Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Saturday Q&A

We are still accepting questions that readers would like us to pose to folks who are anti-abortion. If you have 'em, get 'em in today, because we need time to coordinate everything.

Current Events

J.F. in Fort Worth, TX, asks: A.R. in Los Angeles brought up the fact that there is a brand name for Mifepristone (Mifeprex) and a generic form (GenBioPro) and that perhaps only the generic is now "unapproved." My questions about this are: Who is the manufacturer/patent holder for Mifeprex and Gen Bio Pro? Why aren't they suing to stay Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk's decision? His ruling clearly "injures" the manufacturer/vendor of these drugs by hurting their financial bottom line. For that matter, could this be treated as a form of sabotage to bankrupt a particular drug company? This brings to mind the Eli Lilly stock price crash last year when a fake "Twitter Blue" account tweeted that insulin was now free. And that was just a prank, not a judicial ruling.

(V) & (Z) answer: It's not quite that simple. To start with, more than 20 years have passed since the original Mifepristone patent was issued, and so that patent has expired. That said, original manufacturers and the makers of generics are both pretty skilled at making small adjustments to a formula, and so qualifying for new patents. As a result, there are currently 16 active patents in the U.S. for variations on Mifepristone.

The distributor of Mifeprex is Danco Laboratories. And Danco has indeed filed suit seeking to overturn Kacsmaryk's decision. The distributor of GenBioPro is... GenBioPro. That company already had a pending suit in West Virginia, and is likely to file its own case in opposition to Kacsmaryk. To paraphrase the movie Dirty Dancing, nobody puts Big Pharma in a corner.

S.W. in New York City, NY, asks: With this latest court ruling from Texas, could a U.S. doctor prescribe mifepristone to a U.S. patient via a (gasp!) Canadian pharmacy and then have it shipped to the U.S. patient?

(V) & (Z) answer: As a general rule, the federal government does not approve of medicine-via-mail. That said, there are some exceptions to that, one of which is "it's the recipient's only option." Further, as with federal laws that prohibit the use of marijuana, they don't much matter if they're not enforced.

S.K. in Los Angeles, CA, asks: The news about Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk's highly partisan and questionable ruling made me wonder: How can an enraged citizenry get rid of a hack in black robes? I realize that given that he serves in Amarillo there's little chance the citizenry of that area would want to, but how can one remove someone who has an appointment for life?

(V) & (Z) answer: At the moment, private citizens have absolutely no power to get rid of a federal judge through legal means. Only Congress has that power, and they can only do it through impeachment. The only thing a private citizen can do (and this is pretty meager) is vote for members of Congress who campaign on a platform of some sort of judicial reform (adopting a judicial ethics code with actual teeth, or imposing a mandatory retirement age, or...).

L.V.A. in Idaho Falls, ID, asks: I know that employees of the executive branch are subject to dismissal for various reasons (recall "I serve at the pleasure of the president") but what options besides impeachment exist to dismiss federal judges? Can John Roberts just fire him (or Clarence Thomas)?

(V) & (Z) answer: As noted above, the power to dismiss federal judges lies solely with Congress. Congress has exercised the power 15 times; eight judges were convicted and removed, four were acquitted, and three resigned before they could be tried by the Senate. Generally, the basis for impeachment is the commission of a crime; only two judges have been impeached and convicted in the 21st century, but one of those (Thomas Porteous) was busted for making false financial disclosures. That's in the ballpark of what Clarence Thomas allegedly did, though Porteous was not a Supreme Court justice, of course (or a Republican appointee, for that matter).

E.H. in Ossining, NY, asks: I'm very unclear about why Clarence Thomas is unlikely to face consequences for what appears to be open-and-shut lawbreaking (apparently 5 U.S. Code 13104, according to your write-up). On Friday, you explained that Thomas's lawbreaking probably won't be prosecuted because Senate Republicans don't want to lose a SCOTUS seat. But surely Senate Republicans are not assigned as prosecutors for such bad acts (goodness knows if they had the ability to squash prosecutors for politcal reasons, Bragg, Smith and Willis would already be out of work). So who is the actual party responsible for charging violations of 5 U.S. Code 13104? And why is that entity unlikely to charge Thomas here?

(V) & (Z) answer: The U.S. Code makes clear that: "The Attorney General may bring a civil action in any appropriate United States district court against any individual who knowingly and willfully falsifies or who knowingly and willfully fails to file or report any information that such individual is required to report..."

To be more precise, the AG can bring civil charges against a person who fails to report things they should have reported. In that case, conviction would mean a fine. The AG can also bring criminal charges against a person who falsifies their reports. In that case, conviction would mean potential prison time; up to one year for each offense.

AG Merrick Garland is already facing so many politically charged decisions (mostly related to Donald Trump) that this is one he will probably want to take a pass on. If the AG does bring charges, they will almost certainly be civil charges, as Thomas appears to have committed lies of omission rather than lies of commission.

D.P. in Oakland, CA, asks: Regarding Justice Thomas, you wrote: "In short, the Justice has clearly broken the law here. Will there be any consequences for him? Probably not..."

Really? Doesn't this signal to all future justices that it's OK to take donations? Would Merrick Garland and/or Justice Roberts be OK with that? Can they really just afford to wait for the Senate to act? That might never happen, and in the meantime they will be scorched in the press.

And what about the ongoing monthly gifts that Harlan Crow is giving to Thomas's mother in terms of rent, taxes, maintenance? That just continues?

(V) & (Z) answer: You are right that this is a problem. But Roberts has no power here to do anything, except perhaps take Thomas aside and express disapproval. And, as we note above, Garland may not want the blowback that would come with pursuing this, since the only really plausible punishment (a fine) amounts to a slap on the wrist.

That is why the best-case scenario going forward, we would guess, is that this spurs Congress to get serious about adopting a code of ethics for the Supreme Court. We doubt that Republicans would go along with anything that could unseat Thomas for past misdeeds, but they might be OK with something that sets clear standards going forward. And Thomas, for his part, is smart enough to know that it's one thing to get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, but it's another thing to keep going to the cookie jar once you've been busted. We suspect he will significantly clean up his act going forward.

P.B. in Chicago, IL, asks: I was wondering what can be done about the GOP using Amarillo, TX, as their go to jurisdiction to get a crazy judge to do their bidding. Could Joe Biden appoint a liberal judge to that jurisdiction so at least there is a 50/50 chance of getting the right decisions?

Also, for the crazy Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, could Biden appoint a few judges there (over time) to get it more in line with what the American people want?

Is there some reason Amarillo has to have only one judge and the Fifth Circuit has to have only three judges? All this assumes the Democrats get smart and ignore the whole blue slip idiocy (like Trump did).

(V) & (Z) answer: As to Amarillo, Article III judges have to be authorized by Congress. The Democrats could add a second judgeship to Amarillo, but Republicans would undoubtedly figure out what was going on, and would undoubtedly be unhappy about losing their favorite venue for venue-shopping. So, the Democrats would have to sneak that in to some other, must-pass bill, like the annual defense appropriation. Whether the Democrats are willing to try it, and whether the Republicans will let it happen, is anyone's guess. Keep in mind the Republican talking point that would result: "The Democrats are willing to let our brave soldiers go without so they can force an ultra-liberal judge on the people of Texas." That could be pretty potent.

As to the Fifth Circuit, the three-judge panels are chosen at random from a pool of 17 judges. The court currently includes two Reagan appointees, one Clinton appointee, four Bush 43 appointees, two Obama appointees, six Trump appointees, and one Biden appointee. That adds up to 12 Republican-appointed judges and four Democratic-appointed judges. If Biden wants to shift the balance on the court, he will need three things to happen: (1) seat someone in the one seat on the Circuit that is currently open (he's already nominated Magistrate Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas Irma Carrillo Ramirez), (2) get reelected, and (3) hope that the three Republican appointees currently over 70 take senior status or otherwise leave the bench, allowing him to choose replacements. If all of these things happen (and it may indeed require putting aside the blue slips, as you note), then the court would be 9 Republicans, 8 Democrats. Still a GOP majority, but it would be much less likely that a randomly-chosen group of three would have a majority of Trump-appointed judges.

Naturally, the same power that would allow Congress to add another judge in Amarillo would also allow them to expand the number of judges on the Fifth Circuit. But the same problems related to Republican opposition would also apply.

G.W. in Minneapolis, MN, asks: In your item "The End of the Line for Feinstein," you wrote about five pathways for the Democrats to address Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) absence from Judiciary Committee votes. Is there potentially a pathway #6 of advancing nominees to the Senate floor even if they do not obtain favorable votes in the Judiciary Committee? Wasn't this the pathway taken for confirming Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson after the Judiciary Committee deadlocked?

(V) & (Z) answer: That is called a discharge motion, and we probably should have included it on the list. Under the organizing resolution passed at the start of the 116th Congress (with the Senate 50-50), the discharge process was made much easier, as a concession to the fact that the Democrats (with Kamala Harris' vote) were in the majority. But now it's back to the regular process, and the regular discharge process is quite onerous and very time-consuming. We suspect that this option is very unlikely, albeit likelier than expelling Feinstein.

E.S. in Maine, NY, asks: Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), Dianne Feinstein, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM).

I know we have a lot of old geezers, especially in the Senate, but this seems like a bit much. How are all the ailments affecting the working of our government? Are these numbers of incapacitated lawmakers unusual?

(V) & (Z) answer: Including nonvoting delegates, there are 541 members of Congress. If you track 541 people over the course of a year, particularly if those 541 are not randomly selected, and skew older than the general population, then you're going to have many dozen illnesses, injuries and other calamities of various sorts.

This year is not unusual; it's always been this way. And the chambers of Congress are used to dealing with it, at least in most ways. The Feinstein situation is the product of a fairly unusual situation (a member who expects to be absent for a long time, but does not want to resign) along with the hyperpartisanship of the current era (the other party might not play nice and accommodate her infirmities).

R.L. in Alameda, CA, asks: If Dianne Feinstein resigns, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) appoints her replacement. I cannot imagine him giving Reps. Katie Porter (D-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA) or Barbara Lee (D-CA) the advantage of incumbency. A year or two ago, when this was discussed, it was thought that Lee would be the most likely placeholder. Now that she is a declared candidate, who is most likely to serve out the remainder of Feinstein's term if she resigns (or leaves office by, ahem, another path)?

(V) & (Z) answer: Newsom's primary concern is following through on his promise to appoint a Black woman. All other things being equal, he probably would prefer a placeholder, but that's not essential to him. So it could still be Lee, if he has to choose.

That said, the last time Newsom needed to appoint someone as a senator, he went down the hall to the office of then-California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and said "you're my guy!" Well, Padilla's replacement is Shirley Weber, who is an ally of Newsom's, is Black, and is 74 years old (and so not likely to be thinking about a long career in Washington). Plus, she has three degrees from UCLA. So what's not to like?


A.G. in Los Angeles, CA, asks: I wonder when you might dig deeper into Joe Biden's fading ability to speak publicly? I should note that I voted for him in the primary and election 2020, but I think his time has come to bow out. You guys have written quite a bit about Trump's mental facilities and sure he makes mistakes at times, but he does seem to still speak clearly. I honestly don't want to see Biden try to debate or campaign in 2024 where he will look older than he is. Is it not better to just retire with dignity and let the new generation take over?

(V) & (Z) answer: We're going to have to dispute your premise. We are pretty in tune with what good public speaking looks like and what bad public speaking looks like. And Biden seems perfectly fine to us. He'll never be a Jack Kennedy or a Ronnie Reagan, but he's fine. He just gave this perfectly adequate speech in Northern Ireland this week:

As to Trump, his problem is that nearly every time he opens his mouth, a stream-of-consciousness word salad issues forth. Sometimes, this can just be a sign of someone who has some sort of processing issue (diagnosed or undiagnosed). But comparing 2020s Trump with 1980s Trump, the difference is very noticeable, which suggests a cognitive decline rather than some underlying processing issue.

S.B. in Hood River, OR, asks: How much credence should we give to these polls showing Joe Biden barely ahead of Donald Trump in polling for 2024? What also strikes me is the undecideds in these polls are most always large, in the double digits. Could that many people really be undecided?

(V) & (Z) answer: You should put very little credence in them. First, of course, is the fact that the presidency is awarded based on the Electoral College, not the popular vote. Second is all those undecideds, as you point out. What those folks are undoubtedly saying (most of them, at least), is "We would prefer someone other than these two men." But if those undecideds don't get their wish, then they will largely vote for the lesser of two evils. And we have no doubt that Joe Biden is the lesser evil than Trump in the eyes of nearly everyone who is not part of Trump's base.

J.B. in Bend, OR, asks: I looked back over the Presidential elections since 1960 and noted that the loser almost always gets over 40% of the vote; only three times did the loser get less than 40%: Barry Goldwater (38.5%), George McGovern (37.5%) and George H.W. Bush (37.5%, due to Ross Perot getting 18.9%).

Given those numbers, isn't Donald Trump's support pretty standard rather than inexplicable? His supporters certainly have a large number of very vocal and excitable people, but his overall support is actually lower than what history indicates it should be. The historical record indicates that even a terrible candidate from either party will usually get over 40%.

(V) & (Z) answer: First, Trump has black marks against him unlike any other presidential candidate in U.S. history. If McGovern or Goldwater had done or said some of the things Trump has done and said, they might well have dropped into the 20s. So for Trump to equal or exceed those men is itself somewhat remarkable. Second, while Trump's approval rating is in the 40% range, he got 46-47% of the vote during his two presidential runs. That means that there is some sizable portion of the electorate that does not approve of him, and yet votes for him, probably because they hate the Democrats even more.

In short, there are dynamics here over and above "any Republican has a certain built-in floor of support."

R.H. in Macungie, PA, asks: Pennsylvania has a Democratic governor and secretary of state, and a Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court. What do you think is the likelihood that someone in the Keystone State makes a determination that Trump isn't eligible to be on the ballot for the primary next year based on the Fourteenth Amendment? What about for the general election?

(V) & (Z) answer: First, note that the current Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Al Schmidt, is actually a Republican. He was chosen by Gov. Josh Shapiro (D-PA) after refusing to help flip votes to Donald Trump in Philadelphia.

In any case, it is extremely unlikely that any executive official in Pennsylvania or any other state will disqualify Trump by fiat. That would set a very problematic precedent that Republicans would surely attempt to capitalize on in future elections. On the other hand, it is very likely that lawsuits will be filed, leaving judges to decide if the Fourteenth Amendment applies. It's possible that Schmidt or some other state Secretary of State could be the ones to file those suits. However, we suspect that private citizens and/or activist groups will beat the politicians to the punch. And we suspect that the politicians will be happy to have it that way, so they can avoid having to come anywhere near that particular hot potato.

C.C. in Los Angeles, CA, asks: In an item on Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R-FL) presidential prospects, you wrote: "Some people think (DeSantis) ought to wait until 2028, as Trump certainly won't be on the ballot if he wins in 2024."

I would like to ask, in all seriousness, what makes you think there will be an election in 2028 if Trump wins in 2024? We've already seen what Trump tried to do in order to retain power after the 2020 election. If he's elected next year, he'll hit the ground running and we know he's planning an immediate series of undemocratic acts, such as firing all the civil servants and replacing them with loyalists. The Steve Bannons and Stephen Millers within his inner circle—make that most of the Republican party—are equally unlikely to waste a second chance if they regain power.

Please don't reply that the military, the courts or even the public would never accept such a thing. Failing to recognize the danger posed by Trump is what got us to this point in the first place.

(V) & (Z) answer: You disqualify "the military, the courts or even the public would never accept such a thing," as an answer, but the fact is, that is the correct response here. Yes, Trump undertook an unprecedented effort to subvert the outcome of a presidential contest. And because he and his inside circle are ultimately pretty dopey, it failed badly and now some (or many) of them, including Trump himself, may end up in prison as a result.

If Trump were somehow reelected, and if he refused to leave office on Jan. 20, 2029, what exactly do you think the people of California would do? Or the people of New York? Or Massachusetts? Or Illinois? Or Washington? Do you imagine they would just accept that their government had been transformed into a dictatorship and would passively keep paying their taxes and would offer no resistance? We can assure you, that is not what the response would be. Half the country voted Democratic in the Trump elections and at least half of the remainder would not be OK with ignoring the results of an election, even if doing so gave a "win" to their candidate. There is simply no way that The Donald could successfully impose himself on the American people; the country is too big and too populous, the outrage would be too great, and he is neither clever enough nor ruthless enough.

T.C. in Danby, NY, asks: You wrote: "Yesterday we had an item about how Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is being crushed in the polls by Donald Trump and it is only getting worse. Some people think he ought to wait until 2028, as Trump certainly won't be on the ballot if he wins in 2024 and probably won't be on the ballot if he loses in 2024."

Please discuss the mechanics of the possibility that, if Trump is elected in 2024, the Twenty-Second Amendment would be repealed to allow him to be president-for-life.

(V) & (Z) answer: There is zero chance of this happening. As we note above, we don't believe it is remotely viable for Trump to set aside the Constitution and, by fiat, remain in office beyond the end of a term to which he's been elected. But it's even less likely that he will somehow be able to modify the Constitution to allow himself to remain in power. It takes two-thirds of Congress and three-quarters of state legislatures to amend, and there is no way that a modification or repeal of the Twenty-Second Amendment could clear either of those hurdles.

M.D. in San Tan Valley, AZ, asks: I really enjoyed reading the discussion of whether or not Ron DeSantis should run for President in 2024, or wait to run in 2028. My question is: Wouldn't his being term-limited and no longer governor of Florida anymore by January of 2027 hurt his future chances for the Republican presidential nomination with so much time passing between his term ending and election season?

(V) & (Z) answer: Our instinctive response is: Not really. A private citizen who is out of political office can do things to keep themselves on the public's radar, like appear on cable news or write books or host Saturday Night Live. Plus, they have much more time to network, raise funds, and get to know every voter in Iowa and New Hampshire on a first-name basis.

The numbers back us up here. There are 17 people who served as governor of their state and then were elected president. Six of those were elected after their term as governor (Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Martin Van Buren, James K. Polk, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan). Six were elected while still serving as governor (Rutherford B. Hayes, William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush). Two were elected VP after their term as governor and then succeeded to the presidency (John Tyler and Andrew Johnson). Two were elected VP while serving as governor and then succeeded to the presidency (Theodore Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge). And one was elected president while serving as governor, and then was elected again as a private citizen (Grover Cleveland). The upshot is that, any way you slice it, 50% of governors-turned-presidents were sitting governors when they made the move to Washington while the other 50% were former governors.

A.J. in Salt Lake City, CA, asks: "Fascism" is now commonly thrown around to disparage right-wing candidates. Although this seems appropriate all too often, would another word such as "authoritarian" be more acceptable to potential voters?

(V) & (Z) answer: We're not sure if you're asking about the accuracy of the terms, or the political efficacy of the terms. When it comes to accuracy, a fascist is just one type of authoritarian, so they're both potentially correct. We resisted comparisons between Trumpism and fascism for a long time, but eventually, if a thing has pink skin and a curly tail and a snout, you gotta admit it's a pig. And the current practice of Trumpism, particularly by next-generation Trumpists like Ron DeSantis, is the closest thing to fascism the U.S. has seen since the World War II era.

When it comes to political efficacy, we would guess that most voters don't know exactly what "fascism" or "authoritarian" mean, any more than they know what "socialism" means. They just know those things mean "right-wing and bad" (the former two) or "left-wing and bad" (the latter).

With the caveat that our speciality is analyzing political strategy, and not creating it, our guess is that the most effective way to take down DeSantis would not be to call him a fascist or a dictator or an authoritarian. It would probably be more effective to give him a "title" that implies the same thing, since that would connect him a bit more aggressively to these unwholesome political systems. You can't call him Führer Ron, as that would offend people. But how about Generalissimo DeSantis? Or Chairman Ron?

I.H. in Washington, DC, asks: I understand you believe Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) has no chance at the GOP nomination. Fair enough. Can you, though, imagine him as the VP nominee if he runs for the top job and acquits himself well? No need to make it through an admittedly tough primary for him to be VP. With Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis at the top it might balance the ticket to have a non-grievance-based candidate.

(V) & (Z) answer: We are not so sure that Scott is a "non-grievance-based candidate." He may not be as aggressive about it as DeSantis or Trump, but Scott has plenty to say about wokeness and the evils of the left and yadda-yadda-yadda.

Beyond that, it's just not clear to us what he would bring to a presidential ticket. His home state is already in the bag. He's not going to attract minority voters, since they know he's a right winger, and since the Democratic ticket is also going to have a minority VP. He's not an evangelical like Mike Pence, or a budget hawk like Paul Ryan. He doesn't cover some portion of the political spectrum that DeSantis and Trump don't already have covered, the way that the more centrist John McCain picked the far-right Sarah Palin.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are really hoping they can win back at least some of those suburban housewives. And the way to try to do that is not with a Black man, but instead with a woman, most probably a white woman. Also, Trump will want an attack dog as his running mate, and DeSantis would probably want the same. There are many white, female attack dog options, including Kari Lake, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD). Scott, by contrast, is not an in-your-face, attack-dog type.

D.T. in San Jose, CA, asks: You seem very adamant that Tim Scott has absolutely no chance as a presidential campaign. Do you feel it is similarly pointless for any black candidate in the current Republican Party?

In previous election cycles, both Herman Cain and Ben Carson were each, at one point, considered to be near the front of the pack. Neither ended up winning, but that seems to be because they peaked too early, rather than because of a racial problems.

Was the prospect of victory for Cain or Carson always a mirage, even back then? Or has the Republican Party grown significantly more intolerant of black republicans in recent years?

(V) & (Z) answer: The prospects of a Cain or Carson victory were indeed a mirage. At the times they were "leading" in the polls, Republican voters were very much in "flavor of the month" mode, and kept cycling between alleged frontrunners.

It's pretty hard to imagine a Black person winning the presidency on the Republican ticket, because the Republican Party is currently the party of Trumpism, and Trumpism was built on a foundation of racism (specifically, anti-Obama and anti-Mexican-immigrant racism). Beyond that, however, is the fact that there are very few candidates of any race, color, or creed who appear viable to us. We are dismissive of Scott, yes, but we are also dismissive of Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, Chris Christie and numerous other Trump "challengers." It is very, very hard to position oneself to be a viable presidential candidate. It's even harder to do that as a woman or a member of a minority group. It's even harder still to do it as a woman/minority AND a Republican.

There is very little question that, if he'd wanted to do so 20 years ago, Colin Powell could have mounted a successful presidential run. Condoleezza Rice might have been able to pull it off, as well. But right now, we cannot think of a minority Republican who could plausibly knock off Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. If you absolutely insisted that we name someone, we'd have to go with someone who's not in politics right now, and who has cachet from some other area of endeavor (music, sports, acting, etc.). Maybe Lynn Swann or Rosey Grier or J.C. Watts.

M.G in Stow, MA, asks: We know that the Republicans control the U.S. House due to gerrymandering. My question is whether the Democrats could control the U.S. House if they reciprocated. I know several blue states also gerrymander, but this list of states that use a bipartisan commission to draw maps is predominantly blue, though not entirely. Specifically, if California used gerrymandering, would the Democrats regain control of the U.S. House, and if so, how comfortable would the lead be? Taking the high road isn't effective if it causes you to lose the battle.

What I really want to know is why more blue states don't gerrymander, and whether we can expect a change to that in the future.

(V) & (Z) answer: To give a full answer to your "why more blue states" don't gerrymander question, we'd have to go through each state, one by one. That would be a slog, so we will give you an answer that is generally true: Nonpartisan districting is more popular with voters, both Republican and Democratic, than it is with politicians. So, the states that have nonpartisan districting schemes are, in general, the ones that allow ballot initiatives, and where activists therefore can get the idea before voters. And blue states are more likely to have an initiative process than red states are.

If every state gerrymandered to the full extent of their ability, then yes, it's probable that the Democrats would control the House right now. Focusing on California, FiveThirtyEight crunched the numbers a few years ago and concluded that the Golden State would be able to send 10 more Democrats to the House with an ultra-aggressive gerrymander. That would be enough to flip the chamber all by itself.

Of course, that projection comes with caveats. First, it was done before the latest census, and so "10 more Democrats" should probably be "9 more Democrats," since California lost a seat. Further, as we have noted many times, the downside to an aggressive gerrymander is that your party can take a disproportionately big beating in a bad (or semi-bad) year. Texas, for its part, chose not to assume that risk in 2020, and so went with a fairly moderate gerrymander. There's a fair chance that the California legislature would have made the same choice, if the decision was in their hands.

O.Z.H. in Dubai, UAE, asks: Your response to a question about allowing Chinese and Russian students to study at U.S. universities got me thinking. You say that these students would be great emissaries for the U.S. when they return home. Wouldn't that also be true for students from rural Red America attending top universities?

Obviously, Red America is not a foreign country, but graduates from elite colleges would probably see how voting for Republicans in order to stick it to snobby elites is not in the best interest of their old friends and neighbors. One would think that such people would also be great emissaries. If the Democrats are serious about trying to win (or at least lose less badly) in these areas, surely these folks who "got out" should be recruited to go home and talk some sense into those that stayed (or were left) behind. Do you think this would be an effective strategy and has there been any efforts like this by Team Blue?

(V) & (Z) answer: This does happen sometimes, in that college grads are sometimes hired to return home and to engage in various forms of political activism and/or organizing, like signing people up to vote.

That said, while attending university does indeed make many red-state students more liberal, it also makes them more likely to flee the red states. Universities are pretty cosmopolitan places, and after experiencing that, the rural life is often unappealing. Further, the kinds of jobs you get with a university education are disproportionately found in urban areas and blue states. Good luck trying to be a top-tier software engineer in, say, Prichard, AL (pop: 19,645).

A.T. in Seattle, WA, asks: On what grounds do you base your claim that criticism of Israel is antisemitism? Last I checked, antisemitism is "hostility to, prejudice towards, or discrimination against Jews." Unless you are able to show that Israel, and in particular Israeli leaders such as Netanyahu, represents all Jews and all aspects of Jewish culture and beliefs, etc., I'm not sure how you can possibly hope to justify that "criticism of Israel is antisemitism."

(V) & (Z) answer:

The first criticism of Israel is antisemitic because it's rooted in longstanding antisemitic stereotypes. The second criticism is not antisemitic, because it is not rooted in those stereotypes. Ipso facto, it is not possible to say "all criticism of Israel is antisemitic" or that "no criticism of Israel is antisemitic" because neither of those statements is true.

That said, we did not write what you seem to think we wrote. What we actually wrote was: "[Jeremy Corbyn has] excused various high-profile [antisemitic] incidents he was involved in as either mistakes or with the defense that 'criticism of Israel is not the same thing as antisemitism.' How much you accept those explanations dictates how much of an antisemite you think he is, personally."

In other words, Corbyn has said things that his critics would place in category one above, and that he (and his supporters) would place in category two. This was a correct characterization of the controversy that Corbyn finds himself enmeshed in, and reveals absolutely nothing as to our personal views of antisemitism, Israel or Corbyn.


D.T. in San Jose, CA, asks: If the Republicans in Montana wanted to force the Libertarians to vote for a Republican candidate, is there a good reason that they did not just change to a ranked-choice voting system? Rather than the Senate-only top-two primary scheme they are pushing?

Wouldn't the result basically be the same? Without the risk of alienating the Libertarian voters with overtly partisan shenanigans? Even if you applied ranked-choice to all races (not just the Senate) I don't see any obvious harm to Republican interests.

The Republicans could probably even spin ranked choice voting as more democratic. It would allow Libertarians to vote their conscience first, without "wasting" their vote. That sounds like a simple change that would score some easy points with Libertarian voters.

Am I missing something? Or did the Republicans badly misplay this situation?

(V) & (Z) answer: Well, thanks to Alaska, the well has been poisoned with Republican voters when it comes to ranked-choice voting. Maybe the Republicans who run the Montana state House have fallen victim to the propaganda put out by Sarah Palin, or maybe they fear their voters have fallen victim.

As a purely tactical matter, it depends on the mindset of Libertarian voters in the state and, in particular, how they will respond if there's no Libertarian to vote for. Our guess is that the Libertarians who are borderline Republicans (people like Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY) will probably still show up even if there's no Libertarian to vote for. On the other hand, the people who are devoted Libertarians, and who might well side with the Democrats because of seeing eye-to-eye on social issues, might boycott in protest. If these guesses are right, then Montana Republicans are better off with the system they are proposing.

R.S. in San Mateo, CA, asks: You wrote: "The First Amendment says the government cannot encumber your right to free speech... without a good reason." My copy of the Constitution appears to be missing the "without a good reason" part. Assuming that caveat was added by nine people who get to decide what it means, is there a serious attempt at an argument for why that same interpretation doesn't apply to amendments greater than 1? Say, for example, 2?

(V) & (Z) answer: First, note that the text of the First Amendment is: "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech." As Justice John Paul Stevens pointed out, the word "the" is very important there. Without "the," then the Amendment would effectively be endorsing people's right to say whatever they want whenever they want. To put "the," however, suggests that the Founders were referring to a specific concept, a specific understanding of "freedom of speech." It's not unlike the difference between "people" and "the people," or "government" and "the government." In all cases, the latter is more narrow than the former.

Meanwhile, it is also the case that it defies common sense that the men who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, most of them lawyers, would actually intend any of these rights to be entirely unfettered. Clearly, they did not intend to give people the right to lie while testifying in Court, for example, any more than they intended to give Protestants the right to kill Catholics in the name of "free exercise of religious belief."

And yes, this clearly extends to other amendments and other parts of the Constitution. We specifically addressed the Second Amendment last week; the extra verbiage in there about well-regulated militias was clearly included for a reason, and wasn't just window dressing. Nor would the Framers have signed off on people being able to own weapons that go far beyond the needs of survival and/or militia service. Coming from the tradition of English law, there is simply no question that their words carried implicit meanings in addition to the explicit meanings expressed on paper. Exactly what those implicit meanings are can be debated, but their existence is an indisputable historical fact.

D.H. in Boulder, CO, asks: I read today that the founder of LinkedIn is funding E. Jean Carroll's legal fees in the case against TFG. For the last few years, I've been reading about political committees also paying the legal fees of Donald Trump and his fellow ne'er do wells. Is this common? Do many high profile cases have background funders?

(V) & (Z) answer: This is very common. Linda Brown did not have the money to sue the Topeka Board of Education. Jane Roe (Norma McCorvey) did not have the money to sue Texas DA Henry Wade. Fred Korematsu did not have the money to sue the U.S. government twice (in 1943 and 1988). In all cases, supportive individuals and groups stepped in to defray the costs of their suits.

It is also customary for politicians who are in high office, or who have been in high office, to pass off the legal costs engendered by their actions (in office) to their political parties or to supportive PACs. Dick Nixon certainly did not pay all the costs of his various lawsuits, nor did Bill Clinton pay all the costs of his.

Perhaps the most famous recent example of this sort of maneuvering involves Trump backer Peter Thiel, who funded the lawsuit that wrestler Hulk Hogan won over the website Gawker, thus bankrupting that outlet. Thiel hated Gawker thanks to its coverage of him, and was looking for any way to bring the site down. The E. Jean Carroll situation is somewhat similar, but from the other end of the political spectrum.


A.P. in Bedford, NH, asks: Reading the description of the Harding Administration and Albert Fall's corruption, while also having the Hamilton soundtrack running in my head, I wondered: I don't remember hearing much about corruption in the early days of the republic. What was the first corruption scandal in the U.S.?

(V) & (Z) answer: You could make a pretty good argument for Benedict Arnold's turning over West Point to the British in exchange for a cash reward and a higher salary. Or, if you are limiting things to the Constitution era, then how about the Burr conspiracy? Aaron Burr was angry about the collapse of his political career and was in search of money. So, depending on whose version of events you believe, he either became a Jared Kushner-like beneficiary of the largesse of the Spanish king, farming 40,000 acres of fertile land, or he conspired to lead a secession movement and to establish a new, independent nation. Either way, his shady behavior dealt the final blow to his political career while causing him to be burned in effigy across the country.

L.S. in Black Mountain, NC, asks: In your reply to D.L. in Springfield, who asked about state universities with different types of names, your answer agreed with my understanding of the designations for "learned" professions and "skilled" professions at different schools. But I was surprised to see no mention of the "land grant universities." My limited understanding is that these institutions were primarily for the "skilled" professions and agricultural education and were created by legislation... but I know very little about the actual history of how and when they were founded, and where. Would the staff historian please provide us all with an explanation, and relate it to the previous answer?

(V) & (Z) answer: We considered incorporating something on land-grant schools in that answer, but we try to keep things as clear and on-topic as we can, and we decided the land-grant stuff was too far afield.

There were a couple of college land-grant acts, one in 1862 and one in 1890 (both were named the Morrill Act). To a large extent, the type of school that resulted depended on the state of higher education in the relevant state. In some cases, the state did not have a state-sponsored university at all, and so the Morrill school was the first. Such was the case with, for example, the University of Arkansas or UC Berkeley. In other cases, the state had a "learned" school, and so the Morrill school was the "skilled" school. Such was the case with, for example, Iowa State and Colorado State. And in still other cases, the state did not want to take responsibility for the ongoing operation of a new university, and so used the land to charter a private school. Such was the case, for example, with MIT.

B.B. in Pasadena, CA, asks: Reading your recent answer commenting that "Sherman did not countenance the indiscriminate killing of civilians" got me to wondering... What if Harry S. Truman had instead staged a demonstration of the nuclear bomb for the Japanese generals? Would that have ended the war?

I remember reading, but do not recall if it is true, that one reason they did not do so was they didn't know if the bomb would work. But then, they did have two of them (each a different design, I recall) and each did work (not including the first "Trinity" test at Alamagordo). And, what did they have to lose if they hadn't worked?

Finally, out of sheer speculation. If Truman has been more restrained, would some other country have become the first to drop the bomb?

(V) & (Z) answer: The Truman administration did consider a demonstration of the atomic bomb. And they were legitimately concerned that a failed test would do a lot of harm. The overall strategy was to create an impression of the ability to unleash an unending wave of deadly force, if needed. This would only have been an impression, as Truman only had two bombs at his disposal (it took a long time to purify the necessary radioactive elements). Had one bomb failed, it would have been very difficult to put a scare into the Japanese with just the one remaining bomb.

There were, of course, other considerations. The U.S. wanted to know exactly how destructive these bombs were, and wanted the Russians to know, as well. Truman also knew that the government had spent an ungodly amount of money on the Manhattan Project, and that it was politically necessary to demonstrate that the money had been well spent. And he worried that even if the generals were convinced that further resistance was useless, the Japanese population might keep fighting. It is unknowable exactly how much of a role each of these various considerations played in the choices he ultimately made.

And it is probably the case that, had the U.S. not used the atomic bombs, some other country would have done so. Humanity needed an object lesson in the terrible power of nuclear weapons, so as to make their deployment nearly inconceivable. And imagine what would have happened if that object lesson had taken place 5 or 10 or 15 years after World War II ended, when nukes had become vastly more powerful? By the mid-1950s, both the U.S. and U.S.S.R. were building nuclear devices with more than 1,000 times the explosive power of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.

J.H. in Hamburg, Germany, asks: Recently, I had a discussion with a friend about why Kamala Harris is such a weak vice president. It lead us to question the role of the U.S. vice president in general. To me, it looks like a very strange position, without a clear mandate or responsibility (other than being the senate president and waiting to replace the sitting president). We were wondering if there are other countries with a comparable role in a presidential system and why the U.S. system has this position at all. And finally, were there any really strong vice presidents in U.S. history?

(V) & (Z) answer: It is essential that, if a nation's leader dies or otherwise leaves office prematurely, there be a clear and universally agreed upon way to replace them quickly. In parliamentary systems, the governing party or coalition can quickly choose a new leader, usually elevating the assistant leader. In other systems, a VP succeeds the president when and if that becomes necessary.

The men who wrote the Constitution were primarily concerned with establishing a clear line of succession, though they somewhat expected the VP to take a fairly active role in running the Senate, something along the lines of the Speaker of the House today. Eventually, it became clear that they had guessed wrong, and the vice presidency was quite weak. So, for generations, that slot on the ticket was used to appeal to some geographical region or demographic. And once the election was over, the VP had about as much importance as the White House doorman.

It is only very recently that presidents began to use VPs as significant partners in governance. There is little question that the three most significant VPs in history were Al Gore, Dick Cheney and Joe Biden. The runners-up would be Walter Mondale, Richard Nixon and Mike Pence. Most of the rest got to spend multiple years learning what it's like to be a bucket of warm piss. There is no good example of a VP who did what many people seem to want Kamala Harris to do, which is be some sort of prominent, public-facing spokesperson for the administration. At most, VPs make the front page once in a while, and not on a weekly basis.

Due to the need to have a line of succession, many nations have vice presidents (you can see a current list here). Those who wrote their constitutions 150-200 years ago tended to follow the U.S. template, and so ended up with VPs that are pretty weak. Others learned from the Americans' mistakes, and tried to find something useful for the VP to do besides wait for the president to die. And so, in many nations, the VP acts as a form of Cabinet secretary, or as something of a prime minister (handling foreign affairs while the president oversees domestic affairs), or as the president's liaison to the legislature (a task that, in the U.S., is often handled by the White House Chief of Staff).

F.S. in Cologne, Germany, asks: When I hear historians speaking about history, it's—in my view—mostly about "his story" and not "her story." Is my view justified? Should historians focus more on women and become "herstorians"?

(V) & (Z) answer: Your assessment is fair, but it's not an easy thing to fix. Textbooks and survey courses generally provide a macro view of the past. And for most of the past, it was men who were the politicians and the generals and the scientists and the artists.

Often, the corrective for this is to include a lecture (or a chapter, or a sidebar) on things like "women in Revolutionary America" or "women during the Civil War" or "women's activism in the Gilded Age." However, there's only so much of this that's possible. First, because there's only so much time in a lecture course (or so much space in a textbook). Second, because if you do too much of this, you lose the main narrative thread of the course, and it becomes a mess that the students can't follow. Third, because women aren't the only group to get short shrift. If you're going to have a lecture on women during the Civil War, for example, you damn well better have one on Black people during the Civil War.

Here's a specific example. In (Z)'s class on California history, he starts every lecture with a person (or a duo) who embodies some major theme of that lecture. Here's the list of lectures and the people that they start with:

  1. The Natives, the Spanish and the Environment: Father Junípero Serra
  2. The Californios: Pio Pico
  3. Boom and Bust from the Gold Rush to the End of the Century: Denis Kearney
  4. The Water Wars and the Noir Years: Aimee Semple McPherson
  5. The Depression and World War II: George and Jean Stewart (Z's grandparents)
  6. Postwar Politics: Ronald Reagan
  7. The Rise of Silicon Valley: Steve Jobs
  8. Native Americans in California: Ishi
  9. Asians Americans in California: George Takei
  10. Mexicans and Mexican Americans in California: César Chávez and Dolores Huerta
  11. African Americans in California: Bridget "Biddy" Mason
  12. Hollywood: D.W. Griffith
  13. Tourism: Walt Disney
  14. California Stereotypes: Varies by semester
  15. California Architecture: Frank Gehry

The course has three parts: Narrative of California History (1-7), California Cultures (8-11) and The California Image (12-15). As you can see, four of 15 lectures start with a woman (sometimes 5 of 15). Is that enough? Maybe, maybe not. But it's not too easy to increase the number. In some cases, the non-woman who starts the lecture is absolutely essential (Serra, Reagan, Jobs, Disney) and in other cases, there's no great woman alternative (Pico, Takei, Griffith, Gehry).


C.P. from Silver Spring, MD, asks: After watching Donald Trump's indictment, Clarence Thomas's corruption, and the Tennessee Justins' comeback I only have one question: would you pick Shohei Ohtani or Mike Trout to finish runner-up for the AL Most Valuable Player award behind Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman?

(V) & (Z) answer: You're right, it's hard to imagine anyone beating out a player with 17 career home runs and 51 career RBIs for MVP. That said, all the awards are clearly Ohtani's to lose. The people who vote on these things (the BBWAA) are fascinated by him, and they love, love, love a good story. They gave Miguel Cabrera an MVP award he didn't deserve because he won the Triple Crown that year. They gave Dennis Eckersley an MVP he didn't deserve because he played for a superteam and he had a cool underhand pitching delivery. And they are itching to "make history" and have Ohtani to be the first person to win the Cy Young, Silver Slugger and the MVP in the same year.

F.C. in Sequim, WA, asks: I vote for a write-in candidate quite often. Usually Daffy Duck. Sometimes Mickey Mouse. If I vote for Mickey Mouse in 2024, will that vote default to DeSantis? Or will it default to his opponent since he's getting his ass kicked by Disney?

(V) & (Z) answer: We are reminded of the episode of 30 Rock where the naive page Kenneth says that joining a political party is a sin, so he just always writes in Jesus' name. His conservative Republican boss Jack Donaghy says: "We count those."

J.M. in Silver Spring, MD, asks: You wrote: "(Z) has been trying to repay a debt to a friend that is considerably less than $130,000, but is more than $10,000. He has the money, and there is nothing illegal involved. But banks do not make it easy to transfer that much cash from person to person, and even when you do finally execute the transaction, you get a long look from the IRS."

So I don't doubt you but I am curious. When my mother died, my sister and I inherited some stacks of money and a house. I wanted the house and she didn't so I bought her out to the tune of $95,000. I did this by simply depositing that sum in her savings account. No one batted an eye and I never heard from the IRS (12 years and counting) about this. Note that this was money from my account going into hers, not any accounts that were in my mother's name.

I am wondering why this was painless for me and a nuisance for you. What did we do differently?

(V) & (Z) answer: At some point, somebody (The banks? The Treasury Department? The Illuminati?) adopted a bunch of strict rules. When (Z) was dealing with his father's estate during the pandemic, there were only two heirs: (Z) and (Z)'s brother. Because the courts were closed, and because (Z)'s brother needed the money, the judge gave permission to do a monthly disbursement of $2,500 to (Z)'s brother each month while the estate was being settled (since the estate was somewhat large, there was little risk that the $2,500 per month would be needed to satisfy a creditor). And to get those payments into (Z)'s brother's account, (Z) had to establish an account at the same bank in his own name, deposit the money into his account, and then do an electronic transfer. The bank simply would not allow a direct deposit, either of cash or a check, in that (relatively small) amount.

Obviously, it's not impossible to transfer funds, even five or six figures. But the point was that it's not terribly easy. And it's even harder if your goal is to leave no paper trail and to attract no attention from the government.

H.F. in Pittsburgh, PA, asks: Who utilizes Snark more often, (V) or (Z)? (V) was dishing it up pretty good on Monday, April 10th! Can Snark-iness be quantified? Could the Staff Mathematician look into the matter?

(Behold, a snarky question about snark: meta-snark!)

(V) & (Z) answer: The answer is almost certainly (Z). First, he is a bit more temperamentally inclined to it. Second, he writes three weekday posts (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday) while (V) writes two. Third, because of the time difference between The Netherlands and Los Angeles, there's usually time for (Z) to read (V)'s material and to add stuff, including jokes. So, some of the snark on April 10 was actually his (for example, and not surprisingly, the line about the Chicago Bears). In the other direction (when Z, in Los Angeles, is the main author), there is generally less time for (V) to do anything besides proofread.

Reader Question of the Week

Here is the question we put before readers last week:

O.Z.H. in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, asks: For those of us who really don't want to see either a President DeSantis or President Trump 2.0., which of them should we be rooting for to win the GOP nomination?

The answers ran about 75% Don, 25% Ron, and an interestingly large percentage of respondents made specific reference to things like root canals, enemas and cholera. Anyhow, here some of the answers we got in response:

R.A. in Chesterfield, MO: Ron, by all means. Not because he is a better human being (he's not) nor due to his charisma (he has none) but simply on the grounds that nominating Ron will piss off Donny Jack, quite possibly to the point that he either starts his own party, or, à la Kari Lake, runs as an independent whilst insisting that he, not that Mouse-bashing buffoon in Florida, is the One True Republican Nominee. I would be hopeful to the point of prayer (and I say that as a committed "None Of The Above" religiously) that such a move would splinter the Republican Party, and allow for a True Blue Tsunami that would actually succeed in Making America Great Again.

(sigh) A man can dream, can't he?

D.T. in Parsonsfield, ME: Answering this question is like being asked to choose between a root canal or an enema. I guess I have to make DeSantis my choice.

At this stage, I don't think either man is in a position to win the presidency if the Democrats nominate Joe Biden or any other reasonable candidate. However, if Trump were to become president once more, the consequences for our nation would be dire. DeSantis does not have the cult following nor the ability to convince or coerce people to perform illegal or traitorous acts as Trump does.

J.L. in Richmond, VA: I think the absolute best scenario for Democrats is if DeSantis wins the Republican nomination over Trump, but just barely. DeSantis has better odds in the general election, but inevitably Trump will go scorched-earth on DeSantis, claiming the process was rigged and demanding his people don't vote in November. Yes, he would most likely do this anyways, but if DeSantis wins with 50.1% of the delegates it won't appear that he has the overwhelming support of Republicans, lending ammo to Trump's attacks. This will have the double effect of most likely handing the election to Biden, and also making DeSantis a "loser" so he won't be able to run again in 2028. Otherwise, if Trump gets the nod, DeSantis will gladly support him in every way and leave the door open for another Ron Run for the next presidential election, and he just might win it.

J.D. in St. Paul, MN: DeSantis is savvy, ruthless, vengeful, and cruel. He would be terrible. Trump is insane. We should be rooting for neither of them, but insanity is the graver danger. As a voter in an open-primary state where the Democratic race is often uncontested, I would like to add that I often think about crossing over and voting for the best or else the least electable of the Republicans. That I waver between these contradictory impulses tells me every time to play it sober and straight and vote for the candidate I want, the Democrat.

F.S. in Cologne, Germany: In Germany, a choice between two very bad possibilities is often compared to a choice between the plague and cholera. A choice between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis is such a choice. Nevertheless, I would definitely choose Trump because he is an ineffective leader. I mean, I'm certain that Trump won't become a tyrant, he is simply too chaotic and only talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk. In my opinion, he is a FINO (fascist in name only). I'm not so certain that DeSantis won't become a tyrant. He seems to be more effective than Trump.

L.S. in Greensboro, NC: Don. Many Americans have not yet realized that they hate Ron. With Don that's already baked in.

J.R.A. from St. Petersburg, FL: Don? All the information that I have available to me at the present time makes this a really hard decision. DeSantis probably has much lower electability, but he's much less incompetent than Trump—though he has a tendency to Thelma and Louise right over the cliff, and we will see how many times he gets reversed in the next year.

You generally want your evil to be incompetent.

R.L.D. in Sundance, WY: I'm not fond of the idea of rooting for either of them, but if you're asking who will be easier to beat in the general election, Don has a proven track record on the national stage of 0-2. And now that Democrats have their own personal experience with the consequences of believing your vote doesn't matter, I suspect the Electoral College won't be as much of a problem either.

B.C. in Selinsgrove, PA: The only person that I think would be easier for the Democrats to defeat in the general election than Donald Trump is Mike Pence.

Even though DeSantis has his own set of negatives, a general matchup between he and Joe Biden will exacerbate the "Biden is too old" storyline.

R.H.D. in Webster, NY: I'd be rooting for Trump to win the GOP nomination. He's a known quantity. There's not much else to know about him. Yes, I'd rather have a root canal without novocaine than go through another election with Trump on the ballot. But with DeSantis, he has that slick personality that can seduce swing voters to his side on issues like education and crime. He's smarter and sharper than Trump and hasn't reached his ceiling yet.

P.J.T. in Raton, NM: Hard choice, because both would be easy targets in a general election, Traitor Trump because of criminal investigations and prosecutions and the public memory of 1/6, Ronda Santis (it delights me to imagine him in drag!) because his silly measures to restrict First Amendment rights by banning books and the honest teaching of history, and his bullying of the trans population while ignoring the nation's (and the world's) real problems, just won't play well nationally. But when all is said and done, I hope Trump is the Republican nominee for purely personal reasons: I want to see him humiliated (again) and placed behind bars for the evil he has done. The only Republican the Democrats need to fear, in my opinion, is Asa Hutchinson.

J.M. in Houston, TX: I feel like this is an unknowable question.

There are some right-leaning "independents" and classical conservatives (even hardcore right-wingers) who are sick of Trump but intrigued by DeSantis.

On the other hand, there is a small but non-negligible percent of the electorate that loves Trump and just isn't going to be motivated the same way by anyone else. Maybe DeSantis only ends up losing 5-10% of these voters (Not to a Democrat, but to non-voting), but that could still be enough.

On the other hand, in a lot of ways DeSantis scares the crap out of me far more than Trump at this point. I have co-workers who were Trump/Biden voters (Think middle aged, white, male, educated suburbanites) and don't necessarily regret either vote. They think Trump is mostly a clown, but also think Biden is out of his element. I don't think even they know who they would vote for in a rematch. But a few of them are legitimately disturbed by some of the DeSantis stuff (punishing private businesses, emasculating the Florida legislature into a rubber stamp factory, meddling in education... again, these guys aren't liberals, but they're generally very highly educated and very pro-business).

Ultimately, I think that on net DeSantis would be a weaker general election candidate than Trump. But given the margins we deal with in presidential elections in this country, I don't think anyone can truly know which effect is going to outweigh the others.

J.J. in North Plains, OR: Neither! The risks involved with either of them being president are too great. We should all be rooting for a long dragged-out slugfest that is so nasty both are left with absolutely no political future and the death of Trumpism.

R.B. in Seattle, WA: Like many things in life (say, hoping for a sunny day even though we're in a drought), we can be thankful that it doesn't matter in the slightest who we root for on this one. Trump is going to get it if he is alive, period.

Here is the question for next week:

P.M. in Pensacola, FL, asks: People have said a vital quality of an electable presidential candidate is that they should be someone you could sit down with over a beer. I'm going to assume that applies to male candidates.

If the candidate were female, would the beer rule apply, or would it be some other beverage? Or, perhaps, some other rule?

Submit your answers here!

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