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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

As you know, if you read the weekly Q&A, the topic of the week is the filibuster. And so we begin there.


R.H. in Seattle, WA, writes: I personally believe the events of this past week have all been kabuki theater. There is no way Joe Biden was naive enough to think Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) were going to change their positions on the filibuster. I think the only thing that was not in the script was Sinema's floor speech before Biden's meeting with the Democratic caucus. While I think the preference of the majority of the caucus was to change the rules to return to the talking filibuster, I think the real endgame here is to use the existing rules to force the Republicans to hold the floor and go on record as to what their reasons for opposition to the voting rights bills are.

N.F. in Brussels, Belgium, writes: Some Democratic and civil rights activists, and many of your readers, have expressed concerns about the Democrats taking so long to bring up the voting rights legislation and accompanying potential changes to the filibuster. And why Joe Biden has appeared so passive until now.

Reading your piece "Biden 2.0 Speaks Again," it finally clicked for me. Democrats are going to use this as an issue to work up the base and drive them to the polls in November. Voting rights is a much better issue than infrastructure to motivate the base to actually vote (regardless of whether any legislation passes). Not a bad strategy after all...

R.P. in Pullman, WA, writes: In his 1963 letter from Birmingham jail, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote:

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Kyrsten Sinema is more concerned with not upsetting the Republicans and Joe Manchin is more concerned about not risking any change to the filibuster. They'd like to see a new Voting Rights Bill, buuuuuuut... they prefer a negative peace, which is the absence of tension.

W.H. in Miami, FL, writes: I love your site, and I respect the work you do. However, I am sick and damn tired of you pretending that Joe Manchin is honorable, principled, and just a conservative-leaning moderate. BULLS**T! He is a GRIFTER who is making as much money as he can off of his swing vote position. Every time the Democrats compromise to try and meet his demands, he changes them. His stand on the filibuster is just as mercurial. By pretending that he is acting on some genuinely held reasonable beliefs, you and other media are enabling his bad behavior. Joe Manchin's obstructionist actions could very well cause the downfall of democracy in the United States. He does not even want the voting rights bill that he himself wrote to pass by a majority vote!

I wrote to you a few months ago, suggesting the Democrats should simply buy Manchin off by giving him more campaign contributions than what he is getting from the Republican donors (which I don't think you published, if you did I missed it). Manchin needs to be either bought off or VILIFIED as the enemy of democracy that he is. Pretending that this is an issue on which reasonable minds can differ is a false equivalency. If Manchin continues his obstruction, particularly on voting rights, it will likely result in the minority rule of the Republicans, possibly forever. The very existence of democracy is at stake, it should be screamed from every mountain top.

V & Z respond: Note that we have certainly raised the possibility that Manchin is all about the grift, as in this item.

S.K. in Chappaqua, NY, writes: I don't get it. Kyrsten Sinema said that she opposes a carve-out or modification of the filibuster for legislation banning voter suppression because she fears that weakening the filibuster would give Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY-R) justification for doing something similar once Republicans regain control of the Senate. But that ship has sailed.

She pointed out that after then-Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV-D) carved appointments to cabinet positions and to judicial positions below the Supreme Court out of the filibuster, to get around McConnell's filibustering of President Obama's appointees, McConnell used that excuse to place three uniquely unqualified justices on the Supreme Court. She made no mention of the fact that increasing the national debt was carved out recently by bipartisan agreement.

How can she not realize that McConnell needs no new excuse, but Democrats and President Joe Biden need fair elections?

National Politics

H.F. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: B.B. in Columbus wondered "whether it might actually be to [Joe] Biden's advantage to invite the Libertarian nominee to debate him if [Donald] Trump won't" participate in the 2024 debates. While that might get a few moderate Republican voters to switch to the Libertarian candidate instead of Trump, Biden would have to invite the Green Party candidate to the show as well. That could cause many Democrats to vote for the Green candidate instead. Biden well remembers what happened to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Al Gore in 2000 even without third party candidates appearing at the debates.

G.B. in Dallas, TX, writes: Ever since Ross Perot got into the 1992 debates, the Commission on Presidential Debates has had a 15% polling threshold for admission, in order to prevent a third-party candidate from getting in again. If the RNC really does boycott the 2024 debates, it's more likely that they would be canceled than for the Libertarian nominee to be invited. Just one more tradition and norm that the Trump years have broken.

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: I do not think the 1/6 Committee will or should subpoena Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Scott Perry (R-PA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH). I think instead that the invitations were never designed or expected to produce testimony. In trials, if a party controls witnesses expected to be favorable to the party (like employees or the party itself) and does not call them, the opposing party can ask the judge for a "missing witness instruction" to the jury (the elements and details vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, of course) that tells the jury it may make an adverse inference against the party from their failure to call someone who should, in theory, testify in support of the party. That is, the jury is told it may infer that the missing witness, testifying truthfully, would give evidence adverse to the party. It's the dog that didn't bark.

The 1/6 Committee likely has much of the evidence the Republican Congressmen would give, but now it can report that it gave them the opportunity to respond (which is why each was sent a detailed letter containing the request to appear), and they chose not to, so everything the Committee has to say about the trio's words and actions will be unrebutted in the court of public opinion.

J.K. in Short Hills, NJ, writes: In February, I wrote:

A potential winning argument against a $1.9T fiscal stimulus, which former Clinton Treasury Secretary Summers has already made, is that the Democrats' plan will trigger real inflation. The size of the projected package is significantly greater than the output gap caused by Covid-19 and can subsequently drive-up consumer prices.

While I concede that the current composition of Congress leaves the President effectively powerless to combat inflation, he has, in my opinion, contributed to it thanks to the signing of the American Rescue Plan. Issues surrounding the supply chain may indeed subside in the coming months to make the data less cringeworthy, but an inappropriately sized labor force, mostly as a consequence of older workers taking advantage of higher stock and home prices to retire early, continues to be a sticking point that could drive up wages which, absent a spike in productivity, that can keep consumer price increases far above the norm for the past three decades and, more importantly, the Federal Reserve's publicly stated target.

P.M. in Currituck, NC, writes: Your item linking to the piece by Ezra Klein about "political hobbyism" resonated with me. For all the (never-ending) talk from political junkies on both sides (all of the right-wing universe and the folks on the left), I have said for years that the majority of Americans just don't care, or at best only casually care, about politics.

I believe if you polled 10 random people about the political maneuvers that so many readers here hang onto, the results would be something like this:

  • 6 wouldn't care at all
  • 2 would be casually interested
  • 2 would be rabid for their specific viewpoint

I have no scientific basis to back that up; it is just a feeling I have had from conversations with numerous people as I travel around the country.

This Week in TrumpWorld

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: To me, Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) empty threat to Mitch McConnell was a bit of an own-goal. If that's the best Donald Trump can do to hit back at McConnell's obvious strategy of starting to puncture his supposedly impenetrable armor, that will only embolden McConnell. It's not only a weak move but it shows that he's making Trump nervous and is on the right track. Trump also knows that he created this opening by telling the truth about the vaccines, which Biden cleverly led him to by praising his efforts to develop the vaccine so quickly. So, now he needs cover from other right-wing politicians (ahem, Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-FL) and needs them to say that they've also been vaccinated, which DeSantis is now exploiting by criticizing Trump's COVID strategy. It's going to be very difficult for Trump to fight on both these fronts: the move-on-from-2020-election front and the anti-vaxx front. Both will continue to expose these cracks in Trump support and see how far they can push it. McConnell tried this before, was smacked down, and quickly fell back in line. So, he's taking baby steps again that he can just as easily disavow. But Graham has made it seem like this time he may be more successful. I expect this proxy campaign to expand and get louder.

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: Regarding the poll revealing that many Americans prefer (whether they realize it or not) autocracy to democracy: The yearning for a strongman leader is the hallmark of the politically naive. Considering how many Americans don't follow politics, and how many don't vote, I am not surprised that many of our fellow citizens are seeking an anti-democratic, authoritarian solution to our nation's ills. Unfortunately, GOP political operatives have done a superlative job of riling up that segment of the population with heaps of disinformation.

Incidentally, when I refer to "disinformation," I mean planting false information in such a manner that the recipient doesn't realize it's coming from a political entity. It's just received as "the truth."

K.R. in Austin, TX, writes: I find these two consecutive results interesting. Clearly, a number of people are thinking about two different "authorities" in these questions.

  • Obedience & respect for authority are the most important values children should learn (58/40)
  • You have to admire those who challenge the law & the majority's view by protesting for their causes (58/40)

D.A. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: Speaking of Donald Trump's attack on Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), You wrote: "'I will never endorse this jerk again.' Such elegance! If that sentence was in iambic pentameter, we might well have mistaken it for Shakespeare."

If you're willing to adjust the syllable accents in "never" (something the Bard did all the time), that sentence is iambic pentameter.

But you know, somehow it didn't strike me as Shakespearean.

D.S. in Palo Alto, CA, writes: With respect to Mr. Former's gentle rebuke of Mike Rounds, allow me to paraphrase one of my favorite Nat King Cole songs, "Looking Back":

Looking back over his life
I intended to cause him strife
And I know, oh yes I know
I will never endorse this jerk again.

S.R. in Ottawa, ON, Canada, writes: In response to a question from M.M. in San Diego, you discussed some of the right-wing disinformation on the Covid vaccine. I keep trying to wean myself off the right-wing sites (particularly on the advice of my fellow American expat friend, K.C. in Beijing, China), but it takes time. In addition to the VAERS "statistics," which they also consistently claim are only 10% of reported cases (so they multiply the numbers you gave by ten as a matter of course), they also frequently post what I can only call "tug at the heart-strings" death stories that always imply, without evidence, that the vaccines are responsible.

This item from The Gateway Pundit, headlined "Tragic: 14-Year-Old Israeli American Girl Suffers and Dies from COVID Vaccine—Makes a Video of Her Story Five Days Before Her Death," is a good example of a tragic death that they commandeer for their own purposes. The comments are something else. The right-wingers would undoubtedly respond to the finding that Betty White died of a stroke by arguing that her booster shot caused the stroke. That's how they operate. And it's not just "the Covid vaccine" anymore in right-wing circles, it's either the "controversial vaccine," "the clot shot," "the kill shot," or the "Biden death shot."

All Politics Is Local

R.E. in Birmingham, AL, writes: Katie Britt, Sen. Richard Shelby's (R-AL) former chief of staff, is running a commercial in which she claims her little girl saw Jesus during a tornado.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) has an ad consisting entirely of Donald Trump praising him, which ends with a title slide "Mo Brooks...for Trump...for Senate."

One of them will join Coach Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) to represent my state in the United States Senate, the greatest deliberative body in the world.

Deep, deep sigh.

M.B. in Cleveland, OH, writes: Apparently you have influence with editorial boards! Two days after you wrote that Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) had announced that he was running for a third term, having discovered that the people of Wisconsin and indeed the entire country needed him to serve, the Cleveland Plain Dealer published an editorial urging Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to announce his un-retirement and run for a third term, because the people of Ohio and, indeed, the entire country need for him to serve. Without him in the race in 2022, Ohio's choice will be either a lunatic or a Democrat. (They do point out that state senator Matt Dolan, R, is a sane Republican running for the seat, but that he is overshadowed by at least four loud crazy people.)

For what it's worth, the Plain Dealer regularly endorses both Democrats and Republicans, slightly more of the former. They endorsed Portman in both of his previous Senate campaigns, despite the fact that he usually keeps his spine locked in the safe deposit box he shares with Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

S.L. in Monrovia, CA, writes: While I truly appreciate the humor, I am rarely caught off-guard. But this one was a pearl: "the special election [to replace Devin Nunes] will be scheduled as soon as Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-CA, is in the moooooood to do so)."

V & Z respond: If anyone didn't get the joke, they will want to read about the lawsuit filed by the former representative against the author of the Devin Nunes' Cow Twitter feed.

J.F. in Ft. Worth, TX, writes: Field report from north/central Texas:

I believe there may be a storm brewing in Texas concerning the Republican primary for governor. I had expected that the upcoming gubernatorial election would quickly become Gov. Greg Abbott (R) vs. Beto O'Rourke (D) in the general, with the primaries being pro forma, but I think I was mistaken.

On recent trips from north Texas to the Austin and Houston areas, I saw a number of "Huffines for Governor" billboards. This is Republican Don Huffines of the Huffines car dealerships family, so the name is known around north Texas. The billboards show (and advance scuttlebutt is) that Huffines is challenging Abbott from the right, which is quite a feat. Over the holidays, I saw a number of Huffines commercials on both Austin and Houston local channels.

Billboards and TV ads do not equal a credible political campaign (cough...Michael Bloomberg...cough), of course, and I know that Huffines is largely self-funded. However, what I did not expect was the large number of "Huffines for Governor" bumper stickers and back-window decals on I-35 and I-45. His Trumpism (anti-immigrant, anti-property tax, anti-socialism) is resonating with a number of Texans and it appears a grassroots movement is afoot. So far, I haven't seen a single bumper sticker or yard sign for Abbott or O'Rourke. (Back in 2018, the Whataburger-font "Beto for Senate" bumper stickers and yard signs were everywhere, indicating a lot of grassroots excitement about his campaign against the dreaded Sen. Ted Cruz, TX.)

Just a heads-up that the Republican gubernatorial primary may turn into a real barnburner.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: I might point out that, while your statement concerning the possibility of a "purple" Congressional Map is true, it is not because such a map is not possible, but because the GOP mapmakers would never allow such a map.

It is entirely possible to draw such a map, because I did it, using Dave's Redistricting. Have a look.

Be the Change You Want to See

M.D. in the Poconos, PA, writes: You gave a good response to K.B. in Madison regarding helping in an election, but I'd like to add a suggestion that they find their local county Democratic party and attend meetings. Mobilize is indeed a great site for finding events. But to learn what is needed locally you need to contact your county party and get involved.

I don't know if Wisconsin is the same as Pennsylvania, but most of our county parties do a terrible job of advertising their existence. I lived here 30 years and didn't find out our county Democratic party existed until I got involved in the Obama campaign. Presidential elections seem to be how most people get involved. So check the Internet to see if they have a Facebook, Twitter or web presence and find out when and where the next meeting is. We just started doing hybrid meetings, Zoom and in-person at our office, after almost 2 years of Zoom only.

As to things to help with, here we've found phone banking and texting campaigns get the most return for the effort, especially in the time of COVID. We have done almost no door-to-door canvassing in the past 2 years. Texting, especially with younger voters, is helpful as people generally have no home phone any more or just don't answer phone calls.

Other things that will help are to do voter registration drives. And you don't even have to get involved with the Democratic Party to do that, as even men can join their local League of Women Voters and help get voters registered. Also, I personally like sending post cards to neighbors asking them to vote and to offer assistance with learning about candidates to vote for. And we are always looking for drivers to take people either to the polls on Election Day or to ballot drop boxes to cast their ballots. In Pennsylvania, the Republicans made it illegal for even a spouse, child or anyone else to deposit a mail ballot in the mail or a dropbox.

V & Z respond: Thanks for the benefit of your experience!

Meanwhile, Across the Pond...

C.B. in Bath, England, UK, writes: You like to dip your toes into U.K. politics on occasion, and many of your readers will be aware of the current shenanigans at Number 10 Downing Street.

After numerous stories of dishonesty, corruption and basic incompetence involving PM Boris Johnson and his government, "Partygate" appears to have finally cut through and left the Government very badly, probably mortally, damaged in the eyes of the British public.

Indeed, the latest revelations—and they have been coming at a dizzying pace in the last month—are that while the country was effectively in strict lockdown in May 2020, there were apparently raucous drunken parties being held in 10 Downing Street on the very same night as Queen Elizabeth II was following the advice (and the law) at the time by paying her final respects to her dead husband completely alone as he lay at rest in St. George's chapel. The photographs melted even the staunchest republican's heart. The Queen followed the rules, as she invariably has and does. And so did the vast majority of other Britons. Many thousands of people from all walks of life made similar painful sacrifices for the greater good.

It is hard to think of a more damaging episode, at least in terms of the optics, for this Tory government. I've been trying to think of something that would be the equivalent in the U.S. Despite Donald Trump's many disgraces, alleged crimes and misdemeanors, even he was unable to concoct a single perfect scandal that was guaranteed to disgust almost every person in the country, including his own supporters.

The closest was probably the "losers" jibe about dead U.S. soldiers. I am still quite stunned this didn't gain greater traction with the U.S. public, although Trumpworld did vehemently deny it in the face of numerous credible sources. And we, in the UK, still have at least one significant advantage over the U.S.: We don't have Fox News, and our TV news media is strictly regulated and by and large trusted by most Britons (with some caveats).

It really looks like the game is up for BoJo, at least today. Next week? Who knows? But his disapproval rate is now 74%. It does look terminal.

M.A.K. in London, England, UK, writes: Regarding your summary of Boris Johnson's legislative agenda, some of it is accurate, but unfortunately some of it is alarmist and exaggerated. That's not to say I like any of the things the Prime Minister is trying to do. However, some of the things you've written, such as "It would also allow police to stop anyone for no reason at all, even without a suspicion that person had committed a crime" are factually incorrect and extremely misleading.

To take one example, the Government is not (yet) trying to end all judicial review forever, and "no more pesky judges" is a completely inaccurate characterization. Again, I don't agree with what in fact the Government is trying to do, but that ain't it.

What they are trying to do is get rid of judicial review as it pertains to some decisions of something called the Upper Tribunal, which hears appeals for tribunal cases about administrative matters relating to tax, pensions, land, employment disputes, compulsory purchase of property, sickness benefits, and the like. They're specifically legislating to dump a form of judicial review from the Upper Tribunal that was only held to be possible by a 2011 Supreme Court decision. They are not even trying to get rid of all judicial reviews from the Tribunal, never mind trying to end all judicial review forever. They would almost certainly like to come for judicial review more widely before the next election, but that's not remotely what they're doing this time around.

In addition, it must be noted that judicial review in England is far less consequential than in the U.S. Our courts can't strike down laws like American courts can; things can't be unconstitutional if there's no codified constitution to violate. Parliamentary supremacy and an electoral system that usually returns working majorities makes it a lot easier for the Government to legislate and correct the situation to their liking, if that's what they want to do, when certain decisions are found to be unlawful by judicial review.

Legal Matters

S.C-M. in Scottsdale, AZ, writes: You are correct that the Supreme majority's opinion on the large employer mandate is incoherent. I do not think this kind of ruling will end here. The goal seems to me to go after any regulations. In particular, I can see the Supreme majority nullifying the effects of the Commerce Clause which is the basis for much of our environmental regulations such as auto emissions and water quality measures.

I can see them striking down any measures to mitigate climate change based on the specious reasoning that we cannot do anything about it here in our nation since the phenomena is worldwide and affects everybody. The hack factor just keeps increasing with this bunch.

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: I have been trying to make some sort of sense out of the Supreme Court's ruling on vaccine mandates but it is eluding me. From where I sit the two rulings seem completely arbitrary, which further hastens the court's irrelevancy. Chief Justice John Roberts likes to talk about that he just calls balls and strikes, but these two rulings are so illogical and contradictory to each other that it becomes clear that's he's not calling balls and strikes but rather through some sort of "argle bargle" is randomly splitting votes to try and give the court an unbiased sheen. How very sad that the Chief Justice doesn't realize that without sound legal foundations to his rulings, his "balls and strikes" are making SCOTUS look like the Bad News Bears at the beginning of their film.

While reading, I saw that Roberts had this to say about the OSHA ruling, "Why doesn't Congress have a say in this?" Am I the only one who is getting fed up with Roberts' lame "get out of jail" excuse for whenever he rules for party over jurisprudence? Remember, Roberts said something similar when he gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013. I can easily imagine a day when the right wing retakes power, promptly makes the Democratic Party illegal, and abolishes voting in favor of their autocrat of the moment. If some brave soul attempts to block these acts legally and their case gets to SCOTUS, Roberts will complaisantly smile and say "Gosh darn it, but boy the Congress should really pass a law to prevent the end of democracy. Sadly, my hands are tied. What can you do?" That's the rationale of the intellectually feeble and the spirit of the most abject lickspittle. It's the kind of willy-nilly sophistry that will only make Chief Justice Roger Taney happy, because now he'll have competition for worst Supreme Court chief justice of all time.

T.M.M. in Odessa, MO, writes: R.H. in Santa Ana asked about contributing to a certain member of Congress for a potential future race. Two points. First, federal campaign finance law only applies to federal races like for the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and President. So, the ability to move those funds to state races depends upon how the state campaign finance law treats federal contributions (and vice-versa, but it is rather hard to move state funds to federal races).

Second, as you noted, the contribution limits apply to each election. But there is no requirement that a candidate spend every dollar raised for the 2022 primary race on the 2022 primary. If a candidate finds themselves unopposed in the 2022 primary, they can bank every dollar raised for that race for the next race—the 2022 general election—and so on. It is not unusual—and most of the major candidates do—to have cash left over in the bank at the end of an election for the next cycle which is why senators who run for president typically have several million that they can transfer from their Senate campaign committee to their presidential campaign committee. And the same is true for representatives who choose to run for senator.

The bottom line is that you, the donor, can only give $2,900 per race. If the donor gives more than $2,900, the first part of the donation is available for the upcoming election, but anything over that is held to the side for the election after that. The candidate with a safe seat who wants to run for a higher office can bank most of the money that they raise in 2021-22 for a future race in 2024.

J.B. in Bend, OR, writes: You wrote: "Both federal law and Georgia state law say that recording a phone call requires the consent of just one party to the call. So, that is not an 'out' for Trump."

I think it's a bit more nuanced than that. You don't need the other party's consent, but they do need to know they are being recorded (or should have reasonably believed the conversation was not private). This is why when you call most organizations, a recording tells you that the call "may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance purposes." They aren't getting your consent to be recorded, but you know that you might be.

However, I don't know that Trump could use that to convince a judge to suppress the recording. This is not an example of the DoJ bringing charges after the FBI conducts a sting using illegal means. The recording might be usable against Trump, but Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensburger (R) could be liable for the crime of recording him.

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: I'd bet a bitcoin that when (V) started this site, he never imagined he'd be writing about "successor liability!" As this was part of my daily work as a government lawyer, I can say that, like most legal things, it's more complicated than the short explanation (V) could provide. But (V) is right that courts "frown upon this kind of chicanery" to try to avoid liability. In fact, sometimes they use a stronger word, and call it "fraud."

What's in a Slogan?

M.H. in Coralville, IA, writes: Regarding your list of great campaign slogans: I did my undergrad at Purdue. When I was there the biggest local shopping mall was Tippecanoe Mall. Across the street was a small strip mall called Tyler Two. I believe Tippecanoe Mall still exists; I don't think Tyler Two is there anymore.

The battlefield is a nice bicycle ride from the Purdue campus; I did that a few times in my student days.

V & Z respond: Our understanding is that Tyler Two mall disappeared when Marty accidentally ran over the 10th president in the DeLorean.

P.N. in Austin, TX, writes: Best slogan: "Don't change horses midstream;" Abraham Lincoln, then Franklin D. Roosevelt. So good it's become a proverb.

D.J. in Jordan, NY, writes: Technically this is an anti-campaign slogan, but FDR used the slogan "Sunflowers Die in November" against the candidacy of his opponent, Kansas governor Alf Landon, in the 1936 presidential campaign. Landon used the sunflower as a symbol in his campaigning, as many campaign buttons attest.

C.J.A. in Tucson, AZ, writes: Don't know where this came from, and it is a bit on the raunchy side, but we did say this among our bunch back in the day: "Don't switch dicks in the middle of a screw, stick with Nixon in '72."

And don't forget: "Can't Lick our Dick!"

V & Z respond: And in 1976, some Democrats used "Pardon my dick, too!"

C.W. in Myrtle Beach, SC, writes: Maybe it is just recency bias but I think the first "Yes, We Can" speech after the New Hampshire primary loss in 2008 is a big part of how Barack Obama got the nomination. And he used that slogan all the way through the general.

His 2008 campaign was great with slogans in general: "Fired up! Ready to go!", "Change You Can Believe In," "Hope," etc.

A.M. in Miami Beach, FL, writes: I'll nominate "Whip Inflation Now" for the bad slogan list.

Gerald Ford's slogan (which may have also been initially promoted as "Stop Inflation Now"—I recall buttons saying "SIN" at the same time, though Wikipedia doesn't) merely served to remind people of the rising inflation and high unemployment and inability of his administration to get either under control.

E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, writes: When you asked for bad presidential slogans, you didn't specify whether these had to be from party nominees or just from aspiring candidates. In my view, one of the worst was "Jeb!", used by the 2016 campaign of Gov. John Ellis "Jeb" Bush (R-FL). I don't know if it was ever an "official" slogan, but it definitely became associated with him and his campaign. It told voters absolutely nothing about the candidate other than his name and the (pointless!) exclamation point made it a source of endless parody from late night TV hosts. I still crack up every time Stephen Colbert shrieks Jeb's name on The Late Show. Talk about a career-ending slogan!

A.C. in Kingston, MA, writes: I don't know whether this would fall under "best slogans" or "worst slogans," but I think you have to include the Bush-Cheney Sloganator from 2004 (incidentally, the year I discovered your site!). For those who don't remember (or weren't born), the premise was to allow local Bush-campaign-supporting groups to create their own Bush-Cheney signs with a custom phrase at the top. When they launched it, they were thinking along the lines of "North Shore High School Young Republicans" or "Arkadelphia Chamber of Commerce" or "Hilo Republican Town Committee," no doubt. But then liberals discovered the site and had a little too much fun with it. It took awhile before campaign staff figured anything out and replaced the make-your-own feature with a drop-down menu of pre-approved groups.

Unfortunately, the NYU student page hosting the memorial has since been taken down, but I do remember my personal favorite being "Why change horsemen mid-apocalypse?" This article lists a few other memorable phrases people added.

P.J.T. in Raton, NM, writes: This was never an actual slogan, though it might and should have been: "Reelect Gore in 2004!"

It would have reminded people that Gore actually won Florida's popular vote, but for the political chicanery of Katherine Harris and the Florida GOP (and SCOTUS, who deprived thousands of Florida voters of their franchise by stopping the vote count). Plus, it rhymes! A memorable slogan, a great rally chant, a great bumper sticker.

M.C. in Koorda, WA, Australia, writes: One for your election slogans. Not from the U.S. but from Australia in the 1970's. The federal election in 1975 pitted Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam against leader of the Liberal opposition's Malcolm Fraser. Labor came up with the slogan "Gough's Going Great!" Sounded good, until the Liberal party added some punctuation, changing it to "Gough's Going? Great!" Labor lost the election.

History Matters

F.L. in Denton, TX, writes: I'm guessing about a hundred people have already sent you this article, headlined "Republican school bill mocked for claim Frederick Douglass debated Lincoln: Virginia bill banning teaching of 'divisive concepts' confused black civil rights campaigner with white senator Stephen Douglas."

I especially like the following quote:

"New rule," wrote Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor. "If you don't know the difference between Frederick Douglass and Stephen Douglas, you don't get to tell anyone else what to teach."

V & Z respond: We are reminded of the occasion when the actor James Earl Jones was to be presented a plaque honoring his civil rights activism with the inscription "Thank you James Earl Jones for keeping the dream alive." However, the engraver accidentally inscribed it with "Thank you James Earl Ray for keeping the dream alive." Needless to say, the sort of dream the assassin of Martin Luther King Jr. was trying to keep alive is very different from the one envisioned by Jones.

K.J.O. in Brookdale, NJ, writes: Is this an error? You wrote: "In other words, when it passed the legislation enabling OSHA in 1922..."

I think OSHA was created in 1971.

V & Z respond: We got many e-mails about this, and we went back and removed the year, since it's not important to the point being made. However, while the agency acquired the name OSHA in 1971, it was first established as the Bureau of Labor Standards in 1922.

On a similar note, we got many e-mails telling us that it was Japan, and not Germany, that bombed Pearl Harbor. We know that; it's a reference to a famous line from the movie Animal House. And while we recognize that not everyone has seen that movie, we would observe two things. First, the entire line was a hyperlink, which means that we made a point of providing more information. Isn't it implausible that we would make a mistake that bad while also providing additional information? Second, the joke in the movie works because only an uneducated idiot (in this case, future senator John Blutarsky, owner of a 0.0 GPA) would think that it was the Germans who attacked Pearl Harbor.

The Sporting Life

R.F. in Reedsport, OR, writes: In a more direct answer to the question from S.K. in Sunnyvale, Henry Chadwick was the originator of the batting average in baseball. Chadwick was an immigrant from England working as a cricket reporter for The New York Times when he watched a game in 1856 between New York clubs, Eagle and Gotham. He became enthralled with Base Ball, as it was then known, and started covering the game for various newspapers in New York and Brooklyn. He was so instrumental in popularizing the game that he was made chairman of the rules committee of the National Association of Base Ball Players, the first national organization in baseball history. He also originated the earned run average, the box score and the first widely accepted system of scoring a game, including the notation of "K" for a strikeout.

V & Z respond: In short, New York baseball teams have been ruining the sport for everyone else for nearly a century and a half?

A.B in Lichfield, England, UK, writes: Genuinely delighted though I was to see both a cricket and a Don Bradman reference in Saturday's Q&A, your statement that 'Bradman's single greatest appearance as a batter yielded 270 runs" was incorrect; indeed, was off by nearly 200 runs. Don Bradman's highest score in first-class cricket was 452 not out for New South Wales against Queensland in the Sheffield Shield (Australia's main national competition) in 1930, which to this day remains the third-highest score by a batsman in a single innings. Later that same year, Bradman would set a then-record for the most runs scored in an international test match, scoring 334 against England. Though this record has since been exceeded several times, he remains the only player to score 300 runs in an international test match in a single day.

As it happens, my grandfather (a keen cricketer) was at Bradman's final international Test match in London in 1948. Bradman had already announced that this would be his final Test, and was given a standing ovation from the home crowd as he took the field to bat. He only needed to score four runs to reach a lifetime test batting average of 100. My grandfather often shared that he thought Bradman looked unusually rattled by the sense of occasion and standing ovation, and he was famously bowled for a duck—in other words, he was bowled out without scoring a run—falling just short of that magical 100-run batting average. For context, the second-highest batting average of any international player in history is 61.87, so even Bradman's actual average of 99.94 is more than 50% higher than any other international player. He really was extraordinary.

But yes, cricketers usually score more runs in a game than baseball players (and I won't hear a word spoken against a sport where a single match can take five days and still end without a result).

V & Z respond: We got that number from Wikipedia; it turns out that Bradman's record of 270 runs is for runs scored from the number seven spot in the lineup. We're not clear why that is particularly notable, since #7 is not the bottom of the lineup; it's roughly the equivalent of batting sixth in American baseball.

We also read an article that said Bradman would have scored more runs, and would probably have reached the magic 100-run batting average, but his career was interrupted when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor.


C.C. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: Given the intellect of your readership in conjunction with your propensity towards snark begging to be returned in kind, I believe you made a factual error when you wrote, "we really don't get stupid questions." Shouldn't this have been written in past tense? I suspect I will not be the only one to see that and instantly respond "CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!"

If you would be so kind as to indulge me, I'll lob a few softballs to get this warmed up:

  1. If a question is sent in as a comment, is it a question or a comment?
  2. What is love? E-V don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more.

V & Z respond: In fairness, before we answered that question, we did search the questions inbox for all e-mails from C.C. in Los Angeles.

T.B. in Tallahassee, FL, writes: Regarding stupid questions: Clearly, nobody has asked of you, "How stupid can stupid be?" (My daughters just loved the way I said "stupid" and would ask, several times, for me to repeat the word when I chanced using it—maybe because I pronounce it "stew-pid" and not "stoop-id".) But I'm not asking you anything, so this, at best, is a stupid comment, not a stupid question.

V & Z respond: Mama always said, "Stupid is as stupid does."

C.S. in Minneapolis, MN, writes: A friend had a practice of asking park rangers, "What is the dumbest question you've been asked?"

Without an instant of hesitation, the Ranger responded, "Why were so many Civil War battles fought in national parks?"

V & Z respond: And the most common question at Abraham Lincoln's birthplace is: "Did Lincoln help build this cabin?" (i.e., the one that he was born in).

M.O. in Deerfield, MA, writes: In response to R.T. in Arlington's letter about skin tone and Saturday Night Live skits, you referenced the amazing "Word Association" sketch. The "White Like Me" Eddie Murphy sketch is also still available and it's also amazing. That has always been one of my favorites.

V & Z respond: It seems that a sketch is more likely to survive if the humor is driven, at least in part, by a Black performer. And there are bonus points, apparently, if the performer on the receiving end is... Chevy Chase. Consider that "The Blame Game" is still available.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan15 Saturday Q&A
Jan14 You Win Some, You Lose Some, Part I: The Filibuster
Jan14 You Win Some, You Lose Some, Part II: Vaccine Mandates
Jan14 You Win Some, You Lose Some, Part III: Trouble in GOParadise
Jan14 You Win Some, You Lose Some, Part IV: Justice Drops the Hammer
Jan14 You Win Some, You Lose Some, Part V (?): Ducey for Senate
Jan14 You Win Some, You Lose Some, Part VI (?): RNC Threatens to Skip Presidential Debates
Jan14 This Week in Schadenfreude
Jan13 Inflation Is Roaring
Jan13 Schumer Has Found a Trick to Allow Voting Rights Bill to Be Debated
Jan13 Select Committee Wants to Hear from McCarthy
Jan13 Ohio Supreme Court Strikes Down State House Maps
Jan13 It's the Logistics, Stupid
Jan13 Secretary of State Races Are Suddenly Hot
Jan13 Preview of Trump II
Jan13 Poll: Substantial Number of Americans Want an Autocrat
Jan13 New Mexico Democrats Go for Broke
Jan13 The Battle of the Johns
Jan13 Another Republican in a Safe District is Retiring
Jan12 Biden 2.0 Speaks Again
Jan12 A Big Night for the Democrats?
Jan12 Tar Heel Theater Updates
Jan12 More Republicans Back Rounds
Jan12 Another House Democrat to Retire
Jan12 Bounty Law
Jan12 Looking Forward: The Readers Predict 2022, Part III: Right-wing Politicians and Media
Jan11 Fili-bust-er or Fili-bluster?
Jan11 Heat on Trump Keeps Slowly Increasing
Jan11 GOP Senators Challenge the Throne
Jan11 Scores Will Be Settled if Republicans Win the House
Jan11 Tar Heel Drama, Part I
Jan11 Tar Heel Drama, Part II
Jan11 Looking Backward: How Did The Readers Do?, Part III: Right-wing Politicians and Media
Jan10 Georgia on His Mind
Jan10 Ron Johnson Will Run for Reelection
Jan10 Thune Will Also Run for Reelection
Jan10 Trumpy State Senator Announces Gubernatorial Run in Pennsylvania
Jan10 Hundreds of Nominations Are Stalled in the Senate
Jan10 Trump and Biden Voters View Jan. 6 Very Differently
Jan10 Cyber Ninjas Has Gone to that Great Bit Bucket in the Sky
Jan10 Republicans Have a Short List for the 2024 Convention City
Jan09 Sunday Mailbag
Jan08 Saturday Q&A
Jan07 Biden Comes Out Firing
Jan07 Menendez Jr. Is In...
Jan07 ...and Kristof Is Out (at Least for Now)
Jan07 Looking Forward: The Readers Predict 2022, Part II: Donald Trump's Family and Supporters
Jan07 This Week in Schadenfreude
Jan07 Foreign Elections to Watch
Jan06 The 1/6 Committee: A Status Report