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    It’s Time, Again, for My Brother Kevin

    This Thanksgiving, for the first time in years, my brother Kevin and I could both say we’ve had enough of Donald Trump. But that’s not to say he and I agree on much else. Once again, here’s Kevin with his annual view from the starboard side of the Dowd family:The midterms are over, and the results are disappointing. A red wave did not materialize, and the Democrats and President Biden were not made to pay for their actions of the past 22 months.These include the Afghanistan debacle; cashless bail, which favors criminals over victims; 40-year-high inflation; a two-year invasion at our southern border; record gas prices; a dangerous drawdown of the strategic petroleum reserve; the further decline of our education system; the weakening of our military; and the total embrace of wokeness to divide the country. All of that, with the president’s approval rating deep underwater and 81 percent of Americans believing that the country is headed in the wrong direction, should have produced the anticipated Republican surge. But the president emerged from the elections thinking that Democrats’ relatively good fortune was due to his policies, not in spite of them.Republicans must take a large share of the blame. Their messaging was late or nonexistent, letting Democrats persuade swing voters to believe the only issues that mattered were Trump, abortion and the supposed threat to our democracy.Candidates must fit their district. Don’t pick a conservative for a moderate district. Intrusions by Rick Scott and Lindsey Graham on hot-button issues hurt. The Republicans must persuade supporters to vote early, not wait for Election Day. Democrats often amass large leads from early voting, forcing Republicans to come from behind.Donald Trump is radioactive. His insistence on picking candidates based on their loyalty to him cost Republicans control of the Senate in consecutive elections, and his attacks on other Republicans are despicable. Historians will judge his presidency in more generous terms than the media does now, and we will be forever in his debt for saving the country and the Supreme Court from Hillary Clinton, but his effectiveness has passed.His announcement that he will run again was greeted with resounding silence from Republicans the next day. Rupert Murdoch stripped Trump of the formidable Fox defenses. Trump’s isolation was made plain at his announcement party, where the only member of Congress in sight was Madison Cawthorn, who lost his own primary.A third Trump run will simply settle old scores with political enemies and the press and ignore the repair work that the G.O.P. needs to be done.The Democrats’ better-than-expected results emboldened Mr. Biden, to the nation’s detriment. He will likely run again (he’d be 82 at his second inauguration) and said after the midterms that he intends to change “nothing.” “The more they know about what we’re doing, the more support there is,” he said, as if his policies were a luscious bœuf bourguignon simmering over the heat of roiling inflation.There are some bright spots. Republicans have won the House and ended the torturous reign of Nancy Pelosi. With that victory come the purse strings, which should put Democratic profligacy on the skids.Republicans’ first order of business should be impeaching the odious Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, who has presided over the disgraceful situation at the border, wearing incompetence like a badge of honor. In just the last fiscal year under his watch, over 2.4 million migrants have been encountered at the border, over 500,000 have evaded capture, and over 850 deaths have occurred.Republican hopes for 2024 must rest with their new superstar, Ron DeSantis, who won almost 60 percent of the vote in his race to be re-elected governor of Florida, paving the way for four new G.O.P. House members. His handling of Hurricane Ian was only his latest feat, building on his popular defense of parental rights in education, his support of the police and his fight against wokeism.The pandemic lockdowns, spurred by teachers’ unions, resulted in a disastrous drop in the nation’s test scores and pulled back the curtain to what children were being taught. I do not want my elementary school grandchildren hearing about sexuality from a stranger or being labeled an “oppressor.” Stick to math and reading; there is enormous room for improvement.Republicans must now wait two more years for redemption. The Senate field in 2024 has Democrats defending 23 seats. With two more years of Biden’s mistaken policies, rising crime in our major cities, bone-crushing inflation and an impending recession, Republicans should have another golden opportunity. Carpe diem.Here’s hoping for the new year,Kevin.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More

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    Is Donald Trump Ineligible to Be President?

    How does a democracy protect itself against a political leader who is openly hostile to democratic self-rule? This is the dilemma the nation faces once again as it confronts a third presidential run by Donald Trump, even as he still refuses to admit he lost his second.Of course, we shouldn’t be in this situation to begin with. The facts are well known but necessary to repeat, if only because we must never become inured to them: Abetted by a posse of low-rent lawyers, craven lawmakers and associated crackpots, Mr. Trump schemed to overturn the 2020 election by illegal and unconstitutional means. When those efforts failed, he incited a violent insurrection at the United States Capitol, causing widespread destruction, leading to multiple deaths and — for the first time in American history — interfering with the peaceful transfer of power. Almost two years later, he continues to claim, without any evidence, that he was cheated out of victory, and millions of Americans continue to believe him.The best solution to behavior like this is the one that’s been available from the start: impeachment. The founders put it in the Constitution because they were well acquainted with the risks of corruption and abuse that come with vesting great power in a single person. Congress rightly used this tool, impeaching Mr. Trump in 2021 to hold him accountable for his central role in the Jan. 6 siege. Had the Senate convicted him as it should have, he could have been disqualified from holding public office again. But nearly all Senate Republicans came to his defense, leaving him free to run another day.There is another, less-known solution in our Constitution to protect the country from Mr. Trump: Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars from public office anyone who, “having previously taken an oath” to support the Constitution, “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or gave “aid or comfort” to America’s enemies.On its face, this seems like an eminently sensible rule to put in a nation’s governing document. That’s how Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island, who has drafted a resolution in Congress enabling the use of Section 3 against Mr. Trump, framed it. “This is America. We basically allow anyone to be president,” Mr. Cicilline told me. “We set limited disqualifications. One is, you can’t incite an insurrection against the United States. You shouldn’t get to lead a government that you tried to destroy.”This was also the reasoning of the 14th Amendment’s framers, who intended it to serve as an aggressive response to the existential threat to the Republic posed by the losing side of the Civil War. Section 3 was Congress’s way of ensuring that unrepentant former Confederate officials — “enemies to the Union” — were not allowed to hold federal or state office again. As Representative John Bingham, one of the amendment’s lead drafters, put it in 1866, rebel leaders “surely have no right to complain if this is all the punishment the American people shall see fit to impose upon them.”And yet despite its clarity and good sense, the provision has rarely been invoked. The first time, in the aftermath of the Civil War, it was used to disqualify thousands of Southern rebels, but within four years, Congress voted to extend amnesty to most of them. It was used again in 1919 when the House refused to seat a socialist member accused of giving aid and comfort to Germany in World War I.In September, for the first time in more than a century, a New Mexico judge invoked Section 3, to remove from office a county commissioner, Couy Griffin, who had been convicted of entering the Capitol grounds as part of the Jan. 6 mob. This raised hopes among those looking for a way to bulletproof the White House against Mr. Trump that Section 3 might be the answer.I count myself among this crowd. As Jan. 6 showed the world, Mr. Trump poses a unique and profound threat to the Republic: He is an authoritarian who disregards the Constitution and the rule of law and who delights in abusing his power to harm his perceived opponents and benefit himself, his family and his friends. For that reason, I am open to using any constitutional means of preventing him from even attempting to return to the White House.At the same time, I’m torn about using this specific tool. Section 3 is extraordinarily strong medicine. Like an impeachment followed by conviction, it denies the voters their free choice of those who seek to represent them. That’s not the way democracy is designed to work.And yet it is true, as certain conservatives never tire of reminding us, that democracy in the United States is not absolute. There are multiple checks built into our system that interfere with the expression of direct majority rule: the Senate, the Supreme Court and the Electoral College, for example. The 14th Amendment’s disqualification clause is another example — in this case, a peaceful and transparent mechanism to neutralize an existential threat to the Republic.Nor is it antidemocratic to impose conditions of eligibility for public office. For instance, Article II of the Constitution puts the presidency off limits to anyone younger than 35. If we have decided that a 34-year-old is, by definition, not mature or reliable enough to hold such immense power, then surely we can decide the same about a 76-year-old who incited an insurrection in an attempt to keep that power.So could Section 3 really be used to prevent Mr. Trump from running for or becoming president again? As a legal matter, it seems beyond doubt. The Capitol attack was an insurrection by any meaningful definition — a concerted, violent attempt to block Congress from performing its constitutionally mandated job of counting electoral votes. He engaged in that insurrection, even if he did not physically join the crowd as he promised he would. As top Democrats and Republicans in Congress said during and after his impeachment trial, the former president was practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of Jan. 6. The overwhelming evidence gathered and presented by the House’s Jan. 6 committee has only made clearer the extent of the plot by Mr. Trump and his associates to overturn the election — and how his actions and his failures to act led directly to the assault and allowed it to continue as long as it did. In the words of Representative Liz Cheney, the committee’s vice chair, Mr. Trump “summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.”A few legal scholars have argued that Section 3 does not apply to the presidency because it does not explicitly list that position. It is hard to square that claim with the provision’s fundamental purpose, which is to prevent insurrectionists from participating in American government. It would be bizarre in the extreme if Mr. Griffin’s behavior can disqualify him from serving as a county commissioner but not from serving as president.It’s not the legal questions that give me pause, though; it’s the political ones.First is the matter of how Republicans would react to Mr. Trump’s disqualification. An alarmingly large faction of the party is unwilling to accept the legitimacy of an election that its candidate didn’t win. Imagine the reaction if their standard-bearer were kept off the ballot altogether. They would thunder about a “rigged election” — and unlike all the times Mr. Trump has baselessly invoked that phrase, it would carry a measure of truth. Combine this with the increasingly violent rhetoric coming from right-wing media figures and politicians, including top Republicans, and you have the recipe for something far worse than Jan. 6. On the other hand, if partisan outrage were a barrier to invoking the law, many laws would be dead letters.The more serious problem with Section 3 is that it is easy to see how it could morph into a caricature of what it is trying to prevent. Keeping specific candidates off the ballot is a classic move of autocrats, from Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela to Aleksandr Lukashenko in Belarus to Vladimir Putin. It sends the message that voters cannot be trusted to choose their leaders wisely — if at all. And didn’t we just witness Americans around the country using their voting power to repudiate Mr. Trump’s Big Lie and reject the most dangerous election deniers? Shouldn’t we let elections take their course and give the people the chance to (again) reject Mr. Trump at the ballot box?To help me resolve my ambivalence, I called Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who sits on the Jan. 6 committee and taught constitutional law before joining Congress. He acknowledged what he called an understandable “queasiness” about invoking Section 3 to keep Mr. Trump off the ballot. But Mr. Raskin argued that this queasiness is built into the provision. “What was the constitutional bargain struck in Section 3?” he asked. “There would be a very minor incursion into the right of the people to elect exactly who they want, in order to obtain much greater security for the constitutional order against those who have demonstrated a propensity to want to overthrow it when it is to their advantage.”The contours of the case for Mr. Trump’s disqualification might get stronger yet, as the Justice Department and state prosecutors continue to pursue multiple criminal investigations into him and his associates and as the Jan. 6 committee prepares to release its final report. While he would not be prohibited from running for office even if he was under criminal indictment, it would be more politically palatable to invoke Section 3 in that case and even more so if he was convicted.I still believe that the ideal way for Mr. Trump to be banished for good would be via the voters. This scenario is democracy’s happy ending. After all, self-government is not a place; it is a choice, and an ongoing one. If Americans are going to keep making that choice — in favor of fair and equal representation, in favor of institutions that venerate the rule of law and against the threats of authoritarian strongmen — they do it best by themselves. That is why electoral victory is the ultimate political solution to the ultimate political problem. It worked that way in 2020, when an outright majority of voters rejected Mr. Trump and replaced him with Joe Biden.But it’s essential to remember that not all democracies have happy endings. Which brings us to the most unsettling answer to the question I began with: Sometimes a democracy doesn’t protect itself. There is no rule that says democracies will perpetuate themselves indefinitely. Many countries, notably Hungary and Turkey, have democratically undone themselves by electing leaders who then dismantled most of the rights and privileges people tend to expect from democratic government. Section 3 is in the Constitution precisely to help ensure that America does not fall into that trap.Whether or not invoking Section 3 succeeds, the best argument for it is to take the Constitution at its word. “We undermine the importance of the Constitution if we pick and choose what rules apply,” Mr. Cicilline told me. “One of the ways we rebuild confidence in American democracy is to remind people we have a Constitution and that it has in it provisions that say who can run for public office. You don’t get to apply the Constitution sometimes or only if you feel like it. We take an oath. We swear to uphold it. We don’t swear to uphold most of it. If Donald Trump has taught us anything, it’s about protecting the Constitution of the United States.”Surely the remedy of Section 3 is worth pursuing only in the most extraordinary circumstances. Just as surely, the events surrounding Jan. 6 clear that bar. If inciting a violent insurrection to keep oneself in office against the will of the voters isn’t such a circumstance, what is?The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow the New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More

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    Justice Dept. Seeking to Question Pence in Jan. 6 Investigation

    Prosecutors want to speak with the former vice president as a witness to former President Donald Trump’s efforts to remain in power, and he is said to be considering how to respond.The Justice Department is seeking to question former Vice President Mike Pence as a witness in connection with its criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to stay in power after he lost the 2020 election, according to two people familiar with the matter.Mr. Pence, according to people familiar with his thinking, is open to considering the request, recognizing that the Justice Department’s criminal investigation is different from the inquiry by the House Jan. 6 committee, whose overtures he has flatly rejected.Complicating the situation is whether Mr. Trump would try to invoke executive privilege to stop him or limit his testimony, a step that he has taken with limited success so far with other former officials.Mr. Pence was present for some of the critical moments in which Mr. Trump and his allies schemed to keep him in office and block the congressional certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory. An agreement for him to cooperate would be the latest remarkable twist in an investigation that is already fraught with legal and political consequences, involving a former president who is now a declared candidate to return to the White House — and whose potential rivals for the 2024 Republican nomination include Mr. Pence.Thomas Windom, one of the lead investigators examining the efforts to overturn the election, reached out to Mr. Pence’s team in the weeks before Attorney General Merrick B. Garland appointed a special counsel on Friday to oversee the Jan. 6 investigation and a separate inquiry into Mr. Trump’s handling of classified documents, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. Mr. Garland has said that the appointment of the special counsel, Jack Smith, will not slow the investigation.Officials at the Justice Department declined to comment. A spokesman for Mr. Pence also declined to comment.The discussions about questioning Mr. Pence are said to be in their early stages. Mr. Pence has not been subpoenaed, and the process could take months, because Mr. Trump can seek to block, or slow, his testimony by trying to invoke executive privilege.Mr. Trump has cited executive privilege to try to stop other former top officials from talking with investigators. While those efforts have generally been unsuccessful in stopping testimony by the officials to a federal grand jury, they have significantly slowed the process.Mr. Trump’s efforts to slow or block testimony included asserting executive privilege over testimony from two of Mr. Pence’s top aides: his former chief of staff, Marc Short, and his general counsel, Greg Jacob. But both men returned for grand jury interviews after the Justice Department, in a closed-door court proceeding, fought the effort to apply executive privilege.Mr. Pence, who rebuffed Mr. Trump’s efforts to enlist him in the plan to block certification of the Electoral College results, has been publicly critical of Mr. Trump’s conduct in the run-up to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol and on the day of the attack, when members of a pro-Trump mob were chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”Understand the Events on Jan. 6Timeline: On Jan. 6, 2021, 64 days after Election Day 2020, a mob of supporters of President Donald J. Trump raided the Capitol. Here is a close look at how the attack unfolded.A Day of Rage: Using thousands of videos and police radio communications, a Times investigation reconstructed in detail what happened — and why.Lost Lives: A bipartisan Senate report found that at least seven people died in connection with the attack.Jan. 6 Attendees: To many of those who attended the Trump rally but never breached the Capitol, that date wasn’t a dark day for the nation. It was a new start.During an appearance in New Hampshire in August, Mr. Pence indicated he was open to appearing before the House Jan. 6 committee, which had been pushing to have him tell his story, but he offered a caveat.“If there was an invitation to participate, I’d consider it,” Mr. Pence said at the time. But he added that he was concerned that speaking to a congressional committee would violate the doctrine of separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. “But as I said, I don’t want to prejudge. If ever any formal invitation” came, he said, “we’d give it due consideration.”However, in interviews for the release of his new book, “So Help Me God,” Mr. Pence has been more emphatic in his opposition to providing testimony to the House committee, asserting that “Congress has no right to my testimony” about what he witnessed.“There’s profound separation-of-powers issues,” Mr. Pence told The New York Times in an interview. “And it would be a terrible precedent.”But Mr. Pence, according to people familiar with his thinking, sees the Justice Department inquiry differently given that it is a criminal investigation. His testimony could be compelled by subpoena, though none has been issued.The former vice president is being represented by Emmet Flood, a veteran Washington-based lawyer who served as the lead Trump White House lawyer dealing with the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, into possible conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016.Mr. Flood is representing several other top White House officials who find themselves as witnesses in the range of congressional and Justice Department investigations into Mr. Trump, including Mr. Short.An increasing number of high-ranking officials in Mr. Trump’s administration have received grand jury subpoenas as part of the Justice Department’s inquiry into a wide array of efforts to overturn the election, including a plan to create fake slates of pro-Trump electors in key swing states that were won by Mr. Biden.The wide-ranging subpoenas sought information on a host of subjects that included the fake elector plan, attempts to paint the election as having been marred by fraud and the inner workings of Mr. Trump’s main postelection fund-raising vehicle, the Save America PAC.The effort to seek an interview with Mr. Pence puts both the department and the former vice president in uncharted territory.Mr. Pence is considering a campaign for president in 2024, in a race that Mr. Trump has already announced his candidacy for. And Mr. Biden’s Justice Department is seeking to use Mr. Pence as a potential witness against Mr. Trump; either could end up as rivals to Mr. Biden should he run again, which he has indicated is likely.Mr. Pence has written in detail in his book about Mr. Trump’s efforts to stay in power and the pressure campaign he imposed on his vice president beginning in December 2020.Among other interactions he describes, Mr. Pence details how Mr. Trump summoned him to the Oval Office on Jan. 4 to meet with a conservative lawyer named John Eastman, who repeatedly argued that Mr. Pence could exceed the ceremonial duties of overseeing the Electoral College certification by Congress. Mr. Eastman was promoting the notion that Mr. Pence had the power to set aside the results from states where Mr. Trump was still trying to challenge the outcome.Mr. Pence writes about telling Mr. Trump that he did not have such authority. In an interview with The Times in connection with the book, Mr. Pence was forceful, saying that he was blunt with Mr. Trump that he could not do what he wanted.“In the weeks before Jan. 6, I repeatedly told the president that I did not have the authority to reject or return electoral votes,” Mr. Pence said in the interview. “It was clear he was getting different legal advice from an outside group of lawyers that, frankly, should have never been let in the building.”In that period of time, Mr. Trump began to publicly pressure Mr. Pence, as well as officials in Georgia, to go along with his efforts to remain in office. At the same time, Mr. Trump began using his Twitter account to try to draw a crowd to Washington for a “protest” at the Ellipse near the White House on Jan. 6, the day of the congressional certification.The Times has previously reported that Mr. Pence’s chief of staff, Mr. Short, called Mr. Pence’s lead Secret Service agent, Tim Giebels, to his West Wing office on Jan. 5, 2021. When Mr. Giebels arrived at Mr. Short’s office, the chief of staff said that the president was going to turn on the vice president, and that they would have a security risk because of it, a conversation that Mr. Short described to the House select committee. The committee released a video snippet of Mr. Short discussing it at one of its public hearings this year.Mr. Trump addressed the crowd at the Ellipse at midday on Jan. 6 and again pressured Mr. Pence, whom he had called a few hours earlier in a further effort to persuade him to go along with the last-ditch plan to block the certification.In his address at the Ellipse, Mr. Trump said: “You’re never going to take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”He went on: “So I hope Mike has the courage to do what he has to do. And I hope he doesn’t listen to the RINOs and the stupid people that he’s listening to.”A short time later, Mr. Trump’s supporters marched to the Capitol, where Mr. Pence was. Hundreds of them stormed the building, smashing windows and barreling through doors, forcing Mr. Pence, his wife and his daughter to flee his office in the Capitol and take refuge on a loading dock underground. He stayed there, working to get the situation under control as Mr. Trump watched the coverage of the riot on television at the White House.Mr. Pence wrote about the experience in his book, and has since described his anger that Mr. Trump was “reckless” and “endangered” Mr. Pence and his family.Despite Mr. Pence being a witness to a range of Mr. Trump’s actions in office, an interview of the former vice president would be the first time that he has been questioned in a federal investigation of Mr. Trump.Mr. Pence was in the room for many of the key events examined by Mr. Mueller in the obstruction investigation, but Mr. Pence’s lawyer at the time managed to get him out of having to testify.The lawyer, Richard Cullen, met with Mr. Mueller and his team, telling them that Mr. Pence believed Mr. Trump had not obstructed justice and what he would say if questioned.Mr. Mueller’s team never followed up to question Mr. Pence, and he was never cited as a witness against Mr. Trump in Mr. Mueller’s final report.Glenn Thrush More

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    Trump Was a Gift That Might Not Keep Giving

    The 2022 midterm election revealed dangerous cracks in the Democratic coalition, despite the fact that the party held the Senate and kept House losses to a minimum.Turnout fell in a number of key Democratic cities. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the city’s “vote count dropped 33 percent from 2020, more than any other county and the statewide average of 22 percent. It’s not just a 2020 comparison: This year saw a stark divergence between Philly turnout and the rest of the state compared to every federal election since at least 2000.”The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners reported that turnout of registered voters in 2022 was 46.1 percent, down from 60.67 percent in the previous 2018 midterm.According to the Board of Elections in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, turnout fell from 54.5 percent in 2018 to 46.1 percent in 2022.The Gotham Gazette reported that from 2018 to 2022, turnout fell from 41 to 33 percent in New York City.The drop in turnout was disturbing to Democratic strategists, but so too was the change in sentiment of many of the voters who did show up, as support for the party’s nominees continued to erode among Black, Hispanic and Asian American voters. As The Washington Post reported:While more than 8 in 10 Black voters supported Democrats for Congress, their level of support fell between four and seven percentage points during the 2022 midterms compared with 2018, according to network exit polling and the AP VoteCast poll, respectively. Among Latinos, support for Democrats declined between nine and 10 percentage points, with between 56 percent and 60 percent backing Democrats.In the 2018 midterms, 77 percent of Asians voted for House Democratic candidates, according to network exit polls, compared with 58 percent this year — although data from AP VoteCast showed a smaller decline in Asian American support for Democrats from 2018 to 2022: 71 percent to 64 percent.Perhaps most important, the 2022 results revealed that voters did not fully turn against the Republican Party; in fact, Republican House candidates got 3.5 million more votes nationwide than Democrats did, 53.9 million, or 51.7 percent of the two-party vote to the Democrats’ 50.4 million, or 48.3 percent. This represents just over a six-point swing in favor of Republicans this year compared with the 2020 House results.Instead, voters, in the main, turned against the specific candidates endorsed by Donald Trump — candidates who in competitive races backed Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen.“Candidate quality and the toxicity of former President Trump and the MAGA movement hurt certain Republicans where it mattered most,” wrote Charlie Cook, founder of the Cook Political Report, in “GOP Won the Votes, but Not the Seats,” a Nov. 17 analysis. “Some of these ‘nontraditional’ candidates managed to win over the support of G.O.P. primary voters but were unable to appeal to that narrow slice of voters in the middle of the broader November electorate.”Two days after the election, Karl Rove, who was the chief political strategist during the administration of George W. Bush, wrote in The Wall Street Journal:The losers Tuesday were often the candidates who closely followed the former president’s rally-speech scripts — campaigning on the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Mr. Trump by fraud on a massive scale. Of the Republican candidates for secretary of state or attorney general who based their campaign on this falsehood, only one has pulled through, and he was in deep red territory.What then are the odds that Republican voters will still nominate Trump?If they do, Democrats’ chances of keeping the presidency, retaking the House and holding losses in the Senate to a minimum all improve. If the Republicans nominate Ron DeSantis, Glenn Youngkin, Nikki Haley or a dark horse, chances are Democrats will face a tough fight on all fronts in 2024.While there is general agreement that midterm returns are not reliable predictors of the next presidential election, the 2022 results do not uniformly suggest a weakened national Republican Party.“Overall, it’s a strange election,” wrote Sean Trende, senior elections analyst at RealClearPolitics, in “What Happened.” “Had you showed any major analyst these results, along with exit poll findings that Biden would be at 44 percent job approval, no one would have expected this outcome.”Matt Grossmann, a political scientist at Michigan State, noted in an email:The negative Trump effect seems even more clear now. Trump-endorsed candidates fared worse, often on the same ballot with Republicans who separated themselves from Trump and performed better. So I see it as more of the same warning to Republicans: tying themselves to Trump is not a winning general election strategy.Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist, made a similar case by email. “Swing voters in swing states and districts didn’t marry the Democrats; they just dumped the Republicans,” he wrote. “In the post-Dobbs environment, extremism is not a theoretical concern anymore. The two most valuable players of this cycle for the Democrats are Sam Alito and Donald Trump. Democrats should send them each a fruit basket.”“I cannot think of a worse way for the House G.O.P. to introduce themselves as a governing party than braying about investigations into Hunter Biden and Anthony Fauci,” Begala argued. “Their candidates won by promising action on inflation, crime and borders.”To counter the House Republican agenda, Begala wrote,Biden needs to say, “They’re obsessed with my family’s past; I’m obsessed with your family’s future.” At every hearing in which the Republicans are tormenting Hunter Biden or Dr. Fauci, I would have Democratic members ask, “How will this hearing lower the price of gas at the pump? How will it reduce crime? How will it secure the border?”Data pointing to the vulnerability of the Trump-endorsed Republicans running for federal and state offices raises an interesting question: Should Democrats repeat a tactic used successfully this year to lift the chances that Republicans nominate their weakest general election candidate?Last September, Annie Linskey reported in The Washington Post that Democratic candidates and committees “have spent nearly $19 million across eight states in primaries this year amplifying far-right Republican candidates.” A postelection analysis by Ellen Ioanes of Vox concluded that the strategy “appears to have paid off in the midterm. Six Democratic challengers in races where Democratic organizations donated to extremist Republican candidates have so far won their contests.”A number of Democratic strategists and scholars, however, firmly rejected continuing the strategy of purposely investing during the Republican primaries in advertising promoting Trump to Republican voters premised on the calculation that Trump would be the easiest to beat of the most likely Republican nominees in the general election.Both Begala and Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, stood firmly opposed. “We should leave this to Republicans to nominate their own Trump,” Lake said by email.Begala gave three reasons for his opposition. First, “it undermines President Biden’s powerful message that Trump leads a mega-MAGA fanatical fringe that is a clear and present danger to our democracy.” Second, “Trump is still a massive, major force in American politics — especially in the Republican Party. I don’t want Trump anywhere near the White House.” Third, “while I respect the political success of governors like DeSantis, Youngkin, Hogan and Christie, if the Democrats can’t beat them, we don’t deserve the White House.”Daniel Hopkins, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, was adamant in his opposition to the tactic:If Democrats truly worry about the fragility of American democracy, they should not take any steps that would facilitate Trump’s return to office, even if that means a higher chance that they lose the presidency. The slightly higher probability of holding the presidency with Trump as the G.O.P. nominee is surely outweighed by concerns about the threats to democracy should he win election.In an email, Hopkins suggested that Democrats should not view the outcome of the 2022 election as a clear victory:Republicans are likely to have won significantly more votes for their U.S. House candidates than Democrats, but the Democrats benefited from the geographic distribution of their support and the strength of several of their House incumbents in hard-fought races. Turnout in cities like Philadelphia was down relative to elsewhere, and the Democrats have not returned their strong showings with Latino voters from 2012 and 2016. The Republicans’ strength in Florida as well as New York was remarkable — and those are two of the largest states in the country. So absolutely, both parties have outcomes to celebrate and liabilities to watch.One of Hopkins’s political science colleagues, Matthew Levendusky, noted in an email:There is not one narrative to come out of this election. While we usually think about nationalization, in this election, we saw quite significant differences across states. Pennsylvania and Michigan — and even Wisconsin and Arizona — ended up somewhat better than the pre-election polls suggested (in some cases, quite a bit better). From this perspective, Democrats should be happy. But they did much worse than expected in Florida and New York. So which lesson is the right one?Levendusky pointed out that there “seem to be two trends that might be working against Republicans’ recent advantage in translating votes into seats”:If Republicans are doing better (at least in some areas) with Black and Latino voters, that erodes Democrats’ edge in urban districts, but not nearly enough to put those seats into jeopardy. But if they’re also strengthening their support with rural white voters, then that means they’re “wasting” more votes in those districts (shifting heavily rural parts of the country from R+20 to R+30 does not help them win more seats). So shifting demographic and geographic patterns might now make Republicans (just like Democrats) somewhat less well distributed.Sean Trende makes essentially the same point, writing that “Republicans made gains among African Americans, and significant gains among Hispanics” but, with a few exceptions, “these extra votes did not translate to seats. Because the Voting Rights Act requires that these voters be placed into heavily Hispanic/Black districts, which become overwhelmingly Democratic districts, it takes huge shifts in vote performance among these voters to win a district outright, and Republicans aren’t there right now.”Conversely, “Republicans may be suffering a representational penalty in rural areas similar to the penalty Democrats have suffered in urban districts,” Trende wrote, noting thatthe G.O.P. puts up stunning vote percentages in rural America, margins that would not have been deemed possible a decade ago, to say nothing of three decades ago. But this means that a large number of those votes are effectively wasted. As the suburbs become more competitive for Democrats and the cities become somewhat less competitive (but not enough to lose seats) as the minority vote percentage moves, Democrats lose the penalty they’ve suffered for running up overwhelming vote shares in urban districts in the past.Julie Wronski, a political scientist at the University of Mississippi, wrote by email that the election in many respectsmoved in ways predicted by the fundamentals — a Republican shift with a Democratic president who has low approval ratings and governs during poor economic indicators. However, in a few keys states and races Democratic candidates outperformed those indicators. The story seems like Republicans defeated themselves relative to the fundamentals by running low-quality candidates in some key races.For Republicans, Wronski wrote, “appealing to Trump voters without Trump on the ballot may not be a winning strategy. The types of voters who are enthusiastic for Trump do not seem equally enthusiastic for his endorsees.”In other words, it isn’t just that moderates and independents were scared off by extremist candidates; MAGA voters themselves were not fully animated by their own candidates. The candidate they want is Trump, not a Don Bolduc or a Kari Lake or a Mehmet Oz.In addition, Wronski argued:Not all Republicans want or positively respond to Trump’s preferences or persona. Trump endorsees trying to follow this playbook were not as successful as more mainstream Republican candidates. A prime example of this is the difference between the Georgia Senate and governor races.Neither party, in Wronski’s view,should take comfort in their prospects or feel in good shape nationally. The national electorate is polarized with close elections. Ultimately, I believe turnout is going to matter more than persuasion.Chris Tausanovitch, a political scientist at U.C.L.A., downplayed the success of the Democrats:This was in many ways an expected result. The polls and models performed well. The Democrats overperformed expectations slightly, but as others have pointed out, their performance is better in seats than in votes.The parties, Tausanovitch continued, “are very evenly matched and this doesn’t look like it is on a path to change quickly. This election was close. I expect the next presidential election to be close as well.” Trump-endorsed candidates, he acknowledged,did poorly, but this does not mean that a Trump-centric Republican Party cannot win or that Trump himself cannot win. He almost did in 2020. If he is the nominee, I still expect the election to be close in 2024.Republican Party elites are, in turn, increasingly voicing their concerns over the prospect of a 2024 Trump bid. I asked Ed Goeas, a Republican pollster, what would happen if Trump is the nominee, and he replied by email: “Assuming that the economy is out of the ditch by the end of ’23, I would have to believe a Trump nomination would be devastating.”In a clear slap at Trump, Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire — the Republican who handily won re-election while Maggie Hassan, the Democratic senator, beat the Trump protégé Don Bolduc, her Republican challenger — told a Nov. 18 meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition: “I have a great policy for the Republican Party. Let’s stop supporting crazy, unelectable candidates in our primaries and start getting behind winners that can close the deal in November.”At the same gathering, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declared: “It is time to stop whispering. It is time to stop being afraid of any one person. It is time to stand up for the principles and the beliefs that we have founded this party on and this country on.”For two successive presidential elections, Trump has stymied the most ambitious members of his party, and now this group is becoming increasingly assertive. DeSantis, Youngkin, Haley, Mike Pompeo, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and Mike Pence are engaged in the process of challenging the current occupant of the throne — making national appearances, courting donors, wooing party loyalists and generating media coverage, all with an eye on drawing blood. The question is, how vulnerable is Trump?Earlier this month, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer reported in The Washington Post, “In private conversations among donors, operatives and other 2024 presidential hopefuls, a growing number of Republicans are trying to seize what they believe may be their best opportunity to sideline Trump and usher in a new generation of party leaders.”Republicans might be playing with fire.Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, told The Washington Post that there are now three key constituencies in the Republican electorate:A small group, roughly 10 percent, are “Never Trumpers,” Republicans who have long and vocally opposed Trump. A far larger group, about 40 percent, are “Always Trumpers,” his hard-core base that will be reluctant to abandon him. The remaining 50 percent or so are “Maybe Trumpers” — Republicans who voted for him twice, who generally like his policies but who are now eager to escape the chaos that accompanies him.If Trump faces two or more serious challengers in the primaries, his 40 percent core support plus whatever he can pick up from the “Maybe Trumpers” would prove to be a major asset, especially in the early contests, which often provide crucial momentum to the front-runner, setting up the scenario sought by Democrats: a Republican presidential nominee whom they believe may have some chance of prevailing in the primaries, but who has little chance of winning in November.“One of the reasons Trump’s base adores him is that he overcame overwhelming odds — including both party establishments — to win,” Nate Hochman, a staff writer for National Review, tweeted on Nov. 19. “The more Republican elites consolidate against him, the more otherwise persuadable Trump voters are going to remember why they loved him in the first place.”Democrats could not hope for more.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More

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    To Understand the F.B.I., You Have to Understand J. Edgar Hoover

    In recent years, as I finished writing a biography of J. Edgar Hoover, director of the F.B.I. for nearly half a century, liberal-minded friends often came to me with a confession. They were, they whispered, cheering for the F.B.I. During the Trump era, they began to see the bureau as the last best hope of the Republic, after a lifetime of viewing it as a bastion of political repression.Public opinion polls bear out this shift in opinion. In 2003, Republicans liked the F.B.I. far better than Democrats did, by a margin of 19 points, at 63 percent to 44 percent. Today, nearly 20 years later, that equation has flipped and then some. According to a recent Rasmussen survey, 75 percent of Democrats now have a favorable view of the F.B.I., in contrast to 30 percent of Republicans. Gallup puts the numbers further apart, with 79 percent of Democrats expressing approval and 29 percent of Republicans disapproval.From James Comey’s firing in May 2017 through the Mueller report, the Jan. 6 investigation and the Mar-a-Lago raid, the F.B.I. has not always delivered on Democratic hopes. But its showdowns with Donald Trump have fundamentally changed its public image.To some degree this switch simply reflects our hyperpartisan times. But the F.B.I.’s surge in popularity among Democrats also reflects a forgotten political tradition.Since the 1960s, liberals have tended to associate the bureau with its misdeeds against the left, including its outrageous efforts to discredit the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and other civil rights activists. Before those activities were exposed, though, liberals often admired and embraced the F.B.I., especially when it seemed to be a hedge against demagogy and abuses of power elsewhere in government.They pointed to the bureau’s role as an objective, nonpartisan investigative force seeking to ferret out the truth amid an often complicated and depressing political morass. And they viewed Hoover as one the greatest embodiments of that ethic: a long-serving and long-suffering federal civil servant who managed to win the respect of both Republicans and Democrats.The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. leaving the office of J. Edgar Hoover in 1964. The F.B.I. conducted extensive surveillance of Dr. King’s private life.Bettmann/Getty ImagesWe now know that much of that admiration rested on wishful thinking — and today’s liberals would be wise to remember Hoover’s cautionary example. But for all his failings, all his abuses of power, he also promoted a vision of F.B.I. integrity and professionalism that still has resonance.J. Edgar Hoover was a lifelong conservative, outspoken on matters ranging from crime to Communism to the urgent need for all Americans to attend church. He also knew how to get along with liberals. Indeed, he could not have survived in government as long as he did without this essential skill. First appointed bureau director in 1924, Hoover stayed in that job until his death in 1972, an astonishing 48 years. He served under eight presidents, four Republicans and four Democrats.It has often been said that Hoover remained in power for so many decades because politicians feared him — and there is much truth to that view, especially in his later years. But Hoover’s late-in-life strong-arm tactics do not explain much about how he rose so fast through the government ranks, or why so many presidents — including Franklin Roosevelt, the great liberal titan of the 20th century — thought it was a good idea to give him so much power.Hoover spent his first decade as director establishing his good-government bona fides; he championed professionalism, efficiency, high standards and scientific methods. So in the 1930s, Roosevelt saw Hoover not as a far-right reactionary but as an up-and-coming administrator thoroughly steeped in the values of the modern state — a bureaucrat par excellence.Roosevelt did more than any other president to expand the F.B.I.’s power: first, by inviting Hoover to take a more active role in crime fighting, then by licensing him to become the nation’s domestic intelligence chief. Hoover’s agents became known as G-men, or government men, the avenging angels of the New Deal state.Hoover, center, taking aim while giving the Broadway actors flanking him, William Gaxton and Vincent Moore, a tour of F.B.I. headquarters in 1935.Underwood and UnderwoodToday’s F.B.I. still bears the stamp of the decisions Roosevelt made nearly a century ago. A hybrid institution, the F.B.I. remains one part law-enforcement agency, one part domestic-intelligence force — an awkward combination, if one that we now take for granted.It also retains Hoover’s dual political identity, with a conservative internal culture but also a powerful commitment to professional nonpartisan government service. This combination of attributes has helped to produce the F.B.I.’s inconsistent and sometimes contradictory reputation, as different groups pick and choose which aspects to embrace and which to condemn.Hoover went on to do outrageous things with the power granted him during the Roosevelt years, emerging as the 20th century’s single most effective foe of the American left. But many Washington liberals and civil libertarians did not see those abuses coming, because Hoover continued to reflect some of their values as well. During World War II, he distinguished himself as one of the few federal officials opposed to mass Japanese internment, labeling the policy “extremely unfortunate” and unnecessary for national security.After the war, despite his deep-seated racism, he stepped up the F.B.I.’s campaign against lynching in the South. “The great American crime is toleration of conditions which permit and promote prejudice, bigotry, injustice, terror and hate,” he told a civil rights committee convened by President Harry Truman in 1947. He framed white supremacist violence not only as a moral wrong but also as an acute challenge to federal authority.By contrast, he promoted himself as the embodiment of professional law enforcement, the polar opposite of the Ku Klux Klan’s vigilantes or the conspiracists of the John Birch Society. Many liberals embraced that message, despite Hoover’s well-known conservatism. “If a liberal came in, the liberal would leave thinking that, ‘My God, Hoover is a real liberal!” William Sullivan, an F.B.I. official, recalled. “If a John Bircher came in an hour later, he’d go out saying, ‘I’m convinced that Hoover is a member of the John Birch Society at heart.’ ”The height of Hoover’s popularity came during the Red Scare of the 1950s, when he emerged as both a hero of the anti-Communist right and the thinking man’s alternative to Senator Joseph McCarthy. Today, we tend to view Hoover and McCarthy as interchangeable figures, zealots who ran roughshod over civil liberties. At the time, though, many liberals viewed them as very different men.Truman feared the F.B.I.’s “Gestapo” tendencies, but far preferred Hoover to a partisan brawler and obvious fabricator like McCarthy. President Dwight Eisenhower heaped lavish praise on Hoover as the nation’s responsible, respectable anti-Communist, in contrast to McCarthy the demagogue. Both presidents cast the story in terms that might be familiar to any 21st-century liberal, with Hoover as the protector of truth, objectivity and the law, and McCarthy as those principles’ most potent enemy.One irony of the liberals’ stance is that it was actually Hoover, not McCarthy, who did the most to promote and sustain the Red Scare. Long before McCarthy burst on the scene, Hoover had been collaborating with congressional committees to target Communists and their sympathizers, conducting elaborate campaigns of infiltration and surveillance. And he long outlasted McCarthy, who was censured by his fellow senators in 1954. Hoover’s popularity grew as McCarthy’s fell. A Gallup poll in late 1953, the peak of the Red Scare, noted that a mere 2 percent of Americans expressed an unfavorable view of Hoover, a result “phenomenal in surveys that have dealt with men in public life.”Hoover with President Richard Nixon in 1969.Bettmann Archive, via Getty ImagesAnd with President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965.Associated PressThat consensus finally began to crack in the 1960s. Hoover’s current reputation stems largely from this late-career period, when the F.B.I.’s shocking campaigns against the civil rights, antiwar and New Left movements began to erode earlier conceptions of Hoover as a man of restraint.Its most notorious initiative, the bureau’s COINTELPRO (short for Counterintelligence Program), deployed manipulative news coverage, anonymous mailings and police harassment to disrupt these movements. In 1964, in one of the lowest points of Hoover’s regime, the F.B.I. faked a degrading anonymous letter implicitly urging Dr. King to commit suicide. Agents mailed it to him along with recordings of his extramarital sexual activities, captured on F.B.I. microphones planted in his hotel rooms.Even then, though, key liberal figures continued to champion Hoover and the F.B.I. President Lyndon Johnson, a friend and neighbor of Hoover’s, proved second only to Roosevelt in his enthusiasm for the director. And he urged his successor, Richard Nixon, to follow suit. “Dick, you will come to depend on Edgar,” he told Nixon in the Oval Office in late 1968. “He’s the only one you can put your complete trust in.”Despite such official support, by the early 1970s polls were starting to note that Hoover’s reputation among liberals and Democrats seemed to be in swift decline, thanks to his advancing age, aggressive tactics and conservative social views. “Now the case of J. Edgar Hoover has been added to the list of issues — ranging from the war in Vietnam, to race relations, welfare and the plight of the cities — which are the source of deep division across America today,” the pollster Louis Harris wrote in 1971.While conservatives still expressed widespread admiration for the F.B.I. director, liberals increasingly described him as a danger to the nation. The decline was especially precipitous among coastal elites and university-educated young people. By contrast, working-class white Americans in the Midwest and South expressed support.Today, those sentiments are reversed. According to Rasmussen, the F.B.I. is now most popular among Americans making more than $200,000 per year. Young voters like the F.B.I. better than older voters do. This division is being driven by national politics: When Mr. Trump attacks the F.B.I. as part of an overweening “deep state,” his supporters follow while his critics run the other way.But it also reflects a larger clash of values. Mr. Trump has long scored political points by attacking the administrative state and its legions of career government servants, whether at the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the State Department or, improbably, the National Archives. In response, Democrats have been forced to reaffirm what once seemed to be settled notions: that expertise and professionalism matter in government, that the rule of law applies to every American, that it’s worth employing skilled, nonpartisan investigators who can determine the facts.Hoover failed to live up to those principles — often spectacularly so. And today’s F.B.I. has made its own questionable choices, from surveillance of Black Lives Matter protesters to mismanagement of delicate political inquiries. But its history of professional federal service, of loyalty to the facts and the law, is still worth championing, especially in an era when suspicion of government, rather than faith in its possibilities, so often dominates our discourse. Whatever else we may think of Hoover’s legacy, that tradition is the best part of the institution he built.Beverly Gage (@beverlygage) is a professor of American history at Yale and the author of “G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century.”The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More