Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

Sunday Mailbag

Despite what the polls might say, the environment is definitely a big issue with readers.

Politics: Climate Change

C.S. in Calgary, AB, Canada, writes: Your discussion about how voters don't rank climate change high on their list of concerns struck a nerve for me. I work in the environmental management field and climate change has been one of my top issues for years, so much so that one of the reasons my family relocated to Canada last summer was to move my kids to a place that has more meteorological margin for future habitability.

I share your frustration that some voters are, indeed, just stupid and selfish. But I think there is more to the story than that.

You commentary alluded to one reason: "A study in 2019 showed that people learn to accept extreme weather as normal in as short as 2 years" but this assumes that people know the difference between "normal" and "extreme" for a given location in the first place. People are much more mobile than they used to be, and upon arriving at a new location they don't have any type of (personal) historical benchmark for it. Therefore, the current extremes become that benchmark. Only people who have lived in a place for a decade or more can really perceive the significant and serious changes that are occurring.

I think another big piece of the puzzle is that most people are extremely disconnected from nature, and have very little understanding of how much their individual lives as well as our entire economy is dependent upon it. Environmental education—where it exists at all—is often very basic and is generally deemphasized in favor of "harder" sciences such as physics and chemistry. It also tends to avoid politicized topics such as climate change. A case in point is me—although I became an environmentalist in 6th grade after watching a documentary, it wasn't until my last semester of college that I was taught in an elective how electricity is made and the impacts that it has.

A final problem is that climate change is not amenable to short-hand explanations for voters. You observed in your commentary that: "Still, laws in California, Oregon, and Washington banning the sale of new gasoline-powered cars starting in 2035 is something." However, whether policies to ban gas cars is a good thing is much more complicated and nuanced than it seems after considering things from a lifecycle perspective. EV batteries depend on critical minerals that must be mined, which itself has a great number of environmental impacts that must be considered. Moreover, most of the minerals come from China, and it is highly debatable whether it is a good policy choice to make ourselves dependent on China or other unfriendly countries for our transportation system. After all, wars aren't good for the environment either (see also: OPEC). Battery recycling is advancing, but does not yet have the capability of handling millions of batteries. Moreover, whether EVs actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions is also highly dependent on the composition of the electricity grid—replacing a gas-powered car with an EV in a place with hydropower is an improvement, but doing so in a place with coal-fired power plants is probably not. That's not to say shifting away from fossil fuels is a bad thing, but we need to do so in a way that ensures we are improving the entire system, not merely exchanging one problem for another.

Taken together, it's not surprising (though still quite frustrating) that voters would rather tune out all of this complexity and just optimistically assume that "everything will work itself out" or that they would focus instead on problems they more immediately understand ("I need a job"). In my opinion, America (and the world) are sleep-walking towards the edge of a cliff, and when (not if) we fall off (perhaps this year is the start of it?), all hell is going to break loose.

T.V. in Moorpark, CA, writes: While it's disheartening that only 8% of US voters see climate change as their top issue, maybe it's not as bad as you think. I'm a staunch environmentalist and I would not list climate change as my #1 issue. If we don't preserve our democracy, we have little chance of addressing climate change. As Butch Cassidy observed, there's no point in worrying about swimming if the fall is going to kill you. I think the economy will always be #1 with many voters, but I was relived to see that preserving democracy was #2.

J.S. in Quincy, MA, writes: To be honest, even though I understand and take seriously the reality of climate change, I think I would answer "resisting authoritarianism" as the most important issue facing the country. The reason for that is that if authoritarianism (as exemplified by, say, Vladimir Putin, Mohammed bin Salman, and Donald Trump) wins, then not only does the world lose its will to resist climate change, but many other bad things are much likelier to happen as well (including some, like a nuclear war, that might have comparably bad consequences for the planet to climate change).

So I think I would answer "resisting authoritarianism" because I think resisting authoritarianism is a necessary precondition for resisting climate change. (That's also why I support some actions, like dumping U.S. fossil fuels on the market, that absolutely 100% make climate change worse in the short term. If they make climate change worse in the short term, but weaken dictators whose regimes depend on fossil-fuel money like Putin and MBS, and decrease the likelihood of climate-change denialists like Trump gaining power in this country, that's a net win for climate realism and our ability to deal with climate change and its consequences in the medium to long term.)

N.B. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: In "The Voters Just Don't Get It, you referenced a New York Times article that used a Marist poll to make it sound like only 8% of Americans think global warming is a big deal.

While I don't disagree with your conclusion that many voters are stupid, my takeaway from reading this article was different: The poll was bad. Asking what the most important issue is might make sense if we dealt with problems one at a time, but in reality we deal with a lot of problems and try make progress on all of them at the same time.

Later in the Times article, they mention a Yale survey that found 54% of registered voters think global warming should be a high priority for the government. That's still much lower than I'm happy with, but it's a hell of a lot better than 8%. And that survey found even higher support for many related policies (developing clean energy: 66%, funding for clean-energy research: 79%, and so on).

I think the Yale results demonstrate that the Marist poll simply asked a dumb question and got a dumb answer as a result.

P.N. in Indianapolis, IN, writes: I'm currently on a polling list for Civiqs and have regularly been asked to rank the issues that I think are the most important ones facing the country. Climate change is always on the list but I have yet to rank it "most important." That isn't because I don't think it is important, it is because there are so many issues that are important. I treat it like triage and when I worry that my LGBTQ+ friends may end up dead, I rank their rights as the most important. Similarly, when Russia invaded Ukraine, that was very important to me because it was literal life and death in the very near future. I think one of the problems is not voter intelligence (in some cases) but rather a weakness in this style of polling. If I was asked to rank importance on a scale of 1-100 then there would be a handful over 95 (including climate change) while many of the others would be below 50.

The post noted that living in a small city and being a college graduate was correlated with prioritizing climate change. I recently moved from a small city (Wilmington, NC, pop. 115,000) to a large city (Indianapolis, IN, pop. 890,000) and the way the community treats climate change is very different. Addressing climate change seems much more important in Indianapolis than in Wilmington, despite Wilmington facing record hurricanes. Businesses in Indianapolis support clean energy, reducing meat consumption, and using biodegradable materials in a way that I never saw in Wilmington. However, the actual city government in Wilmington seemed to care much more about addressing climate change than the city government of Indianapolis does. This is just one subjective analysis, but I think it is interesting how the different places seem to approach this issue.

P.M. in Port Angeles, WA, writes: F.S. in Cologne responded to your statement that the issue of climate change isn't important by asking: What could change that? You answered with: "It is possible that some extremely high-profile environmental disaster will be the tipping point, but we doubt it."

I will offer that, while not directly a weather phenomenon, the trend of insurance writers leaving various states (i.e. Florida) will produce a disaster that people will absolutely notice. By that, I mean mortgage foreclosures caused by lack of homeowners insurance. I tasted a little of this in California when I was summarily informed that my homeowners policy would not be renewed. I had to scramble, since my lender would call the mortgage as soon as they discovered that my insurance was no longer in effect. I was faced with quotes 2 to 3 times my previous premium. I finally found a company that provided insurance at a rate only slightly above previous.

I expect that Floridians, and residents of some other states as well, will soon discover the cost of doing business with Republican-controlled governments. We shall wait to see how this unfolds.

A.A. in Branchport, NY, writes: Thank you very much for the mention of global warming.

I'm a doomer, which is to say that I believe the human race does not possess the traits needed to avoid a global climate catastrophe. I'm seeing Malthus play out in real time.

May I recommend Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World, by John Vaillant? The author does an excellent job of describing the history of fossil fuels and the history of global warming scholarship. Spoiler: The first discovery of global warming phenomena was in 1846.

Valiant describes the Lucretius Effect, which is a failure of human imagination to properly measure the effects of something that has never before been experienced.

Most people lack the imagination to see how dire our situation is. And so will fail to act in time.

Human nature dooms us.

Politics: Trump 2024

K.E. in Newport, RI, writes: I disagreed with your thoughts on Donald Trump's possible running mates. You were dismissive of Vivek Ramaswamy as a potential running mate. I happen to think Ramaswamy is the best possible choice for Trump. Let me explain.

About 70% of my coworkers are Republicans. A big part of Trump's appeal to them is that when he announced his bid in 2015, he was a total outsider to politics. He had no experience governing. His lack of political experience meant that he wasn't beholden to any special interest group (except his own businesses, of course). That, in combination with his rude and insulting personality, made him the ultimate disrupter candidate. They liked how he had no filter and wanted to attack democratic institutions like the courts, Congress, and the press, which they view as corrupt or incompetent.

However, in 2024, Trump will no longer be an outsider candidate after having served a term in the White House. In order to reassure people of his disdain for the establishment, he will benefit from having an outsider running mate. Ramaswamy helps him solidify his anti-establishment appeal since he has no political experience.

Another reason Trump might pick Ramaswamy is because he is a visible minority. Kamala Harris is also a visible minority with heritage from Jamaica and India. His presence on the campaign would serve as a sign to minorities that there is an alternative to supporting Democrats. It seems to make Republicans feel better about themselves when they see minorities endorsing their ideology. Look at how popular Herschel Walker was with Georgia Republicans, despite having a history of extramarital affairs, abortion, and mental illness.

D.S. in Lakewood, OH, writes: I'm surprised that you and Aaron Blake didn't include Mike Pence. I understand he is 1% or less as a VP pick, but still more plausible than Nikki Haley, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) or Don Junior. It would be easy to sell the line "we've resolved our differences" and it would give Trump a known variable. No skeletons there. I also think TFG would have a serious problem avoiding daily overtly sexist comments about a female VP. "Look at my VP ladies and gentlemen, she's great, isn't she? Nice to look at, oh yeah, so nice. That's why I picked her... Just kidding, but no, she's prettier than Mike Pence right? They said I had to pick a female this time, and you know I used to judge pageants..."

P.C. in Austin, TX, writes: I'm terribly disappointed neither you nor Aaron Blake mentioned the obvious frontrunner: JFK Jr. tsk, tsk.

C.E. in San Francisco, CA, writes: You wrote: "[Mike] Lindell was a relatively minor star in the sleazeball galaxy until he found himself in orbit around the star of sleaze, one Donald J. Trump."

I believe the proper astronomical categorization for Trump is "supermassive a**hole".

A.T. in Quincy, IL, writes: Just had to comment on your choice of the golden idol for Trump in Pictures. Seeing it again, I was reminded of two thoughts I had the first time I saw that thing:

  1. They really went and made a golden calf?
  2. That looks a hell of a lot like Li'l Abner!

Now, as I gaze upon it once more, I can't help but find one or two other points to consider about this... masterpiece. Doubtless said before, but: What is with the wand? Heck, what is with the everything? The shorts... the sandals... oh, but that wand. At first, I wanted to say something Harry Potteresque, but really, it looks more like he borrowed it from the Great and Powerful Trixie!

And, look! He's got documents! Well, A document, anyway. Foreshadowing, anyone? No, I get it! He was about to show everyone how he magically declassifies them! Seriously, how prescient can an outrageous statue get?

Anyway, yeah, I think you guys made the perfect choice. There's just so much wrong with that picture that makes it so right!

E.R. in Irving, TX, writes: The parallels between Trump supporters and college football fans are striking. Two are that they are a tribe, and the more you denigrate the mascot, coach or quarterback, the more fervently they want their team to WIN! So much #winning the world will tire of it!

I know an LSU fan very well; if you don't see the parallels between MAGA and college football, I'm guessing you don't know an LSU fan or haven't seen them greeting each other with "Geaux Tigers" any time (and every time) they see another person wearing any logo merchandise.

We all know the merch of Team MAGA; the dopey red hats are a brilliant strategy. Not only does it raise money, it gets people personally invested in the brand and gives them an outlet to further establish their outward identity.

Going back to LSU fans: They identify as LSU fans, no matter how they were born; they can't suddenly not be LSU fans... that's not a thing. Ask a transgender person or LSU fan about this concept. Moreover, do you think an LSU football fan is going to stop identifying as an LSU fan because of a scandal? Especially if they could convince themselves that Alabama were somehow the "Deep Team" responsible for their ongoing losses? MAGA supporters have been wearing their dopey red hats for years now, despite—as Chris Christie is pointing out—that they haven't won a damn thing going back to the time when their team once accidentally won. Though, in that respect, maybe they're more like Cowboys fans.

I'll close with a bit of freudenfruede, even if a week or two late, consider the College World Series Jello Shot Challenge; LSU fans showed what passion and support is by making this annual charity event a blowout. They upped the game, buying $344,000 of "Jelleaux" Shots towards the overall $475,000 raised for charity, setting a new Guinness World Record in the process.

And I confess, as a Cowboys fan, the LSU sect of the SEC religion is an attractive one. As my college has no football team, and the NFL being what it is... Geaux Tigers!

(V) & (Z) respond: You might want to take this opportunity to join the UCLA bandwagon. Once the move to the Big 10 happens next year, it is generally expected the football team will go 13-0 every year.

Politics: DeSantis 2024

S.T. in Worcestershire, England, UK, writes: Your report about Rupert Murdoch's waning enthusiasm for Ron DeSantis will seem wearily familiar to your U.K. readers.

The Murdoch media empire in the U.K. is notorious for its habit of backing political winners and then claiming the credit when they win. Murdoch's inclination is to support the right (a policy which has paid off handsomely; from Margaret Thatcher onwards, Conservative prime ministers and ministers have been only too willing to bend over backwards to adjust policy to suit Rupert in return for the vocal support of his media outlets). When, however, the Conservatives' tenure has been in doubt, Murdoch has been more than willing to jump ship and support the Labour party. Tony Blair was delighted to receive Rupert's backing in 1997, and the two subsequent general elections, and in return not cause problems for his sponsor.

History seems to be repeating itself. The left-of-center Guardian newspaper reported this week that, with the Conservatives facing daunting opinion poll deficits, there was a surprise guest at Murdoch's midsummer party (held in the palatial surroundings of Spencer House in central London). It was none other than Labour leader Kier Starmer, who not only had been invited but also received a personal audience with the media mogul.

Everyone loves a winner—but very few people love a winner as much as Rupert Murdoch does.

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: I don't think I've ever seen anything in print as cruel as what you wrote about Ron DeSantis: "One of his relatively few rays of hope is the notion that once voters get to know him, they'll warm up to him." What do you have left to say about him? That if he can just spend more time standing beside Ted Cruz, voters will start to see him in a positive light?

Politics: The Supreme Court

S.K. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: I have been a regular reader since 2004 and love you guys. I am also disgusted by the Clarence Thomas grift, but was surprised you jumped on the Venmo story. I was once a judicial clerk (not anywhere near the Supreme Court) and Christmas parties are common, and it's also common for everyone to pitch in to cover the cost. The stories I've read indicate that the lawyers are all former clerks of Thomas, and being former Supreme Court clerks, of course they've risen to high positions and are arguing before the Court. The fact that the payments came in through Venmo, I think, makes it even more clear that these were innocent. This felt like a silly gotcha story from the start, and you guys usually sniff those out pretty well. I just don't think there's a "there" there, and it waters down all the other true corruption of which he is guilty.

M.M. in San Jose, CA, writes: I've been reading Dissent and the Supreme Court: Its Role in the Court's History and the Nation's Constitutional Dialogue, by Melvin Urofsky. Great book. There is a side note where Justice Felix Frankfurter decides to edit a book of cases for a course in administrative law. Justice Louis Brandeis liked the idea so much that he provided some money to hire a student for a book on the related topic of federal jurisdiction.

Compare this to today's news where justices are accused of taking bribes, force feeding book sales, and leading fundraisers. Ah, the good old days.

Politics: Student Loans

A.F. in Boston, MA, writes: Using my MBA education, I thought I could add a bit to your answer to R.S. in Columbia about student loans removing money from the economy. While you are correct that money paid to the federal government eventually makes its way back to the economy like repaid bank loans do, it is not nearly as direct as people spending that money on goods and services. When a loan is repaid, the money has to change hands (figuratively) several times before it returns to circulation in the economy through a new loan. Demand for new loans, bank risk tolerances, and even how the loan officer is feeling that particular day about the loan applicant all play a role in when and how that money flows back out.

When that money is spent directly on goods and services in the economy—especially at small local businesses!—it is immediately recycled through payroll, inventory replacement, and other business expenses, which then pay for other people to directly pay their own bills, and so on.

I would bet my house that the big boost to consumer spending over the past year and a half has been significantly buoyed by that extra money in people's pockets. Loan repayment restarting is going to take hundreds of dollars per month per person out of the local economies and send it to the federal government, where the velocity of monetary exchange slows considerably. Multiplied by all the student loan borrowers in the U.S., that's a huge chunk of change that is going to disappear for a while. It's going to hurt.

Politics: Matching Donations

L.O.-R. in San Francisco, CA, writes: I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, including some foundations, and wanted to sharpen the various points made about matching donations to charitable organizations.

Every reputable nonprofit that says your contribution will be matched does, indeed, have a donor who has said they will match the contribution. The matching donor is often a foundation or large donor who wants to help the nonprofit build its donor base, so the match might only apply to new donors or existing donors at an amount larger than they gave the previous year or with some other guidance. This is one of the best tools that a large donor has to help a nonprofit become "sustainable"—i.e., develop a larger pool of people regularly sending them money to do their good work.

That purpose is a little different than that of NPR, which wants to create excitement and a sense of urgency around a matching donation. This is the other reason nonprofits use this fundraising tool. Someone who feels compelled to give "right now!" is more likely to give than someone who says they'll do it tomorrow.

Yes, the donor who has said they will match may make the contribution anyway or, probably more likely, they will extend the match period in order to achieve the goal of increased sustainability.

Any nonprofit that is lying about the match is putting their reputation at risk (and their nonprofit status, although there is little likelihood of any accountability). Over decades of work in the field, I can't recall a single time I've seen a "real" nonprofit lie on this point.

K.R. in Austin, TX, writes: I know from personal experience that at least some of the matching donation campaigns are true. In the past an endowment for our public school got a matching grant. They would match each donation to the endowment dollar-for-dollar up to a certain amount. In two consecutive years, we failed to raise that amount. They not only called the amount matched at what we raised, they discontinued the grant because we weren't raising enough money.

Politics: It's Fun to Stay at the YMCA

K.F.K. in CleElum, WA, writes: Maybe the "man" the woman saw in the women's locker room was a F-to-M trans person honoring the desire of those who want everybody to use the bathroom/locker room that corresponds to their gender assigned at birth. ;) It has often occurred to me that many anti-trans people have likely met a trans person and not known it as their focus tends to be more towards drag queens/crossdressers/and others who don't fit a particular gender norm.

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: Christynne Lili Wrene Wood, the trans woman at the Santee YMCA, is Black, so in "Klantee"... well, enough said. Reading the initial news reports, it was clear the 17-year-old girl wasn't aware of the Y's transgender policy, thought she saw a Black man in the locker room, and wigged out. Why she hid rather than leave and approach staff, who knows? Of course it got blown up out of proportion by all of San Diego County's grandstanding right-wing motormouths.

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: Maybe the MAGAHaters are on to something, because I owned a Re-thug-lican today and completely enjoyed it! And, unlike the Cult of Donnie, I learned a few things from it. One, that MAGAHaters think the whole world thinks like them and are really stunned beyond functioning when they find out different. Two, as with their representatives, so much of being a MAGAHater is performative. When Democrats/Progressives/Liberals boycott something they just do it and make little show of it. MAGAHaters love bringing their outrage to everyone's attention—the more that overhear, the better satisfied they feel.

For my job, I work where beer is sold, which means I order it, a lot. A guy came in today and saw the Bud Light. Being a MAGAHater, he just had to announce as loudly as he could, "Oh, I bet your sales of Bud Light are way down!" I said matter-of-factly, "No, not really." That was a little bit of a fib, because sales of Bud Light have had a small dip, but then Bud Light was never our best seller. Instead of ordering 12 cases of the 15-packs a week, I've been ordering 10-11. When I said, "No, not really" the guy's eyes fluttered and he took a step back as if he couldn't wrap his head around that information. Finally, he was able to muster up an incredulous reply, "You mean our boycott isn't affecting their sales?" Again, I calmly replied, "Oh, that silly thing. I just ordered 10 cases, so I would say no." That was technically true; I had ordered 10 cases for Friday's delivery because I hadn't ordered any for Tuesday (I will skip an order sometimes when I want to drive stock down to help with rotation to get older dated beers out the door).

Still, I could tell that the information I conveyed was completely decimating his Faux/MAGA world. He stammered for a few seconds and finally replied, strangely, with a much quieter voice, "Well, I don't drink the stuff, anyway." I quickly shot back, "Budweiser must be shaking in fear from your boycott, then." Owned! You know how koi look when they near the surface of the water, making exaggerated gulping motions with their mouths while staring at you in what looks like a state of terror. That's exactly how this guy looked before he fled out the door! One Re-thug owned and sent scurrying on his way. I didn't think it would be, but it was a very satisfying feeling, one that I would encourage others to experience. For those who might be cautious, I will give a hint, don't be afraid, 'cause these MAGAHaters are not the brightest bulbs in the marque. Just standing up to their bluster is enough to set them on their heels. They melt faster than a snowflake on asphalt in 100+ degree weather! For a group who is so sure of their superiority, they really have a shallow faith. Owned, and it felt so good!

All Politics Is Local

R.B. in Merrimack, NH, writes: My wife and I live in Merrimack, NH, and have met Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH).

I would never vote for him because of his policy decisions on issues such as climate change.

That being said, he seems to genuinely love his job. He is also very personable.

E.M.H in Oslo, Norway/Concord, NH, writes: I split my time between Norway and the U.S.; my "base" is in Concord, and it's just a 5-minute walk to the state house where the governor also has an office. He is an outgoing fellow, and fits the New Hampshire stereotype of laid-back and open-minded. Perhaps mostly of notice: Two times I have taken two youth B17 teams in soccer overseas, and we were welcome to drop by without any notice. Got small gifts and the chance of visiting the office.

M.S. in Newton, MA, writes: I have met Chris Sununu on a number of occasions. There is an annual blood drive in my mother's memory. It is one of the largest drives in the country. Gov. Sununu expresses each year that he has a strong aversion to needles, but he has been a consistent donor and supporter of the drive for the last several years. He talks to donors and volunteers, spends a decent amount of time with anyone who wants it, and is more-or-less there for whatever we need in terms of getting the word out there about the blood drive. He is not only a friend of our family and the community; he is an incredible ambassador to everything New Hampshire represents.

R.M. in Concord, NH, writes: I've met Chris Sununu a few times. In March every year, there is a fundraiser for homeless teens in the state. A group of people sleep out on the lawn of the big hotel in downtown Manchester (March in New Hampshire is still pretty cold) to call attention to the issue.

I've done the sleepout twice and the Governor was there each time, I got a few words in with him and saw him interacting with Manchester's mayor and member of Congress (both Democrats), and even though I don't agree with him on most issues he did seem like a genuine and nice guy.

G.K. in Portland, OR, writes: I grew up in New Hampshire while John Sununu was governor. We lived in a little town several hours north of the big metropolises like Manchester and Nashua and Concord, so we didn't see the governors as often as other people. That said, there are two small stories I have.

Former governor Mel Thompson lived in our town. My father worked in a print shop that Thompson owned and we rented an apartment from him, so we saw him very frequently. I almost bought a car from him, in fact. Also about once a year Thompson would hold a retreat/strategy session in which John Sununu and other Republicans would come up for several days. I bumped into Sununu in our general store on a few occasions.

Another story is from when Arnie Arneson was running for governor. I found out that she had gone to one of the colleges that I was considering applying to, so I called her up. She was in the middle of a campaign for governor and at a minor event but she took 15 minutes or so to talk to me directly about her experience at the college. This is what we expect of our candidates.

J.T. in Marietta, GA, writes: I keep seeing Georgia referred to as a swing state, or a purple state. has actually been better than most in this regard, but I think it's important to know: Georgia is still a solid red state.

Georgia only achieved that supposed swing status because of the 2020 election results. But it was only blue by about 12,000 votes for president, while Jon Ossoff trailed his Republican opponent and Raphael Warnock just had a small plurality in a field of four. It was only in the runoffs that Ossoff and Warnock prevailed. To explain that, we should all remember that Trump seemingly depressed the Republican runoff vote with his claims of fraud, while Stacey Abrams and Fair Fight registered tens of thousands of new voters in between the election and runoff. Furthermore, don't overlook the Republicans' ability to run terrible candidates. Kelly Loeffler was widely despised by Republicans. The biggest shock to me was that Ossoff won his runoff against Perdue, but that was by a much narrower margin than in Warnock's race.

Subsequently, in 2022 all statewide offices were won by Republicans. Easily. With big margins. Contrast that with what we saw in Arizona. Warnock once again won in a squeaker, but only because Republicans ran another bumbling incompetent. Ossoff's win is the real outlier, but that one idiosyncratic contest does not make Georgia a purple state. There is no question in my mind that Ossoff will lose to almost any Republican in 2026.

I think it's more accurate to say that Georgia is a red state with relatively narrow margins and just enough sensible Republicans who don't vote for bumbling incompetents.

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: I concur with A.B. in Wendell that Elissa Slotkin's campaign ad is masterful, and I too want the opportunity to vote for her. Perhaps A.B. and I should form the Draft Slotkin 2028 Committee?

History Matters

R.S. in Durham, England, UK, writes: K.M. in San Diego wrote: "I think that folks from the middle of the 18th century could scarce imagine anthropogenic climate change. The world was a big place back then: Woods were dark and deep, seas were vast, continents uncharted, strange lands unknown. (Captain Cook arrived in Australia in 1770. The first recorded sighting of Antarctica was in 1820. The ill-fated voyages of the Erebus and Terror, in search of the Northwest Passage, began in 1839.) And the Industrial Revolution was in its infancy. The very idea that humanity could become so numerous and its impact on nature be so great as to imperil life on Earth would have seemed impossible."

Here's one of the more surprising tidbits from my own field of environmental history: People of the past very much thought that the climate could change through human action. Indeed, it was a popular idea among intellectuals of the Revolutionary generation not only that they could change the climate, but that they already were—for the better. Based largely on Biblical evidence, they reasoned that agriculture and land clearance could improve the climate of a locality or even a continent, mellowing out temperature and precipitation extremes. (This notion persisted until the early 1900s.) The oddity, to them, would not have been that humans were altering the environment on a vast scale; it would have been that their God-given stewardship over the land might have been harming it.

G.W. in Dayton, OH, writes: Your response to E.W. in Skaneateles, regarding an 18th-century individual whom the Founding Parents might have equated with Donald Trump, included the observation that "the 18th century really didn't have celebrities in a way that the modern era does."

That statement is true, but I have heard it suggested that on the eve of the Revolution, the individual who had been personally seen by more people than any other, on either side of the Atlantic, was itinerant evangelist George Whitfield. Wikipedia (quoting Whitfield biographer Mark Galli) estimates that he preached 18,000 times to more than 10 million listeners in Great Britain and the colonies over a career of 30+ years. Wikipedia states, "Whitfield could enthrall large audiences through a potent combination of drama, religious eloquence, and patriotism." Surely he qualifies as an 18th-century celebrity. Happily, he was nothing like Donald Trump in his personal life.

B.G. in Teaneck, NJ, writes: The question about the Cannocks dirty-trick letter against Sen. Edmund Muskie brought back memories. I was a student at George Washington University at the time and spent about 18 months doing a lot of work on Muskie's presidential campaign. There is a popular misconception that Richard Nixon didn't need his dirty tricks or Watergate tactics to win reelection when the race was not close. At the time of the Cannock letter, Muskie was ahead of Nixon in the polling and other democrats like Sen. Hubert Humphrey and perhaps Sen. "Scoop" Jackson would have had a good chance to beat Nixon. Sen. Ted Kennedy was also a potential effective candidate. Nixon used a series of dirty tricks to knock out each of the stronger democratic candidates and, in effect, select Sen. George McGovern as his opponent. Without the cheating, Muskie or one of the other more popular Democrats could have beaten Nixon.

Roger Stone was one of my classmates and was part of the Nixon dirty tricks. I remember being in his dorm room one time and was amazed at the gigantic poster he had of Spiro Agnew.


S.E.Z. in New Haven, CT, writes: E.W. in Skaneateles raised the question of what a Maryland accent sounds like. As a person who was born and raised in Ballmer, Mairlind, I can assure you that people from Mairlind have no accent and speak as normal Americans do.

S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: In response to M.V. in San Francisco, who pointed out that USC's cinema school graduated George Lucas... well, I guess that explains the prequel trilogy. And also, apparently, The Last Jedi. Which just leaves the question, what the heck happened to J.J. Abrams during his film schooling?

P.S.: I'm tempted to start a game of the Dozens over "Ryan-with-an-I" Johnson's (presumably) mother's inability to spell the name "Ryan" correctly. Every time I see "Rian," it's like an itch in my brain that I can't scratch.

G.L. in Memphis, TN, writes: Thank you for mentioning the Dozens. My linguist wife and I had never heard this term, but I was once an unwitting audience for such an event. The insults went on for a couple of hours, ending with a show of weapons! We were happy to beat it out of there, and we both remember the experience. But we never tumbled to the fact that it was performance art, well known and respected in the Black community.

K.C. in Hindhead, England, UK, writes: In your item on the stats that seem to imply that "A Loose Anti-MAGA Coalition Is Forming," you mentioned a "A young professor who drives a used Prius and is a member of the Sierra Club."

I wondered if you had anyone in mind. I asked the staff statistician when I met him down the pub (he seemed to look remarkably like the staff mathematician, could they be related?), but he seem to be tired and emotional. Can you throw any light on this?

(V) & (Z) respond: Well, one of us is a member of the Sierra Club while the other used to drive a used Prius, while neither of us can really be called "young," anymore. So, if it was a roman à clef, it was a very loose one.

Final Words
D.M. in Wimberley, TX, writes: Not final words, but death-related, from an 1856 letter by Hector Berlioz: "Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its students."

If you have suggestions for this feature, please send them along.

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates