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To our American readers: Happy Thanksgiving!

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The Midterms Contained Warnings for the Democrats

Most reviews of the midterms concluded that the Democrats did really well. After all, they held the Senate and lost only 10 seats in the House. By historical standards, that is fantastic. But is it really? Thomas Edsall has a different take on the midterms. It is worth looking at.

First, turnout was down all over the place. In Philadelphia it was down 33% from 2020. In Chicago, turnout of registered voters was 46% (vs. 61% in 2018). In Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) is was also 46% (vs. 55% in 2018). In New York City it was only 33% (vs. 41% in 2018). New Yorkers don't like voting.

The demographics weren't great for the Democrats either. Yes, over 80% of Black voters went for the Democrats, but that is 4-7 points below 2018. Among Latinos, 56-60% voted for the blue team, but that is off 9-10 points compared to 2018. Among Asian-Americans, 64% voted for Democrats (vs. 71% in 2018).

Republicans won the House, partly due to gerrymandering, but also because they got more votes. Just adding up the raw totals, they got 53.9 million votes to the Democrats' 50.4 million. That said, and as we've pointed out, it's a little more complicated than that because there were some races that did not feature a Democrat vs. a Republican. In the 16 uncontested races this cycle (13 Republicans, 3 Democrats), the red team netted about 1.45 million votes. In the 13 races where the only opposition was from a third-party candidate (10 Republicans, 3 Democrats), the red team netted about 1.3 million votes. In races in California, Louisiana and Alaska, where it was Republican vs. Republican or Democrat vs. Democrat, the Democrats netted about 500,000 votes. In other words, if you only count Republican vs. Democrat races, the Republicans got about 50 million votes and the Democrats got about 48.5 million.

So the Republicans got 50.7% of the competitive vote (and 51.7% overall) and 51% of the House seats. When your percentage of the seats is about the same as your percentage of the votes, that's not really gerrymandering in action (unless it was done by junior gerrymanders without any experience). Senior gerrymanderers get a much larger percentage of the seats than their percentage of the vote would justify. So while Florida and Texas was horribly gerrymandered, when you look at the maps overall, if the Democrats had gotten more votes than the Republicans, they would probably have held the House. It's that's simple. And if the New York State legislature hadn't botched it, the Republicans would probably have had a two- or three-seat margin instead of a "giant" five-seat edge, 222-213.

Edsall's conclusion after crunching the data is that the voters did not turn against the Republican Party. They turned against Donald Trump's truly awful hand-picked candidates. You know, that old "candidate quality" thingie. After the election, Karl Rove wrote in The Wall Street Journal: "The losers Tuesday were often the candidates who closely followed the former president's rally-speech scripts—campaigning on the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Mr. Trump by fraud on a massive scale. Of the Republican candidates for secretary of state or attorney general who based their campaign on this falsehood, only one has pulled through, and he was in deep red territory."

Edsall believes that if the Republicans nominate Trump in 2024, the Democrats will have a good shot at the trifecta they enjoy now and will lose on Jan. 3, 2023. If the Republicans nominate someone else for president, the Party's chances shoot up. And, we might add, if Trump is under indictment or has been convicted of felonies anywhere, nominating him could be just toxic for the GOP. Being elected to public office from prison is tough—unless you are James Michael Curley. Republican pollster Ed Goeas said: "Assuming that the economy is out of the ditch by the end of '23, I would have to believe a Trump nomination would be devastating."

Democratic strategist Paul Begala said: "Swing voters in swing states and districts didn't marry the Democrats; they just dumped the Republicans." He also noted that when the House Republicans open a dozen investigations into Hunter Biden's laptop, every Democrat on every committee should ask out loud: "How does this hearing lower the price of gas or reduce crime?"

A post-election analysis also shows that ratf*cking works. In six races where Democrats dumped millions of dollars in the primaries to get crazies nominated as their opponents, the Democrats won. But Begala warned the Democrats that they shouldn't try this in the presidential primaries. They should let the Republicans fairly and honestly nominate their own Trump, and then reap the consequences of that.

The midterms are not good predictors of the next presidential election, but the 2022 midterms do not suggest a badly damaged Republican Party that is beyond repair. Maybe some day, but not yet. (V)

Alaska Results Are Called

As far as we were concerned, the results in Alaska were basically a done deal at least a week ago. But the AP and other outlets refused to make the call(s). Is there a mathematical reason for that? Or are they just not as familiar and comfortable with Ranked Choice Voting? In any event, it's all over now. With 100% of the votes received and processed, the various media are now "projecting" winners. If the process is complete and there aren't any more ballots, it sounds more like "reporting" the winners to us, but what do we know?

The new governor of Alaska is the same as the old governor, as Mike Dunleavy (R) has won reelection with 50.3% of the vote, easily outpacing Democrat Les Gara (24.2%) and nonpartisan candidate Bill Walker (20.7%), along with a bunch of minor candidates. You might wonder why the vote is split multiple ways when RCV is supposed to produce a final, head-to-head round. And the answer is that they don't bother processing the ballots when the result isn't going to change. When one candidate is over 50% on round 1, he or she wins and it's over.

In the other big races, on the other hand, it was necessary to play the process all the way out. And that being done, we now know Alaska will also be keeping its senior senator. As we and everyone else guessed, pretty much all of the people who voted Democratic in the first round of that contest had Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) as their second-place choice. So, the Senator ended up beating Donald Trump's handpicked candidate, Kelly Tshibaka (R), pretty handily—54% to 46%.

And continuing the "let's not change sled dogs mid-mush" theme, Alaskans also decided to keep their at-large representative. Rep. Mary Peltola (D) cruised to victory by about the same margin as Murkowski, 55%-45%. Clearly, she has real staying power. As much staying power as her predecessor Don Young? Maybe, maybe not. Check back with us in 2071, which is how long she'd have to hang around to equal his tenure. The last candidate standing against Peltola was, of course, Sarah Palin. As a devout Christian, Palin believes in eternal life. And maybe she'll get it. But even if she does, that probably still won't be enough time for her to win another election, because voters just aren't buying what she's selling anymore.

With Alaska in the books, there are just two House races that are uncalled: The Lauren Boebert (R)-Adam Frisch (D) contest in Colorado (which Frisch has already conceded) and the John Duarte (R)-Kevin Gray (R) tilt out in California. In both cases, the Republican leads by less than 0.5% with 95%+ of the vote reported. And in both cases, a recount is likely coming down the pike. (Z)

Walker Picks Up Some More Baggage

He may win, and he may lose, but whatever happens, Herschel Walker (R) is a serious contender for the most flawed U.S. Senate candidate of all time. And yesterday, there were two more stories adding to the vast pile of skeletons that have piled up during his race against Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA).

First, the woman who accused Walker of pressuring her into an abortion (the second woman, not the first) has come forward with considerably more evidence in support of her story (which Walker has, thus far, denied). Maybe he will now change course and admit that he did indeed know the woman and that he may indeed have encouraged her to abort. That is how things unfolded with the first woman. But even if Walker continues to deny, deny, deny, this will serve to remind everyone yet again that he does not practice what he preaches when it comes to being anti-abortion.

And then there is Walker's 2022 tax return. It turns out he took the "homestead tax exemption," which gives a homeowner a tax break of $1,500 on their primary residence. What's the problem here? Well, the exemption is a privilege granted by Texas law for primary residences in Texas. In other words, Walker's tax return asserts that he lives in Texas and not in Georgia. And that means he might well be guilty of violating tax laws in Texas and election laws in Georgia. Certainly, it is yet another reminder for voters that he's a carpetbagger who really lives in the Garden St... er, the Lone Star State.

And maybe we're odd, but what really sticks out to us is that Walker did this... for $1,500. That's not nothing, but it's not all that much money. Does he have that little regard for the law? Does he care that little about his Senate campaign, and the risk that he'll be perceived as an outsider? Is his business "success" so limited that $1,500 makes a meaningful difference to his bottom line? It just looks really bad, on the whole. The only good things for Walker in all of this is that the news broke the day before Thanksgiving, so maybe it will escape many voters' attention. Or maybe not; our guess is that people working for Warnock will be earning overtime today as they put together a new campaign ad that advises Georgians of the news. (Z)

The 2024 Presidential Battle Could Be Fought in Fewer States Than Ever Before

Ever-hardening partisan lines mean that increasingly few states will affect the 2024 presidential (and maybe congressional) elections. Nearly all states are colored in blue or red and changes are not likely in the short term. Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, Colorado, and Virginia were not too long ago swing states. The first three are now red and the latter two are largely blue (the last gubernatorial election in Virginia notwithstanding). Nevada and New Hampshire are now pretty blue and Florida is now pretty red. The only real swing states left are Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Georgia. Any candidate who can win all five gets to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for 4 years. All the others are semi-irrelevant. Is it good for democracy that 45 states and D.C. don't much matter any more? Probably not.

Worse yet, it is not even the entire population of these five states. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh aren't really in doubt and neither is Pennsyltucky; a few hundred thousand voters in the Philadelphia collar counties largely control the outcome of statewide races in Pennsylvania. Ditto Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, and Gwinnett Counties in Georgia and similar suburbs in the other states.

But even the five "swing" states are starting to harden. In Michigan, the Democrats won the gubernatorial, attorney general, and secretary of state races in landslides. Also, both chambers of the legislature. In Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro (D) was elected governor in a rout and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D-PA) won a solid victory for the Senate. In Arizona, the Democrats won all the marbles. Only Wisconsin and Georgia are (probably) split decisions, depending on the Georgia runoff.

Looking back a bit, 80% of the states have voted the same way in at last the past four presidential elections. This is a record unmatched in the 20th century. Even during FDR's four victories, it wasn't this consistent. Then only two-thirds of the states voted the same way four times in a row.

The 20 states the Democrats have carried four times in a row now have 232 electoral votes in 2024. The 20 states the Repblicans have carried four times in a row now have 155 electoral votes. This may look like a Democratic advantage, but it is not as big as it may appear. Of the 10 states not captured by either party, four haven't voted for a Democrat since Obama. If we concede that Florida, Indiana, Iowa, and Ohio are likely to vote for the Republican in 2024, no matter who the candidates are, the Republicans have a base of 219 electoral votes to the Democrats' 232. Although the Democrats keep hoping North Carolina will become the next Virginia—or at least the next Georgia—it leans Republican and hasn't gone for a Democrat since Obama in 2008. Add it's 16 EVs to the red column and we have 232 for the Democrats and 235 for the Republicans. Talk about close.

Of course, in politics, a week is a long time and Nov. 2024 is forever. If Donald Trump has been indicted in a few jurisdictions and perhaps even convicted in some by Jan. 2024. but still manages to win the GOP nomination due to the many winner-take-all primaries, he could be so damaged as to lose some reddish states like Ohio and Florida. If Joe Biden has a health scare next year, that could cost him the Rust Belt. Surprises are always possible. (V)

What Are the Republicans Going to Do about the Religious Right?

The grip that the religious right has on the Republican Party is well known. It has delivered votes and elections for decades. But is that going to still work going forward? The Bulwark and Salon had stories about that yesterday. In case you don't know, The Bulwark is a right-wing but anti-Trump publication founded by radio host Charlie Sykes and populated by a star-studded cast of anti-Trump Republicans. Salon is a couple of soccer pitches to the left of Bernie. So when they agree on something, it is noteworthy.

The Bulwark's Josua Tait starts out by noting: "Christianity's emphasis on forgiveness, suffering, the meek and poor runs totally counter to the tendencies of the New Right and National Conservatism." In other words, the religious right may be many things, but being Christian is not one of them. Within the religious right, there are certainly some people who are truly devout Christians. But they are in direct conflict with many people who identify as National Conservatives or Christian Nationalists. At the recent National Conservatism III convention, Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's flagship university, said: "conservatives are social conservatives or they are not conservative." Maybe we are misreading him, but we didn't pick up a vibe there about how Christians should help the poor and turn the other cheek.

At the same convention, Rev. Uri Brito said: "Where a Christian majority exists, public life should be rooted in Christianity and its moral vision, which should be honored by the state and other institutions both public and private." Just replace "Christian" with "Islamic" a couple of times and every ayatollah in Iran will sign onto that.

On the other side, Nate Hochman wrote a guest essay in The New York Times that argues "the conservative political project is no longer specifically Christian." He says that the culture wars are not between the religious and secular, but between the "woke" and "unwoke." He notes that traditional Catholics, Orthodox Jews, atheists, and small business owners are all uncomfortable with the "woke" agenda of some progressives post-Obama. This is not religion vs. secular. These people all oppose the (far) left, but largely not on religious grounds.

These developments are causing a split on the right between people who support (or oppose) certain things on religious grounds and people who support the same things on other grounds. It is sort of like battles at vegetarian meetings between the "meat is unhealthy" crowd and the "animals are people" crowd. It's a marriage of convenience. Ross Douthat may have captured where it is heading this with this 2016 tweet:

Ross Douthat tweet that says,
'If you dislike the religious right, wait until you meet the post-religious right'

The midterms were not just a repudiation of Donald Trump, but also of the religious right that supports him strongly. Amanda Marcotte at Salon argues that the Republicans are now in a bind. As long as the religious right is closely tied to Trump, the Party can't dump Trump without enraging the religious right. But that group has weakened to the point where it can't win competitve elections. So what can the Republicans do? They can't win with them and they can't win without them. Add in some infighting between the right's factions gets worse, it becomes tricky to see where this is heading.

In particular, young voters are not evangelical. A recent poll showed only 12% identify that way while 37% identify as having no religion. Also, they are solidly behind the Democrats on many issues from abortion to LGBTQ+ issues and beyond. Placating the religious right will not play well with younger voters. This group does not vote in large numbers, but as they get older, historical data show that will vote more consistently. And in 10 years, some of the religious right voters, who skew older, will—how shall we put this gently—not be participating in elections at all. Well, unless Lyndon Johnson somehow runs for the Senate again. If Republicans go all out now to worship the religious right, younger voters will note that and will not suddenly forget it in 2024, 2028, and 2032. The most salient part of all this is that the religious right does not see this coming and how it is going to hurt the Republican Party in the long term. (V)

Could We Have a Constitutional Crisis in 2024?

If you haven't heard about the Supreme Court case Moore v. Harper yet, just hang on. You will soon. Basically, North Carolina Republicans and some allies have an originalist reading of the Constitution, specifically, Art I. Sec. 4, which starts out like this:

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

The plaintiffs' argument is that if a state legislature wants to send in its own slate of electors, it can do so and there is nothing the state's voters, governor, or courts can do about it. The Constitution says "legislature." The left is in an advanced state of panic about this case. See, for example, here. For the five swing states discussed above, in Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia, Republicans control the state legislature. Democrats control it in Michigan and Pennsylvania is split.

However, Matthew Seligman, a fellow at the Stanford Law School, has brought up another point that many of the critics miss. He points out Art. II, Sec. 1, Clause 4, which specifies the powers Congress has:

The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

This clause gives Congress, not the state legislatures, the power to set the time of choosing the electors. Congress has decided to avail itself of this power and has passed a federal law decreeing that Election Day is the Tuesday immediately following the first Monday in November, nationwide. No state legislatures have tried to overrule this, although many states allow ballots to be turned in before Election Day as a convenience for the voters. But on Election Day at the stroke of midnight, the die is cast. It's all over but the counting.

Seligman argues that because Congress has set Election Day in stone, attempts by state legislatures to choose the electors after Election Day would be in blatant violation of Art. II, Sec. 1. So maybe the legislatures do have the power to appoint electors, but only if they do it on Election Day, not afterwards. Once Election Day has come and gone, that ship has sailed.

There is one potential escape hatch for the legislatures, though. The Election Day law says that if the state failed to make a choice on Election Day, the legislature may step in later. That might mean something like a hurricane made voting impossible on Election Day or the result of the election was an exact tie. A possible revision of the Electoral Count Reform Act during a lame-duck session of Congress may well clarify what this means or repeal the provision altogether.

Of course, the reality is the Constitution means what any five Supreme Court justices say it means, the text be damned. Donald Trump gave it a shot in 2020. He failed, but some state legislatures might give it a try in 2024. You never know. The main thing that might restrain them is potential voter outrage, expressed in the 2026 legislative elections, but with gerrymandering as it is, that might not be enough. And of course, the Supreme Court justices also read the newspapers. If they were to rule that state legislatures can override the will of the voters and do it after Election Day in violation of Art. II Sec. 1 to boot, the reputation of the Court would drop to about zero and presidents and Congresses would feel justified in ignoring its rulings ever after. It would precipitate a crisis that would take us deep into uncharted territory. (V)

Information about Donald Trump's Taxes Is Starting to Come Out

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court refused to overturn an appeals court ruling that Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, was entitled to have 6 years of Donald Trump's tax returns. If Neal gets them on a USB stick and makes copies for all the members of his Committee, how long will it be before a copy of the USB stick magically appears in the mailbox of The New York Times ace reporter Maggie Haberman? Probably not very long.

Trump reacted furiously to the Supreme Court decision. He said: "Has Joe Biden paid taxes on all of the money he made illegally from Hunter and beyond?" There is not a shred of evidence that either Biden or his son made any money illegally.

But even before any reporter gets ahold of Trump's tax returns, other information about Trump's taxes is starting to leak out. Tuesday, the accountant who has been preparing Donald Trump's personal taxes for years, Donald Bender, testified in court as part of the Manhattan D.A.'s case against Trump. Bender said that Trump has reported huge losses every year, including $700 million in 2009 and $200 million in 2010. If the other years are like that, we can understand why Trump has fought so hard to keep his tax returns secret. Can you imagine lines like this appearing in a primary ad by Gov. Ron DeSantis (F-FL)? "Donald Trump claims to be a great businessman but he lost nearly a billion dollars in 2009-2010. Great businessmen don't lose a billion dollars in the space of a couple of years. They make a billion dollars in a couple of years, not lose it." That is sure to make an impact on people who like Trump because they think he is a great businessman. And just wait until the actual tax returns get to Haberman or some other reporter. What else is buried in there?

Trump is not charged in this case and is not expected to testify. Trump Organization employee and former CFO Allen Weisselberg is testifying, though. He admits that the company committed tax fraud but says he was the one who planned and executed it and Trump didn't know about it. How's that for loyalty? But the trial could easily reveal more about Trump's taxes and might even implicate Trump in the end if other Trump Organization executives say that Trump knew exactly what was going on. (V)

The Word Cup, Part I: The Martial Spirit

As most readers will know, the World Cup has kicked off in Qatar. For example, yesterday's results included this: Japan 2, Germany 1. The staff historian could have sworn it was U.S. 1, Germany and Japan 0, but maybe there's been some historical revisionism going on.

In any event, there is little question that this year's World Cup has some significant political undertones. The Qatari approach to gay rights and women's rights in particular, and to human rights in general, is well out of step with the values of much of the rest of the world. In view of this, many of the athletes involved expressed an intent to wear "One Love" armbands while playing. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), which organizes and sanctions the World Cup, is quite clear on which side its bread is buttered. And so, it put the kibosh on the armband plan, warning that any player who defies that ruling risks receiving a yellow card (in other words, a penalty).

And speaking of FIFA, it is questionable—at best—that the World Cup was awarded to Qatar. First of all the climate in that nation is so inappropriate for association football that the tournament had to be moved by roughly 6 months, from its usual June-July schedule to a November-December schedule. Why would FIFA agree to upend tradition like that, and for the benefit of a nation with a dismal human rights record? Ha! Money, of course. FIFA has a long and well-deserved reputation for corrupt and unethical behavior, and this year's World Cup isn't going to do anything to help improve upon that.

And note that Qatar has not exactly wrapped themselves in glory as they have prepared to take center stage for a month. They've dropped something in the realm of $200 billion (yes, with a "B") to bring the event to the Middle East and to prepare for it in terms of infrastructure and other needs. And one way the Qatari government has balanced the books is to exploit migrant laborers to the hilt. That they are underpaid and overworked is a given. Further, a general lack of safety standards means that many workers have died to make this World Cup happen. How many? Well, the Qatari government isn't exactly eager to share that information, but numerous outside observers have pegged the total at somewhere between 2,500 and 5,000 people. The purpose of spending all those billions was to "sportswash" Qatar and to improve the nation's public image. Given the vast amount of negative coverage, this plan does not seem to be working out. Clearly, what the Qataris should have done is bought Twitter. Then they would only have wasted $44 billion.

So there's the political angle to this year's event. There isn't much more to be said, certainly not on an ongoing basis. That means we will now pivot to borrowing the World Cup structure in order to stage a little competition. We did this with the NCAA basketball tournament back in March, and we'll do it again next March. However, the World Cup operates a little differently, which means it's better suited to certain types of data sets. Most obviously, there are some categories with hundreds of possible contenders (thus suited for the 68-entry NCAA format) and there are some categories with considerably fewer (thus more suited for the 32-entry World Cup format).

So, what will be put to the test here? Well... drumroll... how about the most significant political slogans in American history? Hence the title "The Word Cup" (bet you didn't even notice the apparent misspelling in the headline). (V) and (Z), aided by a few outside consultants (human ones, not dachshund ones), have put together a field of 32 very impactful political slogans from across U.S. history. And while the World Cup draw is essentially random, we've organized the Word Cup by theme. In a further bit of structure that also is not really paralleled in the World Cup setup, half of our field is presidential candidates' slogans and the other half is not. So, whatever the final matchup is, it will be between the most significant presidential slogan and the most significant non-presidential slogan.

Note that in the first round of voting, each slogan in each group will pair off against every other slogan in the group. So, each first round grouping will have six matchups to vote on. This is how the World Cup itself works. Once the first round is over, then it will be head-to-head matchups only.

We have chosen "most significant" to describe the basis for this competition because if we say "greatest," that implies a certain judgment about likability. But the fact is that a slogan can express a reprehensible idea, or operate in service of a reprehensible person or group of people, and still be impactful. We would generally suggest that, as readers evaluate slogans, they consider factors like how memorable the slogan is, how effectively the slogan captures the idea/sentiment it was supposed to capture, and the extent to which the slogan influenced people.

And with all of that out of the way, here is the first group of slogans, all of which served to rally Americans behind a war:

Postage stamp that says 'Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death' Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death! (1775): With many slogans, the author is unknown. Not so here; even schoolchildren know that it was Patrick Henry who first wrote and uttered this as he worked to persuade the legislature of Virginia to rebel against England. Apparently it worked since, as you may have heard, the legislature did so about a year later. It's also worth noting that both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were in the room to hear the speech.

In the interest of completeness, we should note that since there was no recording of the address (after all, that technology was more than 100 years in the future) and no contemporaneous transcription, there has been some post hoc suggestion that maybe Henry never actually said these words. However, the weight of the evidence suggests he did, and it is definitely the case that the phrase became a popular rallying cry for supporters of the Revolution. In other words, someone had to have written it or said it in 1775 or 1776, and Henry is far and away the most likely candidate.
Postage stamp that says 'Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death' Remember the Alamo! (1836): This one comes, of course, from the most famous engagement of the Texas Revolution. Some have attributed it to Sam Houston, but it appears that he was just repeating a phrase that many Texas soldiers shouted before being massacred by the Mexican Army. The slogan probably didn't have much impact on the Revolution itself, since the end of that conflict came just a few weeks after, but since 1836 it's become a core part of Texas identity. There's at least a little irony in that, inasmuch as the Mexicans proved at the Alamo that you can, in fact, mess with Texas.
Postage stamp that says 'Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death' Remember the Maine! (1898): The three other slogans listed here may have helped harness the martial spirit, but they did not create a war all by themselves. "Remember the Maine!" on the other hand? Maybe. In the 1890s, as the once-mighty Spanish empire was on the decline, and the soon-to-be-mighty American empire was on the rise, relations between the two powers grew tense. In particular, there was much concern about Spain's oppressive governance of Cuba and the Philippines.

Meanwhile, at that same time, a group of ultra-patriotic Americans, with Theodore Roosevelt being most prominent among them, decided it would be swell if the United States acquired a few colonial possessions of its own. The general notion these folks had was that taking colonies would prove that the U.S. had arrived on the world stage, while at the same time demonstrating that Americans were generous and considerate. After all, they would be bringing "civilization" to some of the "savage" peoples of the world. TR and the imperialists knew this would be a tough job, but that's life when you're the superior race. Taking their cue from the poet Rudyard Kipling, they called it "The White Man's Burden."

These two trends came together in early 1898. President William McKinley, who had seen the horrors of the Civil War as a rank-and-file soldier, was no war hawk. So, he wanted to use diplomacy to calm tensions with Spain. And to that end, he sent some American ambassadors, aboard the U.S.S. Maine, to Havana to negotiate with Spanish authorities there. On February 15, 1898, while those negotiations were underway, the Maine exploded. What happened? Even today, we don't know for sure. It was probably an accident due to loading too much coal into the ship's boilers. In 1898, newspapers turned to the government officials responsible for overseeing the Navy, in hopes of getting some answers. And the Assistant Secretary of the Navy shared his view that the destruction of the Maine was no accident, and was a work of sabotage by an enemy. Since there was only one plausible enemy, suspicion fell on the Spanish. Despite their (probably truthful) denials, "Remember the Maine!" was quickly on the lips of the majority of Americans, substantially aided by a William Randolph Hearst-managed propaganda campaign. After all, wars sell newspapers. Oh, and did we mention that the Assistant Secretary of the Navy who got the ball rolling on all of this with his conspiratorial thinking was... Theodore Roosevelt? Just a couple of months after the ship sank, TR had the "splendid little war" he'd been longing for.
Postage stamp that says 'Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death' Remember Pearl Harbor! (1941): Unlike "Remember the Maine," this one most certainly did not lead to a declaration of war. Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, and the declaration of war against Japan came the next day. Hardly time there for a slogan to play any meaningful role. However, "Remember Pearl Harbor" did rouse Americans to action throughout World War II. On the plus side, that means that the slogan played some role in the Allied victory over the Axis. On the minus side, there was a significant racist undertone to the slogan, as it played into a stereotype that Japanese people/Asian people were sneaky and duplicitous, and it also reminded Americans of the anger and fear they felt at being attacked on December 7 (and by members of a race deemed to be inferior to white people, no less). So, while the sentiments encouraged by "Remember Pearl Harbor" may have helped win the war, they also helped lay the groundwork for Japanese internment and for atrocities committed against Japanese soldiers.

If you want to vote, the ballot is here. As always, we welcome comments as to why you did, or did not, vote for a particular slogan. Up tomorrow is the first round of presidential slogans, covering the years before the Civil War. (Z)

Happy Thanksgiving?, Part I

Several weeks ago, reader G.H. in Branchport asked: "How much damage to relationships do you or readers think has occurred from the widening divisions in political views exacerbated by the party of T-Rump?" We threw that question to the readers, and got many interesting responses. As we noted at the time, we thought it made sense to run those responses over the Thanksgiving holiday. The thinking is that, if you are among those who are going to have to deal with unpleasant relatives who insist on sharing their political views, other readers' stories may give some insight or some solace. You know, misery loves company and all that.

So, here are half a dozen reader stories sent to us in response to G.H.'s question:

  1. P.F in Wixom, MI: I find myself struggling with my own manifesting political division, with a most-likely-very-MAGA sister-in-law and by extension, brother. My family all live in Canada, so at least they cannot contribute to any vote totals that go against my leanings.

    Throughout the pandemic, my sister-in-law sometimes posted videos or articles of questionable scientific integrity, which I didn't care to pay attention to until much later when I felt the need for some review of her stance. I already knew she was a convinced climate science denier, and that my hard-core Christian brother at least, totally believes that Noah's flood in Genesis happened, despite what his favorite public school teacher, who I later had as well, taught about the earth's age and formation back in Grade 5. I found various articles in my Messenger feed from my sister-in-law that were anti-mask, one on with a video link from anti-vaxx "scientist" Judy Mikovits, and when COVID vaccinations became available she had all the necessary information justifying why they should be avoided at all costs, with one justification being that if Bill Gates "is refusing to take it, what does that tell you?" Only later did I investigate Gates' position on getting jabbed and quickly found his Twitter post where he posted a picture of himself being jabbed, soon after they became available. To combat COVID at the time, in case they were to get it, my brother and sister-in-law were stocked with Bimectin (a trade name product that contains Ivermectin).

    My wife and I live 6 hours away, so it is not often that we are in each other's presence but words like "tRump," "RINO," "the Democrats' dangerous agenda" are sometimes featured in their vocabulary. During a visit after the 2020 election but before Joe Biden's inauguration, a pretty snide comment against our president-elect was heard. During a later visit with our nonagenarian mother, who before our father's decline to dementia always took her political cues from him, expressed surprise that I didn't realize that the U.S. presidential election was stolen from TFG. I have no doubt where that came from. This was the worst dose of reality about where my brother's/sister-in-law's political leanings sway at the time.

    That, however, was easily eclipsed last summer when a phone call was necessitated by something to do with our parents. It was then followed by a polite and friendly "How are things going otherwise?" exchange. This happened maybe a week after the Uvalde, TX, school shooting, which of course was not long after that mass shooting in Buffalo, so I expressed what our mood was like here in light of gun laws, lobbying and ineffective or non-existent legislation that follows on this side of the border. I flipped out when the response was that they do not believe that these shootings happen, because they are just part of an ongoing movement by the left to restrict gun ownership and for Democrats to push their agenda on the law-abiding public.

    Certainly, I can empathize with the deterioration of G.H. in Branchport's relationship with his MAGA sister-in-law and brother, as I am experiencing the exact same thing, right down to the exact same family members! However, my sister-in-law holds no Masters degrees in anything, not even a Bachelors to my knowledge, but practices alternatives to modern medicine, such as naturopathy and homeopathy, which she likes to push on others. You can guess how much credibility I extend to that given her other demonstrated gullibility.

  2. L.R.H. in Oakland, CA: You asked about politics and personal relationships on the day that The New York Times published two stories on the front page about this. The following are gift links:

    I'm grateful that my family very likely doesn't have any Trumpist Republicans and is made up almost entirely of liberals and farther-leftists. I would have to stop talking to anyone buying the election-denial lies and the hatred.

  3. R.G. in Seattle, WA: I have a one sibling, an older brother. As is the case with such relationships, for as long as I can remember, he was and still is a role model for me. I respect his intellect, his desire to research and read, and perhaps most of all his belief in a sense of duty to those around him. He is however, a white supremacist, a scientific quack, and what is often referred to as a "gun nut." So, as you can likely imagine, there are many things we don't see eye to eye on, and there are very specific things I very much do not admire him for. That said, I do try to listen to him and learn why he might expose the things he does (much like Z sent students to watch Fox) but there are things we simply do not discuss. Since we are both of advanced age, he shares with me things like how to file for SSA and medicare. (Funny how he likes that part of government and the blue team's defense of it; but his disdain for all things California is palpable, simply because of their "anti-gun culture.") Is this "harm?" Not in my view, since like many others, one takes and learns from others to the extent reasonable. All that said, should a family member espouse or actively participate in harming others with such views (beyond mere voting, something I specifically do not remind my brother to do) I would have to rethink how much I engage them. All that said, there are some things we just don't discuss; and stick to things we do (like how much we like certain malt beverages from Scotland).

  4. G.L. in Washington, DC: I'm kind of an early adopter to politics-based family estrangement. Back in the Tea Party days, my mom told me to never speak to her again after an argument over whether Michelle Obama had been disbarred for real estate fraud. (Spoiler: She hadn't.)

    For those who are just experiencing this now due to Trump, well, I don't have anything positive to say. My story does not get better. After the argument I decided it was more worthwhile to preserve the family than to be right, and it is one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I knew that her views were becoming more extreme due to the propaganda she was very eagerly consuming, but before that moment I assumed there was some element of play-acting and that deep down, she was capable of listening to facts or reason. Now, I can't un-know that she cares more about such an obvious lie because it hates the same people she does than she does about her son.

    She generally doesn't talk politics around me anymore, although there are things that are so embedded in her worldview that she doesn't seem to recognize them as such. (She's particularly fond of the "war on Christmas" and will regale anyone who will listen about conversations she's had with workers at stores she never remembers the names of about how they only have "Happy Holidays" cards because they're not allowed to buy or sell ones that say "Merry Christmas.")

    I don't have great advice for coping. The best is something I no longer remember the source of: View them as a toxic gas. Prepare yourself, limit exposure, and recognize that they're not (currently) capable of being different. Also, document things, I guess, because many people are exceptionally good at blocking out the evil things they do. Or perhaps it's intentional gaslighting, but in the couple of times that this incident has come up, my mother insisted that it never happened. (When I showed her the e-mail where it did happen, her explanation was that she was hacked, even though the paragraph included several fairly personal and specific insults as well.) So documentation won't help you win the argument, but it will remind you that you're not making things up.

    And fixing the problem on a societal level? Well, if anyone knew for certain, we'd do that. My suspicion is that we need to curtail the amount of right-wing propaganda packaged as news and constantly available for consumption. (I am extremely confident that my mother did not form her thoughts independently.) But that raises obvious First Amendment issues, and I have no idea how to do so effectively without legitimately threatening freedom. It would be wise to consider options, rather than declaring the problem unsolvable because of First Amendment absolutism.

  5. M.A.N. in Falls Church, VA: I was so confused reading the letter from G.H. in Branchport, because I thought I had written it.

    Yes, Trump has damaged familial relationships. In fact, it's been so bad in my own family that I've pretty much cut off all contact with my right-leaning relatives, which is most of them. For one thing, every time I make the effort to visit—and it's always me making the effort—I drive 23 hours total to Texas and almost as soon as I clear the threshold I start getting grilled by my brother's wife who is an alleged "born again Christian" but lives in fear of Sharia Law. In Texas! No, she never went to college but is a business owner. My brother, a gun nut... literally; a vaccine/science denier; and everything in between, as you can imagine, is no help. So, once our mother died and my dad's sister died, I've pretty much cut off all contact because I don't need that sort of weird toxicity in my life. Keep in mind that I never ever bring up politics. Not once. But when I show up, I have a target on my back and am attacked in some cases or in other cases, there are some unsubtle dog whistles bandied about and I just play dumb, which is surprisingly easy.

    Haven't seen my brother since January 2017. Can't remember the last time I talked to him other than an occasional text message. Honestly, I haven't felt like I've missed anything other than the stress of familial obligations. Now, my new Thanksgiving tradition is going to London and I'm much happier.

  6. D.K. in Chicago, IL: To lighten the mood, here is a humorous meme I saw a few years ago that speaks an eternal truth:

    It says 'Make sure to
bring up politics at Thanksgiving this month to save on Christmas gifts.'

Thanks, folks! We will run another half-dozen tomorrow. (V & Z)

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