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A More Respectable Coup

That's the phrase used by election law expert Rick Hasen in a new op-ed for Slate. The full headline is "Trump Is Planning a Much More Respectable Coup Next Time," and the purpose of the piece is to explain Hasen's view, as expressed during a TV hit on CNN, that he's "scared shitless" about the 2024 election (we are leaving that un-asterisked, because Hasen's clear intent was to shock, and to use the word in a context where it does not normally appear).

Trump's previous attempt at a coup was, of course, ham-fisted and ill-conceived. He tried to use cronies in his administration to put pressure on various state governments (the latest example of that became public knowledge just this week). He deployed a small army of incompetent lawyers to file (and lose) a bunch of frivolous lawsuits. He tried to personally strong-arm Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) and others. When all else failed, he encouraged his supporters to "take action" on January 6, in hopes of stopping the elevation of Joe Biden to the presidency. All of these things failed spectacularly, of course.

Trump is neither smarter, nor more capable, than he was a year ago. And so, while the headline of Hasen's piece says that "Trump is Planning," what is really going on is that the matter has been taken out of the hands of the former president and the largely incapable people he tends to surround himself with, and is now being assumed by red-state Republicans. And some of those folks actually do know what they're doing.

The most noticeable project of these red-state Republicans, of course, is all the new restrictions on voting. Indeed, just yesterday, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) called the Texas legislature into session to consider new restrictions, despite Texas already being among the most difficult states to vote in. The Texas Republicans already failed to get it done during their regular session, and during the first special session called for this purpose. So, Abbott is clearly taking to heart the old adage that "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

But while Hasen is naturally concerned about voting restrictions, the thing that really has him upset is the effort that is currently underway—most obviously in Georgia, but it's gaining traction elsewhere—to give legislatures the power to take control of elections and, if necessary, to unilaterally award the state's electoral votes to the "correct" candidate. The specific scheme Hasen envisions goes something like this: A legislature creates a bunch of vague or complicated rules for running an election, "discovers" after Election Day that those rules have been violated, declares the election to be invalid, and uses that to justify stepping in and substituting their own judgment.

There was much talk about this possibility in 2020, and none of it came to pass, of course. However, there are two very significant differences in 2024. First, people much smarter than Trump or Rudy Giuliani or Sidney Powell are doing the legal thinking here, and are developing a cohesive legal theory as to why this sort of maneuvering is constitutional. Second, the changes to election laws would come before the election, and not after. Between these two things, it's possible that such maneuvering might well pass muster with the courts, including the 6-3 conservative Supreme Court.

At this point, it should be noted that a lot would have to happen for this scheme to pay dividends. First of all, state legislatures would actually have to implement the changes that Hasen fears. Then, the 2024 election would have to be close enough for a bit of chicanery to make the difference. There are two states that have a Republican trifecta at the state level, and yet gave their EVs to Biden, namely Arizona and Georgia. Even if you put those in the Republican column, and correct for reapportionment that still leaves 271 EVs won by the Democrat in 2020. So, the 2024 Republicans would still have to win at least one "Biden" state. And if the chicanery did make the difference, and if the relevant states pulled the trigger, then we'd have to see if the courts, including the 6-3 conservative Supreme Court really are willing to play along.

But what if everything falls into place, and the Republicans do manage to pilfer a presidential election? What happens next? And the answer is: Who knows? Depending on which party controls Congress, the House or the Senate might refuse to certify the election. There could be armed violence. There could be civil resistance. States could try to secede. Or, people could shrug and say, "What're you gonna do?" There's just no predicting what will take place when something like this happens.

It is true that there is something of a precedent here, namely the Election of 1876. Once the ballots from that one were counted, Democrat Samuel Tilden had triumphed in the popular vote, and was one EV short of election. However, due to various irregularities, there were 20 EVs in dispute: 8 in Louisiana, 7 in South Carolina, 4 in Florida, and 1 in Oregon. It occurred to Republicans that if they could commandeer all 20, their candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes, would be elected. After multiple months of maneuvering, the GOP pulled it off, giving Hayes a 185-184 victory (though note that the maneuvering took place entirely at the federal level, and didn't involve state legislatures).

The 1876 shenanigans were controversial in their time, to be sure, but eventually Americans accepted the result as legitimate. So, they certainly might respond in the same way in 2024, should there be a sequel. However, there are some very big differences between the two situations. Among them:

  • Different Eras: As the author L.P. Hartley observed, "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." The values, worldview, experience, concerns, and priorities of Americans in 1876 versus Americans in 2024 mean that one should not generalize about how the responses of the former predict the behaviors of the latter. To put that in more concrete terms, imagine that a member of the KKK in full regalia, a person with stained and rotten teeth, a person wearing a shirt that says "vaccines are for morons," a woman in a modern-day two-piece bathing suit, an openly and flamboyantly gay man, and a Jewish man with kippah and gartel were to walk the main street of Atlanta (Peachtree St.) in 1876. And then, imagine the same crew was to walk the same street today. Don't you think that the reception would be rather different in the two time periods?

  • Different Parties: In 1876, the Republican Party had a reputation as an upright and basically moral organization that, under the leadership of the great Abraham Lincoln, had won the Civil War. The Democrats were the ones seen as, well, traitors. Point is, the GOP had some leeway available to them. Today, by contrast, the Republican Party has developed a reputation for chicanery, particularly under the leadership of the less-than-great Donald Trump. Further shenanigans, rather than being "the first straw," could be perceived as "the last straw."

  • Slow Ride: Not only did it take months for the 1876 situation to be resolved, but news traveled more slowly back then, and Americans were scattered across a country with very long travel times (given the technology of the day). Today's circumstances, by contrast, are much more amenable to an instant (and possibly violent) reaction.

  • Constitutionality: The disputed votes in 1876 involved some dishonest maneuvering, but the actual process for awarding the electoral votes was basically above-board, and was clearly consistent with the terms laid out in the Constitution. The stuff being planned in Georgia and other red states is much more of a stretch, which is why it's taking a while to hammer out the legal arguments for it.

  • Something for Everyone: This might be the most important one. In 1876, the Republicans did get a presidential win to which they weren't entitled. However, that was less of a boon than it is today, since the country, its government, and its chief executive were all far less powerful. Meanwhile, the Democrats also got something out of the deal, namely the end of Reconstruction (and, implicitly, the eventual restoration of unquestioned white supremacy in the South). It was, if we may say so, a pretty good example of the Art of the Deal. In the scenario that Rick Hasen fears, by contrast, the Republicans would get all the marbles and the Democrats would get none.

Depending on how far along this road we travel, you'll probably see a lot of "Election of 1876" pieces. But, as we hopefully just made clear, we don't really see the relevance. If a legislature (or two, or three) seizes a bunch of EVs, and with them the White House, just about anything is possible, and there's no knowing what might happen. Put another way, it would appear that, at least in this particular instance, the future is a foreign country, too. (Z)

Truth, Justice, and the American Way, Part I: The 1/6 Commission Isn't Fooling Around

We concede that previous item was kind of a downer. So, we're going to follow it with two items about political leaders (mostly Democrats) who are fighting the good fight to uphold democracy and the rule of law. This one, as you can see, is about the 1/6 Commission. It was at least possible that the Commission would be mostly interested in political theater, in the same way that the roughly 47 Benghazi commissions were. However, it is already clear that they are taking their mandate seriously, and are not going to be afraid of getting their hands dirty (or of bloodying a few noses).

To start, the House Oversight Committee (who also makes an appearance in the next item) was looking into the Trump-era Department of Justice, and the various irregularities that may have taken place. Not anymore, though, as the 1/6 Commission is taking over. The focus will be on the final days of Trump's presidency, of course, but that doesn't mean that other leads won't be followed. Put another way, former AG Bill Barr could find himself staring down Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) one of these days.

Meanwhile, as we have noted several times, the Committee is holding meetings right now to figure out their next steps. Among the things they are thinking about:

  • Which documents do we want to subpoena? And how will we proceed if those documents are not forthcoming?
  • After that, what people do we want to subpoena? And how will we proceed if those people are not forthcoming?
  • Do we want to subpoena colleagues, like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)?
  • Do we want to call some Democrats, to hear about their experience as targets of the mob?
  • Should we cut our vacation short and hold meetings in August?

Team 1/6 hasn't reached any firm decisions yet, apparently, but they will have to settle on a course fairly soon. In any event, it's clear that they're not shying away from big, potentially contentious fights. (Z)

Truth, Justice, and the American Way, Part II: Cyber Ninjas May Get Kunoichi'ed

It's a safe bet that the word "Kunoichi" hasn't appeared on this site before, and perhaps not on any political site, ever. It is the term for a female ninja and there are a pair of them in Washington who have more ninja skills in their pinky fingers than the entire staff at Cyber Ninjas. That duo would be Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and they are both getting very cranky about the Arizona audit, such that the principals of Cyber Ninja, and their allies in the Arizona state Senate, are in danger of being hauled before Congress to account for themselves.

There are two issues here, one more immediate and specific, and one more general. The immediate and specific issue is that the Oversight Committee has subpoenaed documents from Cyber Ninjas and from the Arizona Senate, a demand that has already been sustained by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp. And yet, those documents have not been delivered, despite Kemp requiring "immediate" production on August 2. The general issue is that Pelosi, Maloney, and the other Democrats who are working on this believe that a number of federal laws have been broken here, foremost among them the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

We obviously have no inside information, but we assume that providing the required documents is an impossibility. At best, the Arizona Senate and Cyber Ninjas will be unable to support the actions they've taken, and the claims they've made publicly. At worst, there's a decent chance they really don't have any documents at all. Cyber Ninjas does not, by all appearances, seem to be a meticulous, by-the-books kind of operation. So, either the forces behind the audit provide a collection of materials that is likely to serve as hard proof of the fraudulent nature of the whole proceeding, or they tell the Judge and House Democrats to shove it.

If the pro-Trump forces choose the latter option, then things will presumably get hairy, since they will be in contempt of Congress and also contempt of court. As we have noted many times, Congress has not flexed its "contempt" muscles, and sent the sergeant-at-arms out to arrest someone, since the 1930s. However, this may be a good time to revive that practice, in preparation for, and to send a message to, the folks who are going to get subpoenas from the 1/6 committee (see above). And if the House doesn't want to go there, well, there's already a sitting judge involved in this case. And judges have no problem whatsoever flexing their contempt muscles, and have all the legal power in the world to do so.

As with the 1/6 Committee, the documents come first, and then the in-person testimony comes second. So, however the pro-audit forces navigate the current challenge, they're likely to face another round of subpoenas in the near future. They can show up, and likely get embarrassed a second time (and on national TV), or they can dare Pelosi, Maloney, and Judge Kemp to do their worst, and deal with the consequences of that. Either way, Arizona state Senate President Karen Fann (R) and Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan have got to be feeling, at this point, like they've bitten off more than they can chew. (Z)

The Missing Piece of the Florida Puzzle

Over the past few weeks, we have made the following assertions a number of times:

  • COVID-19, thanks to the emergence of the Delta variant, as well as low vaccination rates, is spiking in several red states, most notably Florida and Texas.

  • Govs. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Greg Abbott, instead of trying to confront the situation in a meaningful way, are actually helping to make it worse through resisting masking, vaccine mandates, etc.

  • Their culpability is obvious, and is sure to hurt them in the polls (and, in DeSantis' case, that is already happening).

  • These two men both want to get reelected next year, and both also appear to aspire to an even higher office than "governor of one of the United States' largest states."

We have struggled to reconcile all of these things, since COVID denial was hardly a winner for Donald Trump. Indeed, even those politicians who don't deny COVID tend to get hammered whenever the pandemic worsens; this included Joe Biden, whose approval rating has taken a hit in multiple polls this week, apparently due to COVID unease.

Maybe we should have figured it out before, but the plan finally came into focus for us on Thursday, thanks to DeSantis' remarks at a press conference. The Governor knows that someone is going to get the blame for the surge, and that if he doesn't want that to be him, he's got to provide voters with a red, an alternative option. And so, he told reporters that the reason for the surge is that Florida is being flooded by COVID-19 infected immigrants right now because Joe Biden has no interest in securing the border.

This is a fairly tidy narrative, as it shifts blame away from the Governor, and toward two entities who are loathed by Donald Trump and his base, namely (1) immigrants and (2) Biden. This would also explain why Greg Abbott is willing to fight a quixotic battle with the Department of Justice over Texas' right to expel vehicles full of undocumented immigrants. When the Governor inevitably loses, he can say he tried to protect his fellow Texans from COVID, but the evil Biden regime wouldn't allow it.

It is possible that this sort of scapegoating will be just enough to persuade some folks who might be wavering to remain on board the S.S. DeSantis and the S.S. Abbott. And "some" might save the governors' bacon, since Trumpism generally operates on very small margins, especially in Florida. That said, there are going to be some real challenges to maintaining this argument for the next 18 months or so. The first will be explaining why blue states with lots of immigrants, like California and Washington, are seeing such different COVID-19 outcomes than Florida and Texas. The second will be explaining how immigrants could be culpable for outbreaks in places like schools. Or, at least, more culpable than the governors and their anti-mask policies, particularly when some school officials are already loudly complaining about how dangerous mask bans are to their students and staff.

DeSantis and Abbott might also want to look to one of their regional neighbors as they think about exactly how far they want to take this. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) was ahead of the curve, as it were, and back in April he signed a bill into law that banned all mask mandates. COVID-19 cases are up 517% in Arkansas since then, and the state is being hit with lawsuits left and right, including from the Little Rock School District Board of Education. And so, the Governor is having a serious case of denier's remorse. He has called the state legislature for a special session, and wants them to reverse the previous law. At the moment, the majority remains happy with the status quo, so the Governor might not get what he wants.

Of course, Hutchinson is term-limited, and so he can afford to prioritize the health and well-being of his fellow citizens over appeasing the base and keeping the Dear Leader happy. Those who hope to continue their political careers, among them DeSantis and Abbott, have a tougher choice, particularly if the pandemic gets worse and/or the scapegoating of immigrants/Biden isn't effective. A tougher choice for them, that is. It wouldn't be a tough choice for us, or for the readers of this site, we imagine, which is why most of us are not well suited to a career in politics. Or, at least, not well suited to a career in politics as members of a party that is under the thumb of Donald Trump. (Z)

Aspiring California Governors Debate

Speaking of COVID-19, and of folks who are under the thumb of Donald Trump, several of the leading Republicans in the California recall election gathered for a debate on Wednesday. The attendees were perennial candidate John Cox, former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, state Rep. Kevin Kiley, and former representative Doug Ose. Talk show host Larry Elder, reality star/businesswoman Caitlyn Jenner, and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) were also invited to participate, but declined.

The debate wasn't so much a debate as it was a competition to see who is the Trumpiest. Specific topics of discussion were: (1) which candidate hates government regulations the most, (2) which candidate wants to cut minimum wage the most, and (3) which candidate would adopt the loosest COVID-19 policies. Mind you, none of these things actually matters, since the Democratic-controlled legislature would never allow any movement on #1 and #2, and everyone would ignore a presumed lame-duck governor on #3.

What the "debate" really reveals is that the candidates all have the same theory of the election, and all are playing their hands in basically the same fashion. In contrast to Arnold Schwarzenegger, none of these folks has any hope of claiming a majority of the vote, or even a sizable plurality. So, they're each going to hope that (1) Newsom is recalled; (2) the vote is split many different ways, and (3) they are able to claim just enough votes to be in first place. Hence the desperate appeals to the Trump base, and the total lack of interest in attracting any non-Republican support whatsoever.

That said, these wannabe governors have a problem over and above relying on events to unfold in just the right way. Elder, who only made the ballot thanks to winning a court challenge, leads the Republican field by 10-20 points in every poll taken since he won his court case. He's got a built-in fanbase, and he can basically book appearances on Fox News and other right-wing outlets at will, so he's going to be difficult to catch.

There was also an interesting KABC/SurveyUSA poll out yesterday. Not only was this the first poll to put "recall" ahead of "don't recall," but it did so by a large margin—11 points (51% to 40%). Don't read too much into that quite yet; it's so far out of line with all the other polls of the race (including several recent ones that put "don't recall" up by a few points) that it has to be regarded as an outlier until additional polling affirms SurveyUSA's findings. And in the event that the result gladdens the hearts of Republicans, well, the most interesting part might actually be the numbers on who is leading the race:

Candidate Percentage
Kevin Paffrath 27%
Larry Elder 23%
John Cox 10%
Kevin Faulconer 5%
Doug Ose 4%
Caitlyn Jenner 4%
Kevin Kiley 3%

The careful reader might notice that the fellow on the top of the heap is a Democrat. Paffrath is a YouTube star and real estate developer, which makes him totally unqualified for high office, and yet also perfect for the current political milieu. He's young (29), good looking, an immigrant (Germany, which is right next to the home country of the most recent immigrant to become California governor), and a graduate of UCLA. Any of those things could steer some votes in his direction in an election where the candidates are largely ciphers.

As we said, the SurveyUSA poll that puts Paffrath on top is wonky, and he hasn't done that well in any other poll. However, we would actually guess that he is more likely to become governor than any of these other folks. As noted, no Republican is likely to get more than 25% or 30% of the vote. That means that if there is a clear Democrat to vote for, then it shouldn't be too hard for that person to outpace the GOP candidates. If it looks possible that Newsom might actually be recalled, the Democrats are going to have to walk a very delicate line, trying to avoid hurting the Governor while also getting the word out as to the "correct" alternative candidate. Given that there are only 9 Democrats in the race, that none of them has experience in elective office, and that Paffrath is the only one to make a dent in the polls, party pooh-bahs might have no choice but to run an under-the-radar "Paffrath for governor" campaign. (Z)

We're Not Lyin', Lamb Is In

That's the overwhelmingly obvious assumption, at least. For a couple of months, Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) has been teasing a run for the seat about to be vacated by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA). And early Thursday evening, he posted this to Twitter:

Not too hard to put two and two together and figure out that the "big announcement" isn't going to be that Lamb has chosen a new pattern for the curtains in his office.

Lamb's entry into the race is going to set up an absolute battle royale of a Democratic primary. One could make the case that the Democrats have two aspiring U.S. Senate candidates who are head and shoulders above all others, and the bad luck that both of them live in Pennsylvania. Lamb is an Ivy Leaguer (Penn), a military veteran (Marine Corps), has Washington experience, and has proven he can attract crossover votes of the sort that are very important in purple Pennsylvania. He came to national attention in 2018 when he won a special election in PA-18, which was then R+11.

Lamb's main competition, and the apparent king of the hill at the moment, is Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D-PA). Fetterman is also an Ivy Leaguer (Harvard), and has also proven that he can win crossover votes. He has no military or Washington experience, but he has won statewide election in Pennsylvania, while Lamb has not. Further, Fetterman has successfully cultivated a blue-collar, regular guy, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-stuff-done, iconoclast image. There aren't too many parallels, but former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura isn't too far off, image-wise. Note, however, that Fetterman is leftier than Ventura by a fair margin, and is also more capable. Anyhow, if the election comes down to the old question of "which candidate would you most want to have a beer with?," Fetterman will prevail.

There has been relatively little polling here, since the primary is almost a year away (May 17) and Lamb was not officially in the race. The few polls that have been conducted reveal that both men are favorites over the likely Republican nominees, but that Fetterman's margin is 3-4 points larger. Of course, as we have pointed out many, many times, a week in politics is a lifetime, which means that the primary is 40.5 lifetimes (or 4.5 cats) away. We'll be writing a lot about this tilt, as will everyone else, as it's entirely possible that control of the Senate will hinge on this race. It's also possible that the winner will be a future contender for the vice presidency or the presidency. (Z)

The Readers Have Spoken

We asked readers to get out their personal crystal balls, and to predict the date on which Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) will resign (or to predict that he won't resign at all). Before we get to the numbers, here's a selection of comments on the subject:

S.A. in Montgomery Village, MD: Sadly, I think Governor Cuomo will resign today (August 4). Much of the report released yesterday was already hashed out in the media over the winter and early spring, but at the time, Cuomo retained support from Speaker Carl Heastie (D), unions, many critical non-profits, and much of the voting public. Now, that support is no longer there. (His union support was starting to wane due to his stance on vaccinations.)

Governor Cuomo is probably taking a head count of the Assembly and Senate; he has many political enemies, especially within his party, and the votes to impeach and convict are probably there. In addition to the complicated political climate of New York, this is also unfolding in one of the nation's media capitals.

Governor Cuomo is certainly not perfect and I wonder what he was thinking, as the father of three young women who are close in age to his accusers.

Governor Cuomo was an exceptional political leader during COVID, last year's civil unrest, and for promoting equality. We have lost an important leader.

J.S. in Seattle, WA: Yes, Andrew Cuomo will resign. It will happen on Friday evening, August 6. He will take a cue from Donald Trump, who always seemed to fire officials in his administration late on Friday evenings. The only difference here is that Cuomo will be firing himself.

As one who lived in Albany during all three of Mario Cuomo's terms as governor, I think it is likely that the "sainted Mario" is revolving in his grave over the shame that his son has brought upon himself.

P.O. in Richfield, MN: I will go with August 6 at 5 p.m. For a special prize, I bet Cuomo quietly pardons himself. He just seems like that kind of Dick.

D.C. in Delray Beach, FL: August 9 is a good day for resignations, just ask Dick Nixon. And Monday is a heck of a way to spend one seventh of your life, just ask anyone. So, it was going to be a bad day for the governor anyway.

R.C. in Winter Haven, FL: Cuomo will resign on Monday, August 9th. After the week of bad press and calls for his resignation, the Governor, after consulting with family and staff, will determine that holding out will lead to an impeachment and further embarrassment in the press.

K.C. in West Islip, NY: I will preface this by saying that I did, in fact, vote for Andrew Cuomo—the first time he ran. The next two times he ran represented only the second and third occasions in my life that I voted for a Republican (the first being Rick Lazio against Hillary Clinton for the U.S. Senate). Between Cuomo and Eliot Spitzer, we certainly need to do a better job of vetting our candidates for Governor lest we lose face when going after people like the Orange One for their transgressions.

That said, I look forward to the day when Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) is my governor, which will occur just shortly after Andy decides to hang it up on August 11. He'll take a week or so to ponder it over, maybe visit dad's bridge where the ghost of Mario will remind him that he is, in fact, no Mario Cuomo, and then reach the ultimate conclusion that he is equally reviled by the left and the right and it's time to say good night.

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA: Given Cuomo's disturbing and nonsensical "defense" of AG Letitia James' (D) findings against him ("Look, ma, I didn't harass every woman I interacted with!" I mean, I'm guessing even serial killers have innocent pictures with people they didn't murder), he will not resign unless the state legislature makes it clear they'll convict him in an impeachment trial. So, much depends on Carl Heastie. Cuomo's bestie bought him some time before and he could do it again. Everyone is always outraged when the initial story breaks but it's difficult to keep that resolve when the news cycle moves on and I've no doubt Cuomo still thinks he can hang on.

That said, I predict the state house will move forward with impeachment by the end of August and a trial will be scheduled in the Senate. Cuomo's resignation date: Friday, September 3.

D.A. in Brooklyn, NY: Cuomo will look at the Gov. Ralph Northam situation and hope that this will all somehow go away. Once the New York Assembly has set a date for a vote on impeachment, he will realize that the jig is up and resign. It's hard to know how quickly Heastie will (or can) move the Assembly along—it is generally pretty cumbersome and it is August now. However, my guess is that he will get an impeachment committee going pretty soon, they will take all month, and that before Labor Day a vote will be scheduled for sometime after Labor Day (and after Rosh Hashanah). Cuomo will resign late on Friday of Labor Day weekend (September 3), futilely hoping to minimize some of the ignominious coverage.

G.W. in Oxnard, CA: I believe Cuomo will be a dead ender and will go through impeachment and conviction and removal from office. Based on clips of his press conference on the controversy, I believe he genuinely does not believe he has done anything wrong and that he is delusional on that point beyond the point of no return. He is certainly arrogant enough to believe he can turn the controversy around and survive to the end of his term, but I think he believes that if he is removed from office, prosecutors will drop criminal prosecution because they will have attained their political goals and won't want to risk jurors deciding to give Cuomo a pass because he "has been punished enough." I don't know if he is right, but I believe he believes removal is a free pass out of criminal conviction.

G.M. in Sydney, NSW, Australia: He won't resign. He won't be impeached. And he'll be re-elected.

E.K.G. in Long Island, NY: My guess is that he'll resign... never!

A picture of Dr. Evil from the Austin 
Powers movies

V & Z respond: Not even in exchange for one...million...dollars?

And now, the numbers. Here were the five most popular predictions (percentages rounded to the nearest whole number):

  Prediction Percentage
1 Never 21%
2 Friday, August 6 13%
3 Friday, August 13 11%
4 Monday, August 9 9%
5t Thursday, August 5 8%
5t Friday, September 3 8%

Beyond those who said he won't resign at all, the predicted date that has Cuomo staying in office the longest is October 24. These dates also got at least one vote:

  • August 4, 7, 8, 10, 11, 15, 16, 18, 20, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, and 31

  • September 4, 11, 13, and 24

James Surowiecki argued, in The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, that individual guesses tend to be unreliable, but when taken in the aggregate, and averaged together, they are frequently very accurate. If we consider only the folks who think Cuomo will resign, their answers average out to a resignation date of Wednesday, August 18.

In any case, the predictions are in, and the die is cast, and we'll see who was right. And in case you are wondering, it will be on June 6, 2022—D-Day, as chance would have it—that the people who picked "no resignation" will officially become more accurate than anyone who picked a resignation date. (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude

The good thing about Twitter is that it allows people to reach a mass audience directly and instantaneously. The bad thing about Twitter is that it allows people to reach a mass audience directly and instantaneously. The latter fact means that if a prominent person hops on the platform, and says something stupid, they immediately get an earful, with those comments appended immediately below their foolishness. We got two excellent object lessons this week, courtesy of two members of Congress. You can presumably guess what party they both belong to.

Let us start with Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who continues to reinvent herself as TrumpWorld's favorite female politician (admittedly, not a title for which there is a lot of competition). Here is her dumb tweet:

It took Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs 9.8 seconds to run the 100-meter-dash this weekend, winning Olympic gold in the process. However, that is like molasses compared to how long it took hundreds of people to point out, derisively, that Medicare & Medicaid are "Socialist healthcare schemes" (presumably Stefanik's arbitrary and inappropriate capitalization was a tip of the hat to The Donald). The Representative was also roundly mocked by various media outlets, and by several of her more sharp-tongued House colleagues (see here, here, here, and here for examples).

Next up is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who decided to combine anti-Biden rhetoric and COVID victimhood in this tweet:

Again, with a rapidity that puts Jacobs to shame, Twitter users quickly pointed out that the government of the Philippines currently mandates such face coverings, and so a representative of the U.S. government—both as a matter of law and of diplomacy—must necessarily comply. Like Stefanik, Rubio got hammered by various media outlets (see here, here, here, here, and here for examples).

It is nice to see people who regularly peddle faux outrage get called out on their nonsense on occasion, hence the schadenfreude. That said, while these two examples share a lot of similarities, we suspect the underlying dynamics are actually quite different. Rubio, for his part, has long had a reputation for being lackadaisical, and something of an intellectual lightweight outside of a few areas of expertise (Cuba policy and the intelligence community, most notably). We suspect he had no idea he was saying something dumb, since he is not endowed with an abundance of knowledge, and he doesn't generally take the time to look into the claims he makes.

Stefanik, by contrast, graduated Harvard with a degree in government, and later served as vice president of the Harvard Institute of Politics. It is inconceivable that she doesn't understand what socialism is, and that Medicare and Medicaid are clear exemplars. No, as part of her new, Trumpy image, she was saying what the base wants to hear. The obvious assumption she's making here is that even if she understands what socialism is, the base certainly doesn't.

So, assuming we have the right of it, which is worse? Tweeting something dumb out of ignorance, or tweeting something dumb out of venal political opportunism that attempts to capitalize on the ignorance of the base? Readers can decide the answer to that for themselves.

Also, a few editorial notes. First, we continue to welcome suggestions for this feature; just recall that we're not going to do any entries on someone who died or was injured, sickened, etc. We are trying to hit a sweet spot here blending "humorous tone" and "useful insight," and making hay out of someone's death or suffering would be in poor taste, even if they are a legitimate candidate for the Darwin Awards.

Second, reader P.N. in Austin, TX, makes the useful observation that not all exemplars need to be current, and that historical examples would be apropos. So, consider sending those in, as well. That might let us work some Democrats into the mix, so that this doesn't become "The (V) & (Z) Picking on Republicans Goodtime Hour."

Finally, we slightly renamed the feature in honor of the great Mel Allen and "This Week in Baseball," which was one of (Z)'s favorite programs while growing up. How about that? (Z)

Richard Trumka, 1949-2021

On Thursday, Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, and thus representative and spokesperson for more than 12 million American workers, passed away of an apparent heart attack. He was 72.

There aren't too many labor leaders these days who are nationally famous, but he was in that select group. The old-school path to high-ranking union leadership posts was "be a blue-collar member of the profession in question and work your way up the ranks, sometimes with help from some less-than-savory outsiders." This is the Jimmy Hoffa model. The new-school path is "get a law degree, join a labor union as a white-collar staff attorney, and get a bunch of promotions." This is the Trumka model (though it should be noted he was a union miner for several years in college).

More specifically, Trumka took his law degree from Villanova and thereafter worked in a series of legal positions for the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), one of the affiliate unions of the AFL-CIO. Trumka's leadership of several successful UMWA strikes led to his election as the secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, in which capacity he sometimes did battle with James P. Hoffa, son of Jimmy, and also a lawyer. In 2008, Trumka came to national attention thanks to a speech in support of the Obama/Biden ticket and against racism. Election as president of the AFL-CIO came shortly thereafter, in 2009.

Joe Biden was close with Trumka even before the 2008 speech, thanks to their similar backgrounds (born to blue-collar families in industrial towns in Pennsylvania) and to their shared political goals. Since the beginning of his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden has relied on Trumka to be a key liaison between the administration and trade unionists. Some of the President's policy ideas ("Let's hire people to fix roads!") are pretty popular with labor, and some ("You have to be vaccinated to work on government projects!") are not. Trumka was invaluable in helping to promote the former and smooth over some of the latter. The President has already spoken to Trumka's family to express his condolences on their loss. Of course, it's Biden's loss, too, since the pair were friends for so long.

Exactly what Biden will do now, when it comes to selling his ideas to union laborers, is an important question, as they are a key part of his political base. That is supposed to be the job of Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, and he's pretty good at it, but a fellow with Trumka's gifts of persuasion is not easily replaced. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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