.e., overturn the election). So, if there was going to be some large-scale uprising among members of the military, etc., then everything was in place. It didn't really matter if Trump was at the Capitol or was in the Oval Office, a mile and a half away.

Of course, there wasn't a large-scale uprising because Trump didn't have that kind of support. And so, if he had been "on the scene," the only thing that would have been different is that he would have ended up much more exposed, legally speaking.

E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, asks: In your item about the Uyghur genocide bill, you wrote: "the Congress did not pass the bill until Monday, which meant that Biden was going to have to sign it at some point during the holiday lull, or else it would have become law automatically on New Year's Eve (pocket vetoes can only happen when Congress is out of session, and they are holding pro forma sessions through the break so that doesn't happen)."

I get what a pocket veto is (i.e., the bill doesn't become law by default). However, why does a bill simply become law if the president fails to sign it by some deadline? I thought all bills needed a presidential signature.

Could Congress effectively bypass a presidential veto by setting a ridiculous deadline and/or conditions on the veto signature (e.g., bill can only be vetoed using a quill pen while on a raft in international waters 3.14 minutes after being passed by the Senate)?

On another matter, if the 48 other Senate Democrats wanted to really end the filibuster, carve it out, make it into a talking filibuster, or require filibustering Senators to wear clown noses and wigs 24/7 even outside the Senate (my favorite option), could they wait until some Republicans are absent and then reform it without the help of Sens Manchin (?-Coal) and Sinema (?-Herself)? Could they do it in a pro forma session when only one or two Senators are present?

V & Z answer: The veto process is laid out in a fair bit of detail in Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution:

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it becomes a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a law.

To begin, Congress can't shorten the timeline for vetoes or add any other stipulations because to do so would be unconstitutional. Beyond that, the framers' thinking is that a veto really means "I don't like this, try to do better." And so, if a bill is returned to Congress with a veto, they can come up with a better bill, or they can override the veto, or they can give up. And if it's not returned within 10 days, then it is considered to be "accepted" by the president, even without a signature.

The tricky situation is when the president doesn't want to sign, but also can't return the bill because Congress is not in session. In other words, he doesn't approve, but he's unable to tell Congress to do better. And in that case, the framers decided that the legislation dies. That's the pocket veto.

As to the shenanigans you suggest with the filibuster, this would not work. First of all, a minimum of 51 senators is required to conduct any business. And while some number between 51 and 98 certainly could change the filibuster rules, the change would be very temporary, as the 51/52 senators who had been "foiled" would just make a motion to change the rules back the next time the full Senate was in session. There is also no way to sneak, say, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act past during the temporary rule change. Approval of a bill takes several steps, and each of the 100 members have to be advised when a vote is taking place, so there would be no getting a bill past Joe Manchin or anyone else in this manner.

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, asks: Why is Chuck Schumer holding pro forma Senate sessions over the holidays? Wouldn't it make sense for him to put the Senate in recess and then let Joe Biden make as many recess appointments as his heart desires? I realize such appointments would be good only through 2022, but that seems better than not having anyone at all for a protracted period during that year.

V & Z answer: You are operating under the assumption that only the Majority Leader, or only a member of the majority, can call the Senate into session. However, all 100 senators have that privilege. And so, it is Mitch McConnell who is calling the pro forma sessions, not Schumer.

In case you were wondering, the schedule for the pro forma sessions is as follows:

  • Monday, December 20th at 5:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, December 23rd at 11:00 a.m.
  • Monday, December 27th at 4:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, December 30th at 8:30 a.m.

What we would like to know is: Which senator or senators will be present on those days? Usually, it's one of the senators from Maryland, Virginia, or Delaware, since they're all local. However, that's six Democrats, who presumably won't be excited about making a return trip to town to help the Republicans. Next up, by proximity, are Pennsylvania and West Virginia, each of which has one Republican senator. So, we guess Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) get the job.

A.W. in Chicago, IL, asks: I was reflecting on the Scalia SCOTUS vacancy recently—the one where Mitch McConnell screwed over President Obama and Merrick Garland, such that Donald Trump was ultimately allowed to fill it—and I thought about recess appointments. If Jennifer Granholm (or some other Cabinet Secretary) quit tomorrow, President Biden would be able to fill the vacancy until the Senate got its act together to approve (or reject) his appointee. My question: Why don't Supreme Court vacancies work the same way? Is it just convention, or is there some constitutional reason why they couldn't?

V & Z answer: Actually, if Granholm quit tomorrow, she'd be replaced by Deputy Secretary David M. Turk. Biden would not be able to make a recess appointment because Congress is not technically in recess, due to the pro forma sessions we discuss in the previous answer.

If Congress were in recess, and if a spot opened on the Supreme Court, then Biden could legally fill that spot with a recess appointment. However, per the Supreme Court's decision in NLRB v. Noel Canning, the recess would have to be at least 10 days in duration. And there is no chance these days that the minority party would allow a recess of that length.

You might ask, incidentally, why pro forma sessions are held every 3 days if it takes a 10-day recess for a recess appointment to be legal. The answer is that in NLRB v. Noel Canning, SCOTUS observed that the waiting period could be reduced to as little as 3 days in the event of an emergency (like, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is killed in a nuclear strike). However, it's hard to imagine how an "emergency" need for a Supreme Court justice would arise, since the Court can still function if it's missing one or more members. After Antonin Scalia died on Feb. 13, 2016, the Court functioned with eight members for over a year until the Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch on April 7, 2017.

L.D. in Bedford, MA, asks: You wrote that Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Maizie Hirono (D-HI) are ineligible to be president. My cursory research indicates that Hirono was born in Japan to a American citizen mother and Duckworth in Thailand with an American citizen father. I'm confused as to how they could be ineligible yet Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was born in Calgary and clearly is eligible. Am I missing something here?

V & Z answer: Duckworth was an error, which we went back and fixed. However, Hirono was born in 1947, under a different set of citizenship rules than Duckworth (1968) or Cruz (1970), by virtue of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. So, Hirono was naturalized when Hawaii became a state in 1959, and is not a natural-born citizen.


D.T. in San Jose, CA, asks: I realize that education will always be somewhat influenced by politics. I am curious, though, is there a standard time frame before it becomes acceptable for history classes to touch "controversial" topics? A grace period, to avoid offending people on the wrong side of current events?

My question mostly relates to how educators are handling the January 6th insurrection. I doubt many high schools would be brave enough to teach that this event was an attempt to overturn a legitimate election, and install a fascist government. Even though that may be accurate, most schools probably aren't willing to address a topic that will enrage 30-60% of the parents. How long will it be, before history classes can talk about January 6th without sugarcoating things?

V & Z answer: College-level history courses can cover pretty much anything, as administrators (and parents) have little or no input as to the curriculum. For at least 15 years, (Z) has had a lecture on the 9/11 attacks in his U.S. history course. And for at least 5 years, he's had a segment in his World War II lecture comparing the rhetoric of Donald Trump to the rhetoric of Adolf Hitler. It's wise to handle such things delicately, just to avoid cranky e-mails, but it's doable.

At the pre-college levels (high school, junior high, elementary, etc.), there are more constraints. A teacher has to keep things age appropriate, of course. Further, there are usually a set of standards and a textbook that the course is expected to follow. And school boards and parents usually have input, and that input reflects local politics. Exactly how much time has passed since the event is, on the whole, a minor factor.

What we are saying is that if a person is teaching a high school history or civics class in, say, California or New York, then the events of 1/6 are probably fair game for a day or two in the module on "modern America." If that same person is teaching a high school history or civics class in, say, Texas or Tennessee, probably not so much. But that teacher would also run into trouble trying to dig into Japanese internment, or slavery, or the Trail of Tears. The problem is not the passage of time, it's politics.

And if a student is pre-high school, these tricky subjects would be largely off the table everywhere due to not being age appropriate.

M.G. in Boulder, CO, asks: In our lives and culture, we want to know something in order to do something. We go to doctors to find out what's wrong so it can be fixed. We go to school hoping to have a better life as a result of what we've learned. The police try to find facts so that the right person pays for committing a crime. A court wants facts to determine innocence or guilt.

When I took a graduate class in history, my classmates were asked what purpose there was in studying history—what is the historian's job? My favorite classmate said it was to find the truth.

In your answer to M.C. in Santa Clara last week, you wrote: "What we are defending here—and it is the historian (Z) who is writing this, of course—is the ethics and the methods of the historical profession. The goal, as much as is possible, is to understand..."

You have refused several times, in discussing controversial issues, to make judgments based on the facts you have given us. This goes against what we see on TV and in movies and in real life. Would you explain the ethics and methods of your (Z's) profession and how they relate to

V & Z answer: Today is Christmas. And so, in honor of that occasion, we would start by asking you to consider the Christmas song of your choice. "Jingle Bells," or "White Christmas," or "The Little Drummer Boy," or some other. Assuming you are not a musician, you could learn to play that particular song on a piano in fairly short order, maybe a few hours. However, that would convey virtually no ability to play any other song, Christmas or otherwise.

Alternatively, one can actually learn how to play the piano—what notes each key corresponds to, how to read sheet music, how to translate sheet music into the appropriate finger movements, etc. This would take a lot longer, but eventually you'd gain the ability to play many songs, Christmas or otherwise.

When it comes to a historical person or event, it is easy enough to absorb the basic facts of the event and to repeat them back. But if all you know is a one- or two-paragraph summation of, say, Harry S. Truman's decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, you haven't learned any "truth." Or, at best, you're learned a small portion of some other person's truth.

By contrast, if a person learns about the debate that was going on in Truman's head, and the pros for dropping the bomb(s) and the cons, and the various events that were taking place around him, and the choices he made, then there are several advantages. To start, the person can discover their own truth about the subject. Further, they are far more likely to remember what they've learned, since it's a collection of pieces they have put together in a manner that is logical to them as opposed to just an information dump. They are also going to be far more open to listening and considering, since they don't feel someone else's truth is being imposed upon them. And they might even be in a position to build on the information they've learned. For example, they might be able to answer questions that were not directly answered by what they heard/read, but are related and are implied by what they learned (e.g., "Did Truman do it because he was a racist?").

This is what the best teachers try to do: Teach the underlying processes, and not just the end result. And that's also what we try to do with this site: explain what happened, give our best assessment of how and why it happened that way, and then leave the readers to develop their own, personal truth. Maybe two readers' truths will look the same, maybe not.

As to passing judgment, let's start with the example of a chemist who is studying whether or not cholesterol is a steroid precursor. That chemist would conduct a bunch of trials, and would collect a bunch of data, and would write up their conclusions. But whatever they found, would you expect them to deem that result "right" or "wrong"? "Moral" or "immoral"? "Just" or "unjust"? Of course not, because that makes no sense.

Historians don't deal with chemicals, or molecules, or titrates, or other inanimate objects. They deal with human beings. And humans tend to judge other humans—past, present, and future. So, perhaps it makes sense to non-academics that historians should pass judgment. But to a very large extent, a trained historian just doesn't do it because it's as pointless as deciding whether the result of the cholesterol study is "right" or "wrong." We're trying to understand, and our personal opinion about Truman's decision, or Theodore Roosevelt's imperialism, or Elizabeth Cady Stanton's feminism doesn't change what actually happened, and runs the risk of getting in the way of dispassionate analysis. This ideal is not always perfectly realized, of course; it's hard not to admire Abraham Lincoln or to lament Joseph McCarthy. But it's generally realized pretty well.

We try to achieve that level of dispassion with the site, as well. It's harder than it is with physics (V's degree) and it's much harder than it is with history (Z's degree) because the Biden presidency, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, Trumpism, etc. are ongoing concerns that actually affect people's lives. But we try. It's also worth noting that some things we write that might appear to be opinion-sharing or politicking really aren't. For example, in the context of the Civil War, (Z) would have no problem writing that Thaddeus Stevens was widely disliked, even by his fellow Republicans. And (Z) would write that because Stevens really was widely disliked and that absolutely affected his ability to get things done. The exact same is true of Ted Cruz, and so we have no problem writing that he's a jerk, because that's how he's perceived, and that's a huge stumbling block for his political hopes. You can't understand "Ted Cruz" without understanding how he's perceived by others.

We actually got an e-mail this week tearing into us for having opinions, and proposing that we "just report the facts," and also that we "cut the snark." Again, we don't doubt that our attempts to be analytical are sometimes shaped by our personal viewpoints on the issues. However, if someone wants "just the facts," that's simply not our niche. Go read Politico or Bloomberg News or Taegan Goddard's site if that is what you're looking for. As to the snark, that's part of our authorial voice, and is also meant to keep things from getting too dry. If you want snark-free analysis, then subscribe to The Economist or read ProPublica.

D.M.C. in Seoul, South Korea, asks: In regards to your answer to the question from M.C. in Santa Clara last week, I'm so sorry to hear that (V) and (Z) get called such horrible things. But, I'm curious what the accusation of being Neo-Confederates was in response to. While does have a clear political orientation (although, I assume that's just because V and Z are trying to be realistic and, as Stephen Colbert has pointed out, reality has a well known liberal bias), in regards to historical issues the site has always taken a very even-handed approach and in the case of the Confederacy has always pushed back against the Lost Cause myth. So, the Neo-Confederate accusation, in particular, seems absurd.

V & Z answer: It's happened a couple of times; most recently there were several e-mails like that after the piece we wrote about Native American genocide. The argument was not that we are Confederate apologists, per se, it was that we were guilty of whitewashing history, just like the neo-Confederates.

M.V. in San Francisco, CA, asks: You wrote: "The President cannot issue new/more forcefully worded executive orders that say 'Ah! Forget the courts!' If they could, imagine what Donald Trump would have done with that power."

Care to explain what was different, then, with Andrew Jackson and the Native Americans?

V & Z answer: The two situations are apples and oranges. Jackson's famous declaration "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!" is probably apocryphal. Nonetheless, it does capture his basic feelings about the Supreme Court's finding in Worcester v. Georgia, which endeavored to give the Cherokee Nation control over their tribal lands. SCOTUS never actually asked Jackson, or any other federal official, to enforce the decision. But if they had, it would have involved two processes: (1) removing from Cherokee lands those white settlers who had been "licensed" by the government of Georgia to live there, (2) freeing from prison any "unlicensed" settlers who had been arrested, including (Christian missionary Samuel Austin) Worcester.

In other words, had Jackson defied the Supreme Court (which, again, he didn't actually do), it would have been declining to take a specific action they had directed him to take. By contrast, if Joe Biden were to declare that mandatory vaccinations commence immediately, courts be damned, he'd be engaging in action and not inaction. That is a very different kettle of fish and would make Biden, in effect, a dictator.


J.H. in Boston, MA, asks: You wrote that you are unlikely to move back to a 7-days-per-week news publication model. Just not enough news on the weekend, you said.

But you generally write about the previous day's news, for publication first thing in the morning in U.S. time. So, by this logic, shouldn't you be doing your news items on Tuesday through Saturday morning, to cover news from Monday through Friday?

V & Z answer: When it comes to politics, the slow news days are Friday (Saturday posting) and Saturday (Sunday posting). There's usually a lot of news on Sunday (Monday posting) because politicians go on the Sunday morning news shows and say notable things. Further, newspapers tend to publish major investigative pieces in their Sunday editions.

J.P. in Horsham, PA, asks: I don't know why I'm only just now thinking to ask this, but here goes: How do you pronounce the name of your site? Is it eh-LEC-tor-al vote-dot-com, or is it eh-lec-TOR-al vote-dot-com? Or something else entirely? Is this something we should poll the greater readership about?

The answer might make a difference in how we choose to write future limericks, especially by those who care about the meter of the verse...

V & Z answer: We never really thought about it, but we pronounce it eh-LEC-tor-al vote-dot-com because that's faster to say.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec24 More Good News on the COVID Front
Dec24 Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows, Part 413
Dec24 The Courts Are Busy
Dec24 Biden Administration Pushes Back on Uyghur Genocide
Dec24 Cruz for President, Part II (and III, and IV...)
Dec24 Arizona Adopts New District Maps
Dec24 This Week in Schadenfreude
Dec24 A December to Rhymember (Part 31)
Dec23 Schumer Promises a Vote on the Reconciliation Bill in January
Dec23 McConnell Is Actively Courting Manchin
Dec23 Thune Might Retire
Dec23 Hope Hicks Joins Team McCormick
Dec23 Jan. 6 Select Committee Wants to Hear from Jim Jordan
Dec23 FDA Approves COVID Pill
Dec23 Biden Extends Student Loan Pause
Dec23 Democrats Get Their New Jersey Congressional Map
Dec23 A December to Rhymember (Parts 29-30)
Dec22 Biden Speaks
Dec22 Scott Perry, by Contrast, Declines to Speak
Dec22 Biden Administration Finally Has Its Ambassadors
Dec22 Dominion 1, Fox 0
Dec22 Trumper vs. Non-Trumper Senate Races Already Getting Ugly
Dec22 Iowa May Get a Temporary Reprieve
Dec22 A December to Rhymember (Parts 27-28)
Dec21 The Day After
Dec21 Pandemic: Deja Vu All Over Again?
Dec21 1/6 Committee Turns Inward
Dec21 Trump Sues Letitia James
Dec21 Democrats Get Good News from California...
Dec21 ...But Bad News from Florida
Dec21 A December to Rhymember (Parts 25-26)
Dec20 Manchin Doesn't Want to Build Back Better
Dec20 Democrats Are Hoping They Lose Only 10-20 Seats in the House
Dec20 House Republicans Are Already Planning What They Will Do with the Majority in 2023...
Dec20 ...But Some Republicans Are Worried about Roe v. Wade
Dec20 Omicron Is Going to Take over This Winter
Dec20 Capitol Rioter Gets Sentence of Over 5 Years
Dec20 Another House Democrat Calls It Quits
Dec20 The FDIC Is in Turmoil
Dec20 In Nevada, It's Environmentalists vs. Environmentalists
Dec20 Johnny Isakson Passes Away
Dec19 Sunday Mailbag
Dec18 Saturday Q&A
Dec17 Build Back Better Will Wait Until Next Year
Dec17 FDA Makes More Relaxed Abortion-Pill Rules "Permanent"
Dec17 Rep. Jim Jordan Sent Insurrectionist Text Message
Dec17 Gonna Turn My Red State...Redder
Dec17 This Week in Schadenfreude
Dec17 Is BoJo about to BoGo? Readers Weigh In...
Dec17 A December to Rhymember (Parts 22-23-24)