Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Saturday Q&A

A very good mix today, we think.

Current Events

Z.C. in Beverly Hills, CA, asks: If Fulton County DA Fani Willis does indeed indict Donald Trump, how would it go down? Doesn't law enforcement usually make arrests of people who have committed crimes at the same time the indictment is announced? And if so, would the Fulton County Sheriff's Department have the authority to arrest Trump at Mar-a-Lago, or would they have to request cooperation (extradition?) from local authorities in Florida? What happens if those authorities refuse?

V & Z answer: Starting with your latter questions, should it come to making an arrest at Mar-a-Lago, Willis would ask Florida authorities to do the job, and then would send a Georgia vehicle to pick him up. If Florida refused to help, then Willis would ask for federal assistance, either from the FBI, the U.S. Marshals' Service or, most likely, from the Secret Service. Officers from one state cannot make an arrest in another state without explicit permission from the state they are traveling to.

That said, it is unlikely to come to that. Under these circumstances, indicted individuals are usually given the opportunity to surrender themselves voluntarily. That spares them the embarrassment of a perp walk, wherein they are escorted into the courthouse/jail in handcuffs, flanked by police. If Trump does not play nice, and refuses to surrender himself, not only is he going to get a perp walk, but probably the longest perp walk in history. They might park the police car in Savannah, or Charlotte, or Buffalo.

C.L. in Atlanta, GA, asks: What do you think Fani Willis' career ambitions could be? Would her profile be big enough for Georgia governor '26?

V & Z answer: Only she knows, of course. And while we often raise the possibility that she aspires to higher office, her pursuit of Trump could obviously be driven by other things. Perhaps she wants to be the most legendary DA in Fulton County history. Perhaps she wants to work for a white-shoe law firm for a nice high-six-figure salary. Perhaps she is just doing her job to the best of her ability.

If she is the person who takes down Trump, she'd certainly be on the shortlist for a lot of possible promotions. Sometimes, successful prosecutors go the DA--> state AG--> governor route, so she might try that. We think she would also be viable as a gubernatorial candidate, and so she might try to go there directly, in a year when the job will be open due to term limits. She could also be appointed U.S. Attorney General if Merrick Garland steps down. Or, a Black Southern woman who is the Trump vanquisher would check an awful lot of boxes for a vice presidential candidate (and might let Biden get away with cashiering Kamala Harris, if he's looking to do so).

R.F. in Washington, DC, asks: I've seen a lot of coverage over the past year or so about the possibility that Trump will be indicted in Georgia, and now that it seems imminent, I'm curious as to whether you think Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) will simply pardon Trump after he's indicted. I've been surprised to see this possibility go undiscussed despite all the commentators writing on this subject. I think it is very likely that Kemp will let Trump be indicted, as retribution for supporting a primary opponent against him, but that Kemp will pardon Trump before he ever faces trial. Do you agree? Kemp is ambitious and a pardon would be extremely popular with his voters in Georgia and nationally.

V & Z answer: We've answered this before, but since it's sure to come up a bunch in the next couple of months, we'll address it again.

First, you might be overestimating the extent to which a pardon makes sense for Kemp. He thoroughly dislikes Trump. Further, he's clearly got his eye on a U.S. Senate seat, representing a state that just gave its EVs to a Democrat, and that has favored Democrats over Trumpy Republicans in the last three U.S. Senate elections. A pardon, even if Kemp puts aside the personal animosities, could well do the Governor more harm than good.

That said, it is a moot point. The governor of Georgia does not have pardon power. That prerogative lies with the five-member Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

R.H. in Macungie, PA, asks: Once upon a time I was the Top Secret Control Officer on a submarine. All material classified secret or above had a chain of custody and was required to be stored securely when not in use. In addition, it was required to be promptly destroyed when it expired and records of destruction had to be maintained. When I was relieved of those duties I had to account for all material and physically inventory it with my relief.

It appears that the White House doesn't follow these basic practices. It would seem that every secret and top secret document found in possession of Trump, Biden and now Pence should have a chain of custody document somewhere indicating who last had possession (and was therefore accountable). Also, these folks don't appear to be meeting the required storage provisions for such materia while not in use. I haven't seen this discussed anywhere in the press. I don't understand how handling classified material could become so cavalier. I had to take training and annual retraining on my responsibilities for handling classified material. Is the White House exempt from these requirements?

V & Z answer: Actually, the White House is exempt, in a manner of speaking. You can't exactly bust a sitting president for poor document hygiene, especially since he can declassify documents at will. And chasing after members of a sitting administration, particularly high-ranking members, would be almost as pointless.

In any event, it is our guess that the amount of classified information on a submarine is relatively small, and that most of all of it is information that is legitimately sensitive. On the other hand, the amount of classified information floating around the White House is massive, and a lot of it is stuff that probably doesn't need to be classified. So, we can see how document discipline might be maintained in the former context but not the latter.

That said, we are not experts on this topic, as we have already pointed out this week. We got a lot of interesting messages from people who do have expertise, so we'll be running an item with some of those during the week.

R.T. in Arlington, TX, asks: Now that we have two presidents with a record of possessing classified materials while out of office, do you think the search will expand to any or all of the former Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, or Carter?

V & Z answer: The short answer? No.

The longer answer: We suspect that a lot of former federal officials are doing a once-over of their residences, offices, etc. right now, to make certain they don't have something they should not have. That probably includes the most recent ex-presidents and ex-vice presidents.

However, the federal government can only conduct a search with probable cause. The fact that documents were found in the possession of Joe Biden, Donald Trump and Mike Pence does not constitute probable cause to search the residences of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton or any other high-ranking officeholder of recent vintage.

On top of that, keep in mind that these folks have all established libraries/research centers, or are in the process of doing so in the case of Obama. That means that all the records they had will have been reviewed, indexed, etc. So, the odds are pretty good that even if the FBI did search Bill Clinton's or Jimmy Carter's houses, they wouldn't find anything.

R.S. in San Mateo, CA, asks: You've discussed how Biden won't let the country default on its debt, perhaps by declaring the debt limit unconstitutional. And that if he did that, he would face howls from the right, and perhaps even lawsuits from Republicans.

But might this actually be the Republicans' 4-D chess agenda? By forcing Biden to eliminate the debt ceiling, they will portray themselves and America as the poor victims of the reckless, spendthrift Left, Fox's programming would be set for months, and they'll crank up the fundraising e-mail machine. But also, then they'd no longer ever be held to the debt ceiling themselves, and can plan profligate spending the next time they're in charge. Could this be their secret plan?

V & Z answer: It's possible, but we very much doubt it. First of all, the people who are theoretically driving this grand plan (Chip Roy, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, etc.) have not exactly shown themselves to be strategic thinkers of the first order. Second, if this really was the grand plan, it's unlikely that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would not be a part of it. And he clearly wants to, and intends to, raise the debt limit the normal way.

C.G. in McLean, VA, asks: The trillion-dollar coin is an interesting but politically thorny issue. Would it not be possible for the Biden Administration to issue a single coin with a stated value being "the balance of the federal budget for debts authorized but not funded by Congress"? Call it the Fourteenth Amendment Forever Coin to tie it in with both the very popular Forever Stamp and the 14th Amendment.

Make a big show of it, put it on display at the Smithsonian with a digital tab showing the coin's value in real time, along with videos explaining the history of the most expensive coin in the history of the world.

Dare Republicans and the Supreme Court to try and challenge the validity of the coin and cause a default. It has to be better than this predictable kabuki theater.

V & Z answer: Of course, there's a pretty big difference between a forever stamp and a hypothetical forever coin. With the stamp, the costs have already been paid by the bearer, and the "forever" is just the USPS saying they will index the value of the service to inflation. With a forever coin, by contrast, the U.S. government would be granting itself infinite money in perpetuity. We think the financial markets would not respond well to that.

The court system wouldn't be pleased, either, as such a scheme would almost certainly run afoul of the laws that govern the production of currency. For example, 31 U.S. Code 5101 says: "United States money is expressed in dollars, dimes or tenths, cents or hundreths, and mills or thousandths. A dime is a tenth of a dollar, a cent is a hundredth of a dollar, and a mill is a thousandth of a dollar." Expressing the value of a coin as "however much money we need" is not expressing it in dollars, dimes, cents, mills, or any of the other legal options.

S.M. in Toronto, ON, Canada, asks: With the fact that none of the most outspoken MAGA members made it onto the House Intelligence Committee—and recognizing that the answer to this might well be "probably, but no one knows the truth"—does the U.S. intelligence establishment advise and consult on potential members? For example, if there's any members that are potentially compromised (or perhaps more importantly, suspected to be compromised), is that information shared with the party's half of the Gang of Eight, who are then told "better that this member not be placed in a position where they receive classified briefings"? Sort of the same reasoning as to why Biden denied Trump post-office intelligence briefings.

(And, yes, this question came up while watching an old Yes Minister episode where the chancellor was disqualified for putting his name up for the vacant PM slot due to some... interesting political liaisons that were known to MI5. That's how Jim Hacker winds up as PM himself, in fact.)

V & Z answer: This is unlikely, we think. First, Congress tends to be pretty protective of its turf. Second, the Intelligence Committee has oversight powers over the various intelligence agencies. It would be very inappropriate for the intelligence agencies to help select those charged with keeping an eye on them.

The only thing we can imagine is a scenario where a longstanding member of the Intelligence Committee has lunch with a friend in the FBI, and the friend in the FBI lets slip that, say, Rep. "George Santos" (R-NY) might be in hock to the Russians, and that the members might like to know that information. But this is entirely hypothetical, and if things like this do happen, we can't imagine they happen very often.

S.Y. in Skokie, IL, asks: In your item on the Durham-Russian investigation, you mention that John Durham went to Italy personally to follow up an investigative lead. You concluded: "The U.S. citizen implicated in financial misdeeds by the Italians has changed residences since then, from a mansion in Washington, DC, to a resort in Florida."

Are you guys being cutesy pie or is this a form of CYA so you don't get in trouble legally?

V & Z answer: Well, if we have to pick from these options, then the answer is "being cutesy pie." We set that up so it had sort of a twist ending, and thought the twist would be ruined if readers could see out of the corner of their eyes that the name "Trump" was coming up shortly. We did name him explicitly at the end of the item.

We definitely do not need to worry about covering ourselves when it comes to Trump. First, we never come within a country mile of defaming anyone. Second, we would be thrilled if he sued us. It would be great publicity for the site. Further, once we knew we had his attention, we'd needle him daily.


J.H. in El Segundo, CA, asks: Can we say the current iteration of Republicans resemble a bunch of anarchists? They want no regulations on almost everything from guns to taxes to federal lands and environmental policies. They want to eliminate every major program from social security to Obamacare, to food stamps and they also literally started destroying the Capitol building. How much do these new Republicans have in common with prior U.S. anarchist movements and why don't the Democrats use the many similarities to paint the Republican Party as a bunch of anarchists?

V & Z answer: No. It's true that many Republicans, particularly the fanatics, believe in the things you point out. But they are also perfectly happy to lavish money on things like defense. Oh, and they may not admit it out loud, but they actually like federal spending decisions that result in states like Mississippi getting $2.60 back from the feds for every dollar the state pays in taxes. Similarly, many Republicans may want to get rid of regulations on guns or the environment, but they are perfectly happy to regulate people's reproductive choices, or what books are available in schools. Anarchists don't believe in any of these things.

If you want a label for the fringy elements of the Republican Party, they are not anarchists. They are theocrats.

J.H. in Camano Island, WA, asks: Could you please try to explain the obsession the right-wing nuts have with the exposure of women's shoulders (Michelle Obama, women lawmakers in Missouri, and now women lawmakers in Florida)? I don't get or understand what is going on. Obviously I'm not understanding current styles.

V & Z answer: Well, the shoulders include a lot of real estate, and much of that real estate is in proximity to the breasts, which have been sexualized in American society. So, perhaps many of these folks find exposed shoulders stimulating, or they worry that others will. We would bet that Mike Pence won't have dinner with a woman whose shoulders are exposed.

It is also the case that many religious denominations disapprove of exposed female shoulders. Islam, of course, but also the LDS church and several fundamentalist Protestant sects. This disapproval presumably originates from the same impulses that lead to secular disapproval (Ah! Too sexy!) while at the same time reinforcing the secular attitudes.

R.P. in Northfield, IL, asks: Sure, Donald Trump has declared he's running again, but I recall some people, most notably Michael Cohen, being of the opinion that TFG really won't follow through with it because of the likelihood that he would lose, and he just cannot again be a loser. What do you think? Will he find a reason to withdraw? And would you say that at this point he probably would lose to Biden, and perhaps to almost any Democrat? Also, would he be afraid of losing in a GOP primary?

V & Z answer: We agree that Trump is overwhelmingly likely to lose to Joe Biden or any other Democrat, and is at serious risk of losing in the primaries.

As to how he deals with this, we just don't know, although we can see three possibilities. The first is that he turns himself into a victim, and says he just has to drop out because he needs all his energy to fight Fani Willis, Merrick Garland and the deep state. The second is that he redefines the terms of victory, such that a "win" is not retaking the White House but instead stopping Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) from doing so. This is basically what happened with Theodore Roosevelt in 1912.

The third possibility is based on an old saying among mental health professionals: A narcissist does not commit suicide, because they cannot imagine a world without themselves in it. Trump is clearly a narcissist, and he may well be so far gone that he literally cannot imagine losing. He may well believe at this point that there are only two outcomes: (1) I win and return to the White House or (2) I win and am denied the ability to return to the White House by the deep state.

R.L. in Alameda, CA, asks: This past weekend, Bill Maher's closing New Rule was his take on how "George Santos" won his seat. In short, he placed a bet that national and mainstream media wouldn't be paying much attention to a New York Congressional race and then crafted a different message for each information silo. To right-wing media, he was all in on Trump, attended the 1/6 Insurrection, worked at Goldman Sachs and denied Trump's election loss. To the (local) mainstream media he was a gay, Jewish immigrant whose grandmother died in the Holocaust, mother died on 9/11, and he himself was one of the early victims of COVID. Folks heard what they wanted to hear and didn't hear from the other side of the media landscape, thus he collected votes from all sides, enough to win.

I have no idea if the data bears this out, but it seems plausible. What do you think? Plausible? Possible? Likely?

V & Z answer: This seems to us like an assessment that sounds good in theory, but that is not plausible in reality. How can a candidate possibly silo information this effectively, especially since most voters don't pay close attention until the end? And how does it work with people who are in more than one of his "target" groups (like, say, far-right Jews)? And if this is doable, how come "Santos" is the only House candidate to figure out how to make it work?


J.S. in Dayton, NJ, asks: What exactly is a "think tank"? Who works there? What do they do there? I'm sure it's not just a room full of nerds sitting around thinking about things. Probably not a room full of philosophers either, though that might be more interesting.

And while I'm on the subject of familiar words/terms I should know but actually don't, what exactly is a pundit? Can any journalist, columnist, or blogger be a pundit? Are (V) & (Z) pundits? Do pundits work at think tanks?

V & Z answer: Think tanks are research institutions that study policy issues and that try to steer policymakers in the direction desired by the institution's sponsors by speaking publicly about and publishing their results. They are very much like a university department/research institute, except without students and teaching (usually), and they tend to employ the same sorts of people that work at universities, namely academics and former officeholders. In fact, many think tanks are affiliated with (and often even located at) universities. For example, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs is located at Harvard, the Hoover Institution is at Stanford and the Earth Institute is at Columbia.

Pundits are people, including journalists, columnists, and bloggers, who share their expertise and opinions with the general public. At least, that's the literal definition. Today, the word sometimes carries connotations of vacuousness and/or sensationalism. (V) & (Z) would like to think of themselves as pundits in the first sense, but not the second.

J.C. in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, asks: Having lived in Hawaii for two years, I was surprised that you listed it as an urban state. The vast majority of Hawaii, outside of Honolulu and perhaps Hilo, is rural. How is an urban vs. rural state determined? Is it because the vast majority of Hawaiian citizens are residents of Honolulu?

V & Z answer: Pretty much.

The census bureau has a rubric for identifying "urban areas" that is based on population and on housing density. Then, it calculates what portion of the residents live in that state's urban areas. The national average is 80.7%, so any state where the percentage is higher than that is generally described as an "urban state." Hawaii is at 91.9%, which is well above the cutoff, and in fact makes it the 5th most urbanized state in the country (behind #1 California, #2 New Jersey, #3 Nevada and #4 Massachusetts). If you would care to guess the least urban state in the country, we'll put that at the bottom of the page. You might be a little surprised, but probably not a lot.

H.C. in San Francisco, CA, asks: On Wednesday you had a nice writeup about how Sen. Eric Schmitt's (R-MO) request to join the Judiciary Committee is very audacious because it normally takes 15-20 years to get that kind of power in the Senate. Makes sense! But in the next paragraph you mention that there's another complication that Schmitt's state would be overrepresented on the committee because Josh Hawley (R-MO) is already on that committee. The two juxtaposed paragraphs led me to wonder: Hawley joined the senate in 2019 and was assigned to the Judiciary Committee in 2021. How did this relatively young senator with only a couple of years in the Senate manage to get this position so quickly? Given this context, is it that audacious for Schmitt to be asking for this committee assignment?

V & Z answer: We could have been a little clearer. It takes 15-20 years for a senator to get the kind of seniority where they can chair an important committee, or have the clout to insist on a seat on a particular committee of their choice.

Hawley got on the Judiciary Committee because a couple of seats were vacated by their occupants (the ones held by retiring Republican senators Orrin Hatch and Jeff Flake), and as a former law professor, Hawley was well qualified for the job. For this Congress, by contrast, there are no open seats. So, Schmitt cannot ask politely for one. And because he's a very junior member, he cannot demand one and expect to be accommodated.

J.H. in Boston, MA, asks: In response to D.C. in Teaneck, you listed Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Oregon, and Utah as the states which have dual-candidacy laws, which enjoin a candidate from running for two offices at once. I was surprised not to see Massachusetts on the list. I specifically recall Joe Kennedy (D) resigning from the House to run in the Senate primary against Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) in 2020. Also, when Marty Walsh joined the Biden cabinet, all the Boston city councillors who ran for mayor to replace him had to resign their city councilship. Surely Massachusetts is also a "no dual candidates" state?

V & Z answer: First, while many Senate candidates do resign from their seats in the House, so as to make clear how committed they are, and also to give themselves maximal time to campaign, Kennedy did not do so. He said he would not stand for reelection to the House, but he did not resign. Further, if he had been compelled to resign, that wouldn't actually be a dual-candidacy law, it would be a resign-to-run law. These exist in several states, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii and Texas.

In any case, state laws set the rules for candidates who are running for state or federal office. Those who run for municipal office (largely) do so under the laws of that particular municipality. So, a particular city or town in Massachusetts might have a resign-to-run law or a dual-candidacy law, but the state itself has neither.


S.B. in Hood River, OR, asks: This week I learned for the first time the events leading up to Fort Sumter, namely that the Confederates took over a number of armories and other federal installations in the South prior to attacking Sumter. Why aren't these actions considered the start of the Civil War? Is it because shots weren't fired?

V & Z answer: That is correct. The universal convention is that the Civil War took place from April 12, 1861, to April 9, 1865. However, both of these dates are actually open to debate. April 12 was when the first shots were fired, yes, but one could just as well make a case for December 20, 1860, when South Carolina became the first state to secede.

Similarly, April 9 was when Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia, the Confederacy's most important army, to Ulysses S. Grant. However, there were still many Confederate armies still in the field, and some of them didn't surrender for weeks or months. The final Confederate to formally surrender was Cmdr. James Iredell Waddell of the CSS Shenandoah, who did not officially lay down arms until November 6, 1865. And Brig. Gen. Joseph O. Shelby never formally surrendered his command, which was known as Shelby's Brigade.

In this case, April 9 probably makes the most sense, since that's when everyone knew for certain the Union had won. But you could make a case for the death of Abraham Lincoln (April 15), or for the day when the news of emancipation had finally reached every Confederate State (June 19, 1865), or for the final Confederate general to surrender (Stand Watie; June 23, 1865).

E.L. in Manassas, VA, asks: When and how did the Democrats become the big tent party in favor of rights for minorities and the Republicans the party of racism and white supremacy?

V & Z answer: The process began in the 1930s, when many Black Americans were won over to the Democratic banner by the leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt and by the New Deal. It reached full flower in the 1960s and 1970s, with Democrats leading the way in passing key civil rights legislation and Richard Nixon adopting the Southern strategy, pandering to the (mostly racial) grievances of white Southerners. In 1929, the overwhelming majority of Black Americans were Republicans, and the overwhelming majority of white Southerners were Democrats. Half a century later, the overwhelming majority of Black Americans were Democrats, and the overwhelming majority of white Southerners were Republicans (or were Democrats in name only).

K.C. in West Islip, NY, asks: You wrote of Elvis' cousin Brandon running for governor as a Democrat in Mississippi, which I had also read about the day before. This got the wheels turning in my head about something I deeply believe—Southern Democrats have far broader appeal in general elections than Northern Democrats and are generally better positioned to win national elections. As much is obvious if one looks at nearly all presidential elections since the assassination of John F. Kennedy. With the exception of Jimmy Carter's second go, which was plagued by pretty much everything going bad all at once, every Democrat between World War II and the historic election of Barack Obama who won the White House was a southerner and every one who lost was a northerner, excepting Al Gore.

My question is two parts: First, do you believe that the Democrats have a path to take back some Southern states in the same way Clinton and Gore were able to do by virtue of being an all-Southern ticket? Second, do you believe that if Presley were to defeat Gov. Tate Reeves (R-MS) in November he would become, thanks to the combination of his name recognition and the fact that he won the governorship of a deeply red state as a moderate (I assume he must be reasonably moderate to have some inkling of a chance in Mississippi) blue candidate, a person who would at least be in the conversation as a future presidential candidate?

V & Z answer: Clinton, Carter, Lyndon Johnson and Harry S. Truman all served in the roughly 50-year window we describe in the question above, when the partisan alignments were still sorting themselves out, and large numbers of white, Southern votes were available to the right kind of Democrat (translation: a conservative Democrat). The odd Doug Jones or Joe Manchin notwithstanding, that's really not the case anymore. So, a Southern-led Democratic ticket, or a double-Southern Democratic ticket, is not likely to have any extra oomph. That's not to say some Southern states aren't available to the blue team, just that any Democratic nominee might plausibly win those states. Barack Obama won North Carolina, for example, and Joe Biden won Georgia.

As to Presley, winning election in a red state is a nice start, but he's going to have to show more than that. Especially since he will likely have to take political positions (e.g., anti-choice) that are anathema to much of the Democratic base. After all, Gov. Andy Beshear (D-KY) won the governor's mansion in a red state and so did John Bel Edwards (D-LA) and Laura Kelly (D-KS), and nobody is talking about them as presidential candidates as yet.

Meanwhile, Presley's celebrity connection is an interesting curiosity, but we have a hard time imagining it would sway many voters. That said, we wouldn't have imagined that hosting a cheesy business-themed reality show would be a major selling point, so what do we know?

D.S. in Layton, UT, asks: Harry S. Truman and Richard Nixon were both above average piano players, and Bill Clinton knew his way around a sax.

What are some of the other instruments that Presidents were not embarrassed to play in public?

V & Z answer: It should be noted that in addition to the piano, Nixon was also able to play the violin, saxophone, clarinet, and accordion. Some of the other musical presidents:

That last line was probably in poor taste, but oh, well. If you would like to sue us, Mr. Trump, you know where to find us.


J.G. in Cushing, ME, asks: S.K. in Atlanta mentioned mentioned listening to while driving to work. How does one do that? Mine just sits on my iPad.

V & Z answer: While we could think of ways to do this, we decided to get the answer straight from the horse's mouth. S.K. answers: "My phone hooks up to my car (Tesla Model 3) on Bluetooth. I then just use the iPhone's text-to-speech function (highlight the whole page of text then hit "Speak"). Siri then reads the whole page through the car audio system."

Needless to say, this would work with any bluetooth-enabled car, which is most of them these days. And most other brands of phones also have a text-to-speech function.

P.M. in Palm Springs, CA, asks: In your item about Santos' unlucky number and the analysis by Politico's Jessica Piper, I noticed that there was no input from your staff mathematician. Was he on sabbatical or just "under the weather" and unavailable for comment. We missed his expertise on the subject, though maybe his forté is not statistics as much as theory and other fields of higher math. Just asking.

V & Z answer: That piece was written on January 25, which happens to be National Irish Coffee Day. Irish coffee, along with mimosas, Bloody Marys, Bellinis, and maybe a couple of others, is one of the handful of alcoholic drinks that it is socially acceptable to consume starting at the breakfast hour. Presumably, you can do the math from there.

M.S. in Alexandria, VA, asks: Is there a way to jump way back in the archive other than repeatedly clicking the previous button? I wanted to re-read your coverage of the collapse of the blue wall from November of 2016. I originally thought it would be as easy as changing the date in the URL, but it looks like your URLs are more complicated than that. I tried several different URL variations to get to Nov. 9, 2016 but I always ended up with a 404 error. Am I missing something obvious or is your site just not set up to navigate to long-past dates? Is there any chance you could add a way to jump back to a particular date?

V & Z answer: Yes. Go to the "Data Galore" link in the menu to the left of the map. Then near the bottom of the page click on "Archives of this site all the way back to May 2004." That will take you to this page. From that page you can click on a link that will get you close to whatever date you want.

Alternatively, the URLs of each page have had a very rigid structure going back for years. Today's is

To go to a specific date, just replace 2023 by the year you want, "Senate" by either "Senate" or "Pres" and the date by the first three letters on the month (capitalized) and the two-digit day (e.g., "01" not "1"). Note that in off years, we didn't always have a "Pres" page and years ago we posted intermittently in the off years.

Also note that to the right of the map there is a legend. Below the 7 colored dots it says "This date in 2018 2014 2010". Clicking on the years will take you to "today" in those years (assuming there was a posting on that day." When we switch to the presidential map, these links will be useful to see how the campaigns were going at that point in a previous year.

Reader Question of the Week

Here is the question we put before readers last week:

A.L. in New Brunswick, NJ, asks: I had a similar reaction to the Bret Stephens and David Brooks lament in The New York Times as D.C. in Portland OR. To summarize: Now? Only now you realize your fellow travelers are racists, xenophobes, homophobes and "whackadoodle"? Where was this critical thinking five or ten years ago?

So, here is my question: At what point should a sane Republican have realized that their party was being steered down abominable paths?

And here some of the many, many answers we got in response:

A.B. in Andover, MA I must confess before I answer this that I'm 22 years old and, from my point of view, haven't seen a sane Republican Party ever since I first began to follow national politics. Forgive me if I miss the forest for my young set of trees. As someone who has grown up in a stiffly Republican family, despite hailing from a blue area of California, I grew up with a sort of cultural whiplash. I'll take a stab at it.

I believe that the question here implies that Republicans still have effective sanity checks for their party on the presidential level. That's no longer true. Last summer, I read Tim Miller's Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. As a former "hatchetman" and Republican operative, now a writer for The Bulwark, he gives an interesting perspective on the forces burning through the party.

He describes how many operatives—including himself—could sever their identity from the impact of the work. Miller is a gay man but nevertheless worked for Republicans that publicly opposed his rights for years, until he quit the party before Trump. "If it's that easy to jettison something that directly impacts you, imagine how little willpower it takes to not worry yourself with matters that are going to only impact others. Or even more ephemerally, to block out things that may or may not impact others at some later date. Like, say, 'mean tweets' or pretending an election was stolen to humor the president for a little while."

He believes that three main forces have set this course for the Republicans:

  1. Decisions by right wing leaders to play the Game, to win, sometimes at all cost.
  2. Incentives of digital media to run—and be run by—outrage.
  3. Pathologies of base voters have created a loop that prevents moderation from emerging on the national level. In particular, he notes the growth of outrage-style alt-right content and how centering the commenters—leaning into the issues that motivated core readers and clickers—reshaped the base.

So where does that leave us?

Miller says that his work in the 2008 campaign for John McCain should have been the warning sign for him. You might get ten different answers from ten different people describing when sanity left the building. You probably will. I look forward to reading and learning from those answers. But for me personally, looking back, Trump winning the primary in 2016 was the last train leaving the station. The national party is permanently changed having him as their leader and for a lot of younger people like me, hopefully we will never forget that.

E.W. in Skaneateles, NY: I believe that like the proverbial frog in the boiling water, the current bout of Republican "whackadoodlery" came on slowly but steadily, so it is hard to point to one event in particular where Republicans should have known better. In my view, they have always been a borderline racist party—Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy, Ronald Reagan's welfare queens, and the Willie Horton ad all bear that out. I think several recent turning points for the Republican Party are the 2000 election fiasco, the overreaction to the 9/11 attacks (Gitmo, torture, the starting of the pointless Iraq War), and especially the tea party backlash over Barack Obama's election. I do wonder about the alternative reality where the Supremes gave the 2000 election to Al Gore (or where Jeb! was not governor and Gore's name was first on the butterfly ballot). We'd probably have solved climate change, brought peace to the Middle East, and been working on our Moon and Mars bases right now. (Ok, maybe hyperbolic, but I think this Earth-where-Gore-won is undoubtedly better.) I like Obama, but I also wonder if Hillary Clinton had prevailed in 2008, whether the Tea Party backlash would have been less whackadoodle. After all, Donald Trump himself got his political start in "birtherism."

Despite all of the craziness that is the Republican party right now, I do not think they are evil—just terribly, terribly wrong and a victim of their own vices in many ways—but not truly evil. That is especially true of the rank-and-file voters, who are mostly good people trying to live their lives and being fed a distorted worldview. My veterinarian is absolutely far gone down the Trump train and has "Hillary for prison" signs in the exam room, but is a good caring vet despite his out-there politics. My parents were always careful to stress that Republicans and their party were not evil people, just "misguided," and that remains the attitude I have today. My spouse is (nominally) a Republican, as is the rest of her family. Some of them, such as my wife and her sister, are absolutely disgusted, horrified, and embarrassed by Donald Trump and his ilk. Others in the family range from mild Trump supporters to fire-breathing ones. Nevertheless, I love them all despite their views, even if I have to studiously avoid talking politics with them despite their often clumsy attempts to provoke me into it.

P.S. in Gloucester, MA: I think it's a case of frogs sitting in water that is getting gradually hotter towards boiling. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse with respect to American democracy—some through undermining the institutions of government, others through undermining the middle class, which has been the fulcrum of our democracy—are Nixon, Reagan, Dubya, and Trump: the middle two through the latter, the outer two through the former. The water has been getting progressively hotter since the quaint days of Watergate.

C.S. in Philadelphia, PA: As an original Never Trump Republican, I feel compelled to respond.

Unfortunately, my answer is not "this week," when the local conservative radio host who used to be reasonable and fun decided to add Mike Lindell as a new sponsor.

As background, I voted for Bob Dole in my first presidential election. To me, the Republicans were the party of faith, the police, and the military. I supported (and still do) an active foreign policy. I also thought a healthy distrust of the rest of the bureaucracy was good for democracy. Republicans were the party of logic. Debates with liberals, despite whatever evidence you bring, would often result in being called a bigot by the more emotional left. Even The Onion understood this dynamic.

In my early conservative days, Saturday Night Live actually made fun of a sitting Democratic President. Going from a college student in a college town to a career in higher education, as well as being active in the Jewish community, I would be lying if I said I did not enjoy being the political contrarian in my circles. Actual kooks did not have the bullhorn they do now.

I first noticed something was off during the 2010 special Senate election in Delaware to replace the temporary holder of then-Vice President Biden's old seat. Due to being in the Philly media market, it garnered a lot of coverage locally. It should have been a easy pickup for the red team with popular moderate Republican Representative Mike Castle, even in blue Delaware, with the red wave midterm that eventually happened. Alas, Christine "I'm not a witch" McDonnell, backed by the tea party movement, won a surprise primary victory, only to be trounced in the general election. In today's parlance, we would describe the problem as "candidate quality."

It didn't take a lot of logical reasoning to realize getting 70% of what you want is better than 0%. Yet the right wing wanted all or nothing.

Perhaps being a conservative in liberal bubbles (higher education, Jewish community, and urban environment) blinded me to just how far out there other Republicans were.

L.C. in Brookline, MA: The Republican party has always been the party of big business, but for a short time around the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, it was also the party of freedom. In the aftermath of the election of 1876, the Republican party abandoned Abraham Lincoln's legacy, agreeing to a corrupt bargain to end Reconstruction in exchange for Rutherford B. Hayes being allowed to become president. Thereafter, the Republican party was just the party of big business (and of those who fancied themselves to be aspiring tycoons), until it figured out in 1968/1972 how to bring the white supremacists, male supremacists and Christian supremacists onboard with the capitalist supremacists, and it has been thoroughly deplorable ever since.

S.R. in Stockton, CA: 1950s with McCarthyism.

E.O. in Dallas, TX: My impression is that this is a civil rights issue. For almost 60 years since the Civil Rights Movement, U.S. mainstream (white Caucasian) people learned to be politically correct, and accept integration and affirmative action. Then we elected a Black president. So far, so Good. However, the seed were soon planted by the Republicans in Congress (whose only objective was to make Obama a one-term president) and the right-wing media, to demonize the president, minorities, etc. Of course, this is the vileness that Donald Trump used to his advantage to bring back the hate and fear for Black people, minorities and anyone who does not belong to the tribe. So, in my not-very-complete view, the problem is a racial issue that was always lurking in the woods and Trump gave it light.

J.J. in Falls Church, VA: The GOP's decent into madness began in 1980. That was the year they decided a connection to reality and truthfulness was optional in pursuit of power. Anyone who knew what they were talking about understood that Voodoo Economics was magical thinking, but the lure of lower taxes with a side of dog-whistle racism did the trick. Like anyone in the throes of addiction, Republican voters needed stronger and more frequent doses of unreality in order to achieve their high. The Fox/QAnon universe in which they now live is the only place they can exist without being confronted with all the damage they've done on their way to rock bottom.

D.R. in Omaha, NE: I would say during the Reagan and Bush I era, in general.

When I was first eligible to vote (not to give away my real age, but my first presidential choice was between Richard Nixon and George McGovern) I registered as a Republican and remained Republican throughout my undergrad years.

In the 1980s, however, I realized that my values were not shared by the Republican party. Very specifically, I began to feel unwelcome, or at least looked down upon, because my belief system was other than fundamentalist Christianity.

There was a lot of proselytizing in Republican circles in that era, and the vibes I received were along the line that to be truly deemed worthy, I would need to at least feign their belief system. More and more, those who were fundamentalist (and male and white and cishet) were considered more worthy. ("More Equal?" I bite my tongue at the obvious porcine reference.)

I first switched to independent, and then to the Democratic Party.

I watched as the Republican party began the journey as the runaway train, wrong way on the one-way track, through the Contract With (on?) America, the tea party, MAGA and, of course, the clown show of recent ages.

I realized that I made the right decision to abandon the Republican Party, as I felt that the Republican Party had abandoned me.

K.K. in Los Angeles, CA: Newt Gingrich's Contract with America.

B.J. in Arlington, MA: That's easy. November 1994.

I was only 24 years old. I had previously had basically no political opinions. I did not vote in the 1992 election because I wasn't paying attention. Yet by the time of Newt Gingrich's ascent in 1994, it was obvious to me that the Republican Party was a force for destruction.

C.T. in Tucson, AZ: The invasion of Iraq. No doubt. It was conducted with transparently false reasoning, obviously contrived evidence and was a predetermined outcome they tried to justify but in my opinion was actually neocon revenge on Muslims for 9/11 ,as Afghanistan was becoming a bit of a quagmire by 2003.

Those of us who were horrified at the obvious and later proved correct idiotic folly if it and spoke out were shouted down in a cacophony of Republican jingoism and those who knew better either went along with but really should have not have.

S.S-C. in Manhattan Beach, CA: By November 2008, when my lifelong-conservative-Republican in-laws both voted for Barack Obama.

C.G. in Felton, CA: I have a number of sane, intelligent, and formerly Republican friends who got fed up with the Republican Party during the Obama years. As I recall, the "Obama is a Muslim!" and "Obama wasn't born in America!" discussions made them think, "What's going on here?" and then the refusal to hold hearings on Merrick Garland made them realize that the wheels were coming off the bus. Donald Trump's rise and primary win sealed the deal. At least two of those friends have independently said to me something along the lines of "I have no idea what happened to the Republican Party, but they are now crazy." As an independent who was gung-ho for Obama in 2008 (and voted for George W. Bush the first time but not the second), I would have gladly accepted John McCain as President, even though I knew Sarah Palin was a kook. Since then, however, I can't see myself ever supporting a Republican again, much less voting for one.

M.C. in Newton, MA: July of 2015. When it turned out that the Trump campaign announcement wasn't just a publicity stunt, and people were actually taking him seriously, that should have been the final wakeup call that something was dreadfully wrong.

M.B. in Menlo Park, CA: There's a precise answer to the question. The answer is July 18, 2015.

On that day, then-candidate Donald Trump said this about John McCain: "He's not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured." There was immediate negative reaction almost everywhere, such as this Politico article that said "Donald Trump might finally have crossed the line."

This attack on a senator respected by both parties should have ended Trump's nascent candidacy, but it didn't. Rather, as this CNN article four years later observed, "he just kept right on going." The article concluded, "[W]hat Trump's comments about McCain should remind us of is this: Whether there is political gain to be found in dishonoring a lifelong public servant, it is simply wrong. It is not who we are—or who we should be. That everyone—Republicans, Democrats, independents and all the rest—won't come together to say that as one is profoundly depressing and disappointing."

Thus, the reader's "abominable path" started on July 18, 2015.

Here is the question for next week:

M.G. in Boulder, CO, asks: Which current members of Congress who are likely to make it into the history books for real contributions, and why do you say so?

Submit your answers here!

The least urban state in the country is... Maine, where only 38.7% of people live in urban areas. Next on the list is Vermont at 38.9%, then West Virginia at 48.7%, Mississippi at 49.3% and Montana at 55.6%.

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