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Trump Legal News: Nobody's Fault but Mine

There is, predictably, an ongoing avalanche of coverage and commentary related to Donald Trump's latest indictment, with most of it highlighting how badly exposed he is. Here's a rundown of the ten things we read yesterday that we found most important/interesting:

  1. Super Monday?: The biggest news of the day on Wednesday was that Fulton County DA Fani Willis filed a proposed calendar for handling the case against Trump and his 18 co-defendants. As she already noted, she wants to try all of the defendants at the same time (time will tell if that happens, but don't bet on it). In addition, she wants to handle arraignments the week of September 5. Oh, and she wants to begin the trial on March 4 of next year.

    According to the filing, Willis chose March 4 because she's ready to go, and because she wanted to leave enough time for Jack Smith to try the Washington case. We see no reason to doubt that is the truth. However, March 4 also happens to be the day before Super Tuesday. Even if Judge Scott McAfee is unconcerned about the political implications of that, it's very unlikely that all 19 defendants can be ready, with their rights to review the evidence against them fully observed, on such a short timeline. Willis surely knows this, so best to think of that March 4 request as an opening bid that amounts to "I want to get this done before next year's elections."

  2. You Can't Spell D-U-M-B without "DM": Yesterday also saw court documents unsealed that give more insight into what Smith and his team wanted from Donald Trump's Twitter account. They were primarily after direct messages (DMs), which are not generally public. They also wanted location data, as well as information about tweets that were drafted but not sent. It's not entirely clear if the warrant produced anything useful, as nothing in the Washington indictment of Trump references non-public Twitter information. However, a prosecutor has to have some compelling justification for a warrant, so there may well be something there. In any event, how stupid does a person have to be to use a computer system that is not under their control, and where everything is saved, in the process of committing criminal acts?

  3. Rudy, Rudy, Rudy: We made a brief mention on this yesterday, but it's worth noting in more detail: Rudy Giuliani is apparently broke. He has massive ongoing monthly expenses, and whatever cushion he had was drained by his various legal entanglements. Now, he's got the Georgia situation to deal with, and a likely prosecution in Washington, and the various defamation lawsuits where he's a defendant.

    Giuliani has reportedly begged Trump to help cover the bills, but Trump hates to spend money on someone other than Donald J. Trump, and besides, he's got his own massive legal bills to worry about. If Giuliani can't afford to defend himself, it will undoubtedly increase his motivation to turn state's evidence. And if America's Former Mayor does that, well, as we've noted, he knows where all the skeletons are buried.

  4. Captain Irony: As we've noted a few times, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act was passed by Congress specifically to make it more plausible to go after the mafia. Eventually, federal prosecutors figured out that the RICO Act was useful for going after other kinds of wrongdoers, including corrupt politicians and dishonest businesspeople. And the foremost pioneer in developing new and novel applications for the RICO Act? The Ronald Reagan-era U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. A fellow named... Rudy Giuliani. He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword?

  5. Indefensible: There are lots and lots of pieces about how the most obvious defenses Donald Trump might try in Georgia are not especially viable; probably the most readable of those pieces is the one from The Bulwark. In brief: (1) The First Amendment is no defense, because it's free speech to make whatever claim you want, but it's not free speech to organize a conspiracy based on those claims; (2) Following the advice of counsel is no defense, because counsel, in this case, was also a part of the criminal enterprise; and (3) The election result was fraudulent, or Trump believed the election result was fraudulent, is no defense, because there's no proof it was, and even if there was such proof, one cannot respond to an illegal act by committing an illegal act in response.

  6. UnKempt: It is not a secret that Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) does not much care for Donald Trump. That said, Kemp is clearly planning a run for the U.S. Senate once he's term-limited, and he needs a lot of Trumpist votes to make that happen. So, the Governor could plausibly sit on the sidelines during the various legal machinations in Georgia, and perform his best impression of the three wise monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil).

    It would seem that will not be Kemp's plan, however. Yesterday, he ripped into Trump, and in particular to the claim that there was widespread election fraud in Georgia. It is not great for Trump's political prospects in the Peach State, and it's probably not helpful for his legal prospects either, if the sitting Republican governor is helping to lead the anti-Trump chorus.

  7. Something Different?: In our initial write-up of the indictment, we noted that "Peach Pickin' Time in Georgia" was recorded by Merle Haggard, but failed to note that it was a cover of the original, by Jimmie Rodgers. Oops. We also listed some of the ways in which the Georgia case is different from the other three Trump felony cases. We were working from initial impressions, and on a tight timeline, and it's also possible we were being haunted by the spirit of Rodgers, so our list was certainly not comprehensive. There have since been many pieces highlighting important differences we missed, or only alluded to indirectly.

    To start, as Politico's Erica Orden points out, the charges faced by Trump are, consistent with Southern states' preference to be "tough on crime," the first ones to come with mandatory prison sentences. Most of the counts come with a 1-year minimum sentence. Interestingly, the most serious charge, the RICO violation, does not have a mandatory prison sentence (a conviction can theoretically be settled by paying a fine). However, if a prison sentence IS imposed for a RICO violation, then that sentence must be at least 5 years. In short, other than winning in court, Trump has few options for avoiding prison in Georgia. A conviction in court, or a plea deal, would almost certainly trigger an automatic trip to the graybar hotel.

    UCLA election law expert Rick Hasen, meanwhile, chose to focus his first post-indictment thought piece (there will be many more, no doubt) on... race. He argues that race is central to the Georgia case. The charging DA, Fani Willis, is Black. So too are Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss; abuse of that duo forms the basis of several of the criminal counts in the indictment. Trump does not like to be held to account by anyone, but he's particularly infuriated when the person doing so is Black, a woman, or a Black woman. The odds of him saying many outlandish and racist things are high. And if he does, he could be sealing his own doom. Not only is he likely to draw at least a couple of Black jurors, who may not respond well to racist language, but the former president could also be putting himself at risk of bail revocation (keep reading).

    And finally, on the subject of bail, Georgia has some rather stringent laws in that area. Specifically, a judge can only grant bail if a defendant meets certain requirements. Among those requirements is that the person "poses no significant risk of committing any felony pending trial" and the person "poses no significant risk of intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing the administration of justice."

    Those are pretty low bars to clear, but they may still be too high for Trump. It is surely very unlikely that a former president will be denied bail and held over until his trial commences. However, when he is arraigned, he is undoubtedly going to get a warning to keep his lip zipped, both verbally and on social media. And if he fails to abide by that warning, he could very well find himself headed to a Georgia jail. Again, imprisoning a former president, pre-trial, is not a headache that either the judge or the state wants. But the law is the law.

  8. Let's Not Make a Federal Case Out of It: We wrote about Trump's already-in-motion efforts to get the case moved from Georgia to a federal court. In that, we proposed that if he pulls it off, he might be able to get a (Republican) presidential pardon for the Georgia offenses. Quite a few readers wrote in to (correctly) take us to task, and to point out that a change of venue would not change the rules for pardons. That's what we get for taking legal advice from the staff dachshunds.

    In any case, the reason that Trump wants to move the case to a federal court is that he wants a friendlier jury pool than he'll get in Fulton County, and also a chance at drawing a judge he appointed to the bench (his odds would currently be 4-in-15, or 26.7%). To pull this off, Trump needs to move quickly (he's got 30 days once arraigned), and he needs to argue that he was acting in his capacity as president (i.e., a federal employee) and thus should be subject to the jurisdiction of a federal court. In a piece for The Atlantic, Laurence H. Tribe, Donald Ayer, and Dennis Aftergut push back against this very hard, observing that at least a portion of the criminal acts Trump is accused of were taken while he was a private citizen, and asserting that Georgia should be given the opportunity to defend its own laws.

  9. Polls Going South: It became crystal clear last week that a fourth indictment was imminent. That means that polls released this week reflect, at least to an extent, the impact of that news. And the early indications are not going to make Trump happy. The newest from Fox reveals that 53% of respondents think Trump did something illegal, while another 20% think he did something wrong but not necessarily illegal. Those numbers are not going to get better as his trials, and the evidence therein, get more coverage. Meanwhile, the latest from The AP/NORC says that 53% of respondents definitely will not support Trump for president, while 11% probably won't support him. If that 11% splits evenly, then we end up with close to 60% of people who won't vote for Trump. You can't win presidential elections with only 40% of the vote.

  10. Time to Abandon a Sinking Ship?: Consistent with the polling, and the rather obvious conclusion that things are only going to get worse for Trump as his legal woes dominate the front pages, there are already calls for Republican officeholders to rip off the Band-aid and to turn their backs on a candidate who is damaged goods. For example, Noah Rothman, of the conservative National Review, writes a piece that concludes: "Trump is already an all-consuming presence in American life, and we haven't seen anything yet. His criminal trials will be the media event of this century, and any election in which he is a candidate will devolve into an up-or-down referendum on the allegations against him. Republicans need to reckon with this reality, and the sooner, the better." Similarly, the editorial board of the centrist Fresno Bee published an editorial aimed at Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) urging him to "Disavow Trump and let him face justice. Do that for the good of America, the GOP, and history's judgment."

And that's the Wednesday round-up. We suspect there might just be some more coverage of this story today. (Z)

The Trump Indictment in Memes

This legal stuff is very heavy, on numerous levels. So, how about we cleanse the palate with an amuse-bouche (heavy on the amuse) of Donald Trump indictment memes? To continue the food theme, here's a baker's dozen worth of memes:

1. You might be surprised how many variants of this exact joke are floating around:

The book 'What to Expect When You're Expecting' has been
Photoshopped to add the word 'Indictments' at the end, and to include a picture of Trump, along with a few choice bits of snark, like a banner that says
'Small hands edition'

2. This picture from the movie Home Alone 2 was all over the platform formerly known as Twitter yesterday:

Trump in his one brief scene in the movie 'Home Alone 2'

It is accompanied by the caption: "Four times now, a member of the Home Alone 2 cast has been indicted on felony charges. The four: (1) Donald Trump, (2) Donald Trump, (3) Donald Trump and (4) Donald Trump."

3. It's actually kind of amazing how often Trump tweeted the exact same thing he'd tweeted previously:

A tweet says 'Be careful what you wish for' 
accompanied by half a dozen screen grabs of Trump himself tweeting out LAW AND ORDER in all caps

4. Hopefully, readers are familiar with the plot of Groundhog Day. If not, the main character (Phil Connors, played by Bill Murray, as shown here) lives through the exact same day somewhere between 100 and 30,000 times:

Bill Murray in 'Groundhog Day' with the 
caption 'Well, Donald Trump has been indicted... again'

5. This could also have been an opportunity for a lesson from The Count, but 91 is a bit much for most small children:

The 'Sesame Street' cast, along with
the caption: 'Today's Word Is RICO'

6. If you don't know Bob Ross (R.I.P.) and his catchphrase, you can learn everything you need to know in this 22-second video:

Bob Ross painting 'happy little bars' over
a picture of Trump

7. It has not escaped the attention of the world's meme-makers that Trump asked for about 12,000 votes, and he may end up being doomed by 12 votes:

A picture of Trump on the phone
with the caption 'I just want you to find 11,780 votes,' and then below that a picture of a jury with the caption
'Best we can do is 12'

8. You have to think about this one for a moment in order to get it:

It shows Trump seated on a cheese grater and
has the caption 'You've heard of elf on a shelf, now get ready for...'

If you didn't manage to solve the puzzle, it's "Traitor on a grater."

9. This is a recurrent motif; various clever ways of observing that Trump's lawyers are also his co-defendants:

Trump behind bars, scowling, with the
caption 'The face you make when you use your one phone call to call your lawyer, and the cell phone in the cell next to you rings.'

10. It would seem that some people find Trump to be a small and/or childish man:

A smallish Trump driving a child's
toy car, with the caption 'If you go after me, I'm coming after you'

11. This one is particularly biting if you recall that Trump is a part of the WWE Hall of Fame:

Four pro wrestlers, each holding up four fingers

12. Given how much Trump hates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, this one probably bites even more:

The famous picture of Barack Obama 
and Hillary Clinton laughing uproariously, with the caption 'If Trump goes to prison, it would be his first complete sentence.'

13. This meme didn't require any photoshopping at all, just a well-timed screen grab:

Hillary Clinton MSNBC, smiling, at a 
time that the chyron happens to say 'Grand Jury Returns 10 Indictments in Trump Probe

Is this item a little silly? Yes, yes it is. But we do live in a world where memes like these are a significant form of mass communication. In fact, it would be fair to say that more people will learn about Trump's indictments in this way than they will through, say, CNN's primetime coverage. So, it's worth taking a look. (Z)

Trump Is Toxic... Except Where He's Not?

Two U.S. Senate races, in two very different states, have been affected by the specter of Donald Trump in two very different ways this week.

First is Ohio, where the campaign of Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) is already in trouble because he's being blamed for the failure of Issue 1 (more on that below). To save himself, LaRose has decided he needs to mimic Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH), and to be the correct answer to the question: "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the Trumpiest one of all?"

On that point, LaRose found himself enmeshed in a mini-scandal, of sorts, this week. A person whose online handle is rnich99 has been tweeting out anti-Trump messages for many months. Things like: "[H]ow many times has DeSantis been impeached? How many rape settlements has he agreed to? Has he spent $40 million in campaign donor money to pay a bunch of lawyers for his transgressions?" The tweets basically disappeared into the void, until they were quoted by a prominent progressive blogger as evidence that the GOP is not united behind Trump.

As chance would have it, the press secretary to LaRose—in LaRose's capacity as Ohio Secretary of State, not in his capacity as a U.S. Senate candidate—is a fellow named Rob Nichols. It wasn't too hard to figure out that rnich99 and Rob Nichols are the same person. And so, Nichols is now LaRose's former press secretary, having been terminated for his anti-Trump rhetoric. LaRose thinks, possibly correctly, that his only path to the Republican nomination is to secure Trump's endorsement. So, he offered up a sacrifice to the Dear Leader.

The other state, meanwhile, is Nevada. The Republicans would very much like to win that seat, even though it won't be easy to topple the incumbent, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D). Half a dozen candidates have already declared, and they are all pretty mediocre, so it's hard to identify a frontrunner. That said, Jeffrey Ross Gunter, who served as Trump's Ambassador to Iceland, is right there among the frontrunners.

Gunter has the opposite problem of the one LaRose has. While LaRose wants to hold Trump close, given that Ohio is pretty red, and the state's primary electorate is pretty Trumpy, Gunter wants to hold his former boss at arm's length. First, because Nevada is purple, and Trump isn't nearly as popular as he is in Ohio. Second, because the state's Democrats have nothing much to vote for in the primary (Rosen is unopposed), so some of them might well re-register and try to stick it to the Republican who is most Trumpy.

Unfortunately for Gunter, his opponents have been doing a pretty good job of cutting him off at the knees. Their first line of attack is that he's a puppet of Trump (maybe so, maybe not). Their second is that when Gunter served as ambassador, he did a lousy, lazy job (true; since he does not like cold weather, he tried to work remotely, from California, and had to be ordered to actually go to Iceland, thus ending the world's first Zoom ambassadorship). The third is that he's a carpetbagger who doesn't live in Nevada (also true, albeit not related to Trump).

Ultimately, both of these stories are about relatively minor jockeying for position, and are not that important in and of themselves. We note them, however, because they serve as a reminder that Trump's legal problems not only complicate his own political hopes, they also complicate the lives of many other Republican candidates. In many cases, it's not going to be easy to decide whether to treat him as the King of the Republican Party, or as an anti-democratic 91-times-accused felon, or somewhere in between. And the correct answer to that question today might not be the correct answer to that question tomorrow, depending on what happens in court.

The behavior of Trump himself is another wildcard. On one hand, he might be so busy dealing with his legal problems that he doesn't have time to wade into many electoral contests, and to punish those who offend him. On the other hand, he might be looking desperately for opportunities to vent and/or to create a distraction. So, a candidate who pisses The Donald off might find themselves the target of 10% as much ire as would have been the case in 2020, or they might find themselves the target of 500% as much ire. Who knows? It's not an easy time to be a Republican candidate for office. (Z)

Who Is the Current GOP Runner-Up?

Notwithstanding the polling trends we describe above, not to mention the pressure on the GOP to push the eject button, Donald Trump appears to have the Republican presidential nomination all sewn up. That certainly could change, based on both known unknowns and unknown unknowns, but there's no basis, right now, for predicting that it will change. Under these circumstances, the horse race to be the #2 Republican candidate is just the race to be the first runner-up.

At the moment, the candidate who occupies that slot is Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). But maybe not for long. After his triumphant reelection, it seemed to many that DeSantis had a real chance to dethrone Trump as the GOP champion, and at very least that he was guaranteed to finish second, ostensibly giving the Governor the inside track at the 2028 Republican nomination. Since then, of course, DeSantis has run a historically bad presidential campaign, while revealing himself to have lots of negative personality traits and few positive ones. So, he's slipped badly.

In fact, DeSantis has slipped badly enough that one of his Republican rivals is now nipping at his heels for the #2 slot in the race. That person is... Vivek Ramaswamy. For a number of reasons, Ramaswamy is not electable, particularly as a brown man in a white man's party (sorry, Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC!). However, he's actually done a far better job than DeSantis of setting himself up as a Trump clone. And between DeSantis' failures and Ramaswamy's successes, there have been multiple horse race polls this month that have Ramaswamy ahead of DeSantis. This one, from Scott Rasmussen, has Ramaswamy at 13% support and DeSantis at 8% support. This one, from Kaplan Strategies, and this one, from Cygnal, both have Ramaswamy at 11% and DeSantis at 10%.

Note that most polls still have DeSantis ahead of Ramaswamy, and that the FiveThirtyEight polling average has DeSantis up about 8% on average (15.0% to 7.2%), as does the RCP polling average (14.8% to 6.7%). That said, both polling averages include multiple months of polls, so they tend to adjust only very slowly to new developments. Also, poll-watchers across the country have noted something interesting when it comes to Ramaswamy polling: He does way better in Internet polls than he does in telephone polls. On average, it's 5 points better, which is a huge number when we're dealing with someone who's only polling between 5% and 15%.

There are a couple of theories floating around as to why there's such a disparity in Ramaswamy's polling. One of those is that, since he is young, non-white and a Silicon Valley guy, "his people" are overrepresented in online samples and underrepresented in phone samples. The other is that in telephone polls, the respondent has to say the name of the candidate they favor. Since "Ramaswamy" is long and foreign, goes the supposition, it may be hard for some respondents to say properly, and they may switch to an easier name to avoid embarrassment. We don't love either of these explanations, though we also don't have any better ideas to offer.

In any event, this item has two points to it, and neither of them is "Vivek Ramaswamy might just become a serious presidential candidate." That's not happening. No, the first point is that Ron DeSantis' star has fallen so far, so fast, that he's now having trouble staying ahead of a guy who's never run for office and who nobody had heard of 6 months ago. And the second point is that we continue to be in a tricky era for polling, and there are clearly some accuracy issues that have yet to be resolved. (Z)

Ohio Republicans May Be About to Learn a Painful Lesson

Time for another Ohio item, brought to our attention by several readers, including R.B. in Cleveland and K.T. in Columbus. As we all learned from the drama over Issue 1, Ohio Republicans have gotten in the habit of grossly abusing their power. The list of anti-democratic (and anti-Democratic) maneuvers is long and concerning. Issue 1, a.k.a. an attempt to effectively permanently impose a minority position on abortion on the people of Ohio, is just the latest exemplar.

Almost as high-profile has been the fight over gerrymandering in the state. Back in 2018, Ohio voters approved a district-drawing process that was supposed to be non-partisan. The measure—also called Issue 1, as chance would have it—was wildly popular, and passed with a staggering 74.85% of the vote. However, the Ohio Redistricting Commission that was created as a result of this fell under the control of Ohio Republicans, many of them (including Frank LaRose) ex officio members of the commission. The Republicans on the Commission drew highly gerrymandered maps, which were rejected by the Ohio courts. This resulted in another set of gerrymandered maps, and another, and another, for a total of at least seven different maps that violate the Ohio state Constitution.

Ohio's PVI is R+6, which means that in recent presidential elections, the Republican candidate has won the major-party vote, on average, by a margin of 52% to 48%. That does not perfectly predict what the breakdown of representation in the U.S. House and the state legislature should be, but it's not a bad ballpark figure. Nonetheless, thanks to the gerrymanders, the Ohio delegation to the House of Representatives is 10 R, 5 D (66.6% R); the Ohio state Senate is 26 R, 7 D (78.8% R), and the Ohio state House is 67 R, 32 D (67.7% R). The generally blue character of Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati is not enough to explain that sort of disparity.

In view of this, a group called Citizens Not Politicians is now working to amend the Ohio Constitution to fix the problems with the previous anti-gerrymandering measure. The new scheme would require a 15 person board (as opposed to the current 7), with five members representing the Republican Party, five members representing the Democratic Party and five members registered as independents (as opposed to the current 5 R, D 2). In addition, the 15 members would be drawn from the general electorate, and current officeholders would be barred from serving. Currently, all 7 members are sitting officeholders.

Thus far, the efforts of Citizens Not Politicians have been met with much enthusiasm, and the group is collecting signatures at a brisk clip. We don't have a lot of information to work with, yet, but it's pretty clear the initiative has an excellent chance of making it onto the 2024 general election ballot. If it does, it will almost certainly pass, given that Ohioans clearly support non-partisan map drawing, and that they are clearly pissed off about the Issue 1 (and other) shenanigans. If so, then a lot of Republican politicians will lose their jobs in a few years, which seems a pretty just outcome to us. (Z)

Fifth Circuit Guarantees Abortion Issue Isn't Going Anywhere

A second item on Ohio (above), and now a second item on abortion policy. Anti-abortion activists do not like the abortifacient mifepristone because they see it as an end-run around abortion bans. And consistent with their habit of overreaching, these activists are not content to ban the pill in red states; they want it banned nationwide. If that is one's goal, then it's obvious which federal circuit you want to head to. And so it is that a three-judge panel of the arch-conservative Fifth Circuit ended up hearing a case about the legality of the drug.

Yesterday, the three judges—Jennifer Walker Elrod (Bush 43 appointee) and Cory T. Wilson and James C. Ho (both Trump appointees) issued their ruling. Ho, since he was sworn in as a federal judge on the Texas estate of Harlan Crow (true story!), has developed quite a reputation for putting his partisan goals ahead of the law. He takes the position that abortion is a "moral tragedy," and he wanted to outlaw the use of mifepristone entirely. Elrod, writing for the Court, and Wilson weren't willing to go that far. However, they did rule that online ordering, mail delivery and pharmacy dispensation are all illegal. They also decreed that only physicians can prescribe and distribute the pills, and that the cutoff for receiving a prescription is 7 weeks rather than the current 10.

The new ruling has already been stayed, pending a hearing before, and a ruling from, the U.S. Supreme Court. SCOTUS, for its part, is not likely to be able to handle the case until 2024, or maybe 2025. That means that Democrats across the country, from Joe Biden on down, are not just going to be running on "abortion access" as a general issue, they'll be able to point specifically to mifepristone access as being in jeopardy if the voters return a Republican Congress and/or a Republican president.

It is true, of course, that even a Democratic president and Congress cannot necessarily stop the Supreme Court from outlawing or severely restricting mifepristone access, should SCOTUS decide they want to play with that particular ball of fire. However, if there is a Republican in the White House from 2025-29, Clarence Thomas will likely retire and be replaced by a far-right fire-breather like Joseph Dawson III, and the seat will be lost to the left for a generation or two. Similarly, if Democrats want to do something in Congress, like expand the Court or impose a mandatory retirement age, they'll need a majority in both chambers plus a Democratic president. So, there's still a pretty clear argument here for voting Democratic if a person favors abortion access. (Z)

Can You Identify the Woke Movie?, Part IV: The Middle Five

We are in the home stretch. Five more movies today, and then tomorrow will be the last five as well as the results. We'll also name the website that inspired this exercise tomorrow, though you could figure that out for yourself, if you really wanted, with a properly executed Google search.

Matchup 6 (Black Protagonists): Django Unchained vs. Black Panther

Reader Guesses

E.B. in Seattle, WA: Django Unchained shows how Black men could learn valuable fighting skills under slavery, so it's definitely not woke.

R.D. in San Diego, CA: Easy one—Black Panther (woke) showed a thriving Black culture that didn't need the white man to paternalistically save them. Django shows a violent gunslinger getting revenge.

The Answer

Django Unchained (Woke): "Quentin Tarantino's Western gratuitously uses graphic violence and the n-word."

Black Panther (Conservative): "Black Panther recognizes both the importance of helping those in need, as well as not going beyond one's governmental authority. Though there are plenty of pagan religious references, the film appeals in some ways to a general sense of Christian morality and governmental justice, and it never diverts into political correctness about black supremacism."

75.3% of readers got this one right.

Matchup 7 (Westerns): High Noon vs. Blazing Saddles

Reader Guesses

K.C. in St. Augustine, FL: No one can understand retiring marshal Gary Cooper as he unheroically mumbles for help against the gang that's coming to kill him. When they do understand, they don't help. John Wayne, with both eyes poked out using a plastic spork and an unsharpened #2 pencil, would've taken out the bad guys faster that you could say, "House of Un-American Activities Committee." Ah, the good ol' days. WOKE.

R.G. in Washington, DC: I voted for one of my all time favorite movies, Blazing Saddles, as the "woke" movie in that pairing mostly because I would hate to think that it is on the "great conservative movies" list. Also there's the interracial sex scene and a gay men's choir which make me think it will be considered woke. Secretly though, I really want it to be on the great conservative movie list because it would be a testament to the satirical masterpiece that film truly is.

The Answer

High Noon (Woke): "John Wayne said it was 'the most un-American thing I've ever seen in my whole life'; though susceptible of various interpretations, most of all it seems to scare people into wanting more government."

Blazing Saddles (Conservative): "A politically incorrect western, something liberals are sure to despise."

20.5% of readers got this one right.

Matchup 8 (Directed by Mel Gibson): The Passion of the Christ vs. Braveheart

Reader Guesses

J.R.B. in New York City, NY: At first, I was like, "Huh? How could either of these be 'woke'?" The real Jesus would be woke (no quote marks needed), but Passion of the Christ is practically porn for the Conservative Christian Collective.

So why would Braveheart be "woke"? Well it did win a Best Picture Oscar from those evil, "woke" Hollywood heathens. And even though it was not well regarded by the LGBTQ+ community in how it was represented and what happens, there is a gay couple in the film. And people might think that plot point sympathetic or compassionate despite homophobic cheers at screenings. And sympathy/compassion is only for weak, "woke" wussies.

A.M.S. in Silverdale, WA: Passion of the Christ? Woke, duh! No one turns the other cheek anymore. If Jesus had his Second Amendment right to personal protection like we do nowadays, none of it would have happened.

The Answer

The Passion of the Christ (Woke): "Downplays the Resurrection and strength of Christianity and omits powerful angels; instead exaggerates triumph of evil; film had little lasting effect on public or its producer; portrayed nails as through the hands rather than through the wrists as depicted by the Shroud of Turin and confirmed by modern science."

Braveheart (Conservative): "[C]ontains strong messages of patriotism and even some Christian allegories that stand the test of time (indeed, [William] Wallace's sacrifice should remind viewers of the most significant event in Christian history)."

23.6% of readers got this one right.

Matchup 9 (Urban Corruption): Chinatown vs. Robocop

Reader Guesses

A.A. in South Orange, NJ: Chinatown, with its corrupt real estate developers? Sounds like Presidential material! Not woke.

D.E. in Lancaster, PA: First off I can't believe I'm comparing the two. RoboCop is basically a dark, ultraviolent good vs evil "super hero" type film with a murdered cop as the hero, everything a Republican can love (except if the cop was guarding the U.S. Capitol, then he would deserve his gory dismemberment for keeping Fearless Leader from a second term). As an added bonus, Robocop shows the evil crime ridden and decadent city of Detroit, home to hordes of commie-loving libtards like Michael Moore. Clearly not woke.

On the other hand, Chinatown is a masterpiece of the cinema with incredibly complex characters and shifting shades of living. I'll say again, Republicans don't do complex and subtle. But probably the biggest sign of an overabundance of wokeness is that it is directed by the Antichrist of Hollywood, Roman Polanski. There's no way a self-respecting Rightie is going to watch "any of that filth by that pedophile Polanski." BTW, yes, Polanski as a person is extremely problematic but his films are incredible. Again subtlety and realizing that not everything is black and white are not the far right's strong suit.

The Answer

Robocop (Woke): "Left-wing smut-peddler Paul Verhoeven's failed attempt to depict all police forces and corporations as evil. It also contains an environmentalist message with the '6000 SUX,' a car that pollutes and guzzles gas for no other reason than to be environmentally unfriendly."

Chinatown (Conservative): "[D]oesn't adhere to political correctness because the main protagonist is told a dirty joke at one point and later tells it to his fellow private detectives, who use the term 'Chinaman.'"

34.8% of readers got this one right.

Matchup 10 (Presidents): Frost/Nixon vs. Lincoln

Reader Guesses

J.M.R. in Muncie, IN: Well, at the end of Lincoln, Thaddeus Stevens is revealed to be in a relationship with a Black woman. So I reckon that is the woke film.

C.R. in Vancouver, BC, Canada: Frost/Nixon portrays an economically conservative Republican president in a relatively poor light. Lincoln portrays Abraham Lincoln, also a Republican president, as an intelligent politician who knew how to work the system to achieve a primary policy goal, to abolish slavery. My intuitive reaction is that a conservative movie site would not recommend either of these movies. But I think Lincoln may be viewed as "woke" by a conservative movie reviewer; and Frost/Nixon sort of humanizes Nixon. So, I am going to say that Lincoln is the woke film.

The Answer

Frost/Nixon (Woke): "As implied by the title, it attempts to further tarnish the reputation of Richard Nixon."

Lincoln (Conservative): "Although overall very positive towards Lincoln and the Republican Party, it nonetheless downplays the role the Democrat Party played in the institution of slavery during the Civil War."

54.3% of readers got this one right.

Again, the end is near! (Z)

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