Today in the Mayonnaise Clinic: Why is Josh a Democrat?
Well, consider the other options. Plus: carry-on luggage, homemade mayo, and Ken White.
I had thought we might need to wait until week two for the first installment of the Mayonnaise Clinic, but the first-day response from subscribers has been overwhelming and I have a lot of your questions to answer already.
(As a reminder, you can submit your questions to the Mayonnaise Clinic by emailing email@example.com.)
But first I want to thank all of you who signed up for the newsletter on our first day. We already have over 800 paying subscribers and thousands reading for free, and that’s just in 24 hours. Sara and I are very excited about the pace of growth and getting to share this newsletter with so many of you.
I’m also excited to interact with you. Thanks to everyone who commented on yesterday’s intro letter. I’ll keep engaging in the comments and in this weekly feature.
Okay, let’s dig into the mayo jar:
Scott Johnson emails:
As a center-left Democrat, you sometimes drive me nuts on Twitter with your harsh words for the Democratic Party… Assuming you do still consider yourself a Democrat, why are you still a Democrat?
I am still a Democrat, Scott.
First, I’d reiterate something I wrote back in 2016 when I became a Democrat: everyone who votes should associate with a political party. “Political parties are key vehicles for policymaking, and choosing not to join one is choosing to give up influence… it is worth joining a party even if you do not intend to be a partisan, and even if you will often oppose what the party does.”
I don’t even like the word “independent” to describe voters because being a member of a political party does not create any sort of dependence, unless you are actually an officeholder or seeking to become one.
So, that’s why I’m not an independent. And in these times, why would I be a Republican?
We’re talking about a party that made Donald Trump president and is quite possibly going to try to do so again. I oppose most of the Republican social policy agenda, and to the extent the party has a federal economic policy agenda, it’s trying to shrink the entitlement state to a smaller level than I favor while overselling the economic benefits of tax cuts.
Meanwhile I think Democrats — to the extent they are hemmed in by their more moderate members — have mostly struck the right balance on creating a safety net of the right size and having the federal government interface in the right ways with the economy. For example, I don’t like a lot of what’s in the Build Back Better plan, but I also think if it ever gets past Joe Manchin it will have to contain fewer, better-designed programs, so I basically think the system is working in that regard.
(I have a lot of thoughts about the political parties in state and local government that I’ll address in a future issue.)
So maybe the key question here is an implicit one: Why do I complain about Democrats so much?
First of all, I complain because I want Democrats to win, and I think a lot of the things they are doing are interfering with that goal. Some Democratic officeholders — and many of the liberal activists those officeholders have failed to gain enough distance from — have taken wacky positions on education, crime, immigration and (especially in recent weeks) COVID prevention that are both substantive mistakes and political liabilities.
They also haven’t done enough to show voters they’re taking inflation seriously, though President Biden and his team have gotten better on that lately, which I appreciate.
I think public dissatisfaction with Democrats on these issues is going to be a way bigger determinant of who controls the government in coming years than the number of ballot drop boxes in Fulton County or whatever procedural issue liberals are obsessing about this week. While “Republicans are worse” is a good enough reason for me to vote Democratic in the midterms, I don’t think it’s going to be a good enough reason for enough voters to get Democrats over the top by itself.
And that’s why I’ll be pushing for my party not to screw up on education like it did in Virginia — or on any of these other issues. And you’ll be hearing more on that from me in coming weeks.
Fritz Esker wants travel advice from me:
Do you see the US government lifting the requirement to pass a negative COVID test before returning to the country anytime soon? It seems kinda pointless considering COVID is everywhere. I'm vaxxed and boostered (and will continue to booster as needed), and I don't think I'm going to become deathly ill from COVID, but I fear I could have an asymptomatic infection that keeps me in, say, England for another 7-10 days... It's a first-world problem for sure, but I have a Delta credit I have to use in 2022 from a canceled Europe trip from summer 2020, and I'm trying to determine whether I should roll the dice on a return to Europe or just use the credit for a few domestic trips.
I canceled a trip to Mexico at New Years for essentially this reason, and I'm unusually well positioned to keep doing my job from a foreign hotel where I'm marooned in isolation. (I'm literally writing this sentence in a bathrobe.) So yeah, I think this is a huge barrier to the return of international travel, for both leisure and business.
My guess is the testing requirement will go away this year. American households have generally come out of the acute pandemic with healthier finances than they went in with, and the continued unavailability or undesirability of certain services — such as international travel — has caused people to shift toward buying more goods, which is a key driver of shortages and inflation.
If Democrats want to enter the midterms with lower inflation, one of the most important things they need to do is get people to shift spending back toward services. Making travel easier again will be an appealing way to do that, especially once hospitalizations and deaths are lower, and pharmaceutical treatments that further reduce the already-reduced severity of Omicron are more widely available.
Returning to “normal” will have to mean being able to manage COVID in much the way we manage other airborne infections, and we don't require tests for those to get on an airplane.
Tom Dwyer has an idea he wants me to pass judgment on:
Airlines should charge you for carrying on any bag too large to fit underneath the seat in front of you, rather than charging you for checking bags. There are two big reasons why it should cost money to carry on a bag. First, overhead bin space is a scarce resource, while room underneath the cabin is not. Second, if fewer people had monstrous bags they needed to de-tetris out of the overhead bins, deplaning would be less terrible. Carrying on luggage imposes on other passengers. Checking your bag inconveniences you by making you wait at baggage claim. Therefore, checking should be the free option and carrying on should cost money. The only reasons I maybe wrong is if my proposed the change would raise substantially raise costs for airline by making them hire more baggage handlers. Are there other reasons why I am wrong?
Here’s the thing: A number of airlines already charge for a full-size carry-on bag. This is a key part of the Spirit Airlines pricing model. And do people feel positively about Spirit? No, they do not; everyone knows Spirit is the worst airline.
When American Airlines adopted this rule for its “basic economy” fare class a few years back, passengers hated it and the airline lost money because some defected to other airlines. So American went back to letting everyone take a suitcase on for free. Delta doesn’t charge for carry-on luggage in any fare class either, though United, the meanest of the majors, does.
Passengers feel like they ought to be able to take their suitcase with them; policing and charging for carry-ons makes life more difficult for gate agents and complicates the boarding process even if it would simplify de-boarding; and there is a better solution available: The airlines have been installing deeper overhead bins that can hold more suitcases so passengers no longer have to fight over bin space.
As for free checked bags? Well, checked bag fees make airlines a lot of money, and bag handling does add labor cost (for handlers and also for check-in agents). So I wouldn’t expect those to go away.
Andrew Hirsch asked in yesterday’s comments:
Any announcement yet on future collaborations with Ken White/Popehat?
For those of you who weren’t listeners, Ken and I did a podcast about Donald Trump’s legal problems for KCRW called “All the Presidents’ Lawyers” that ended in November.
Don’t worry, Ken is fine. He’s not locked in my basement, and if he is, he’s being treated well. (As Ken has explained to you before, this is called “argument in the alternative,” and it’s an important skill for a criminal defense lawyer.)
In all seriousness, we don’t have an announcement yet (and I don’t have a basement) but we will likely have one in March (an announcement). Getting one podcast and one newsletter off the ground is keeping Sara and me pretty busy, but we are very eager to work with Ken again soon.
We’ll be doing a new show with Ken that is about the law and isn’t specifically about Donald Trump. I don’t have more detail than that yet, but if you have ideas or requests, please send them to us. You know our email address.
Ryan Murphy (not that Ryan Murphy) asks:
Is making your own mayonnaise at home actually worth it, or just a foodie meme that gets you salmonella food poisoning?
I hope I have been clear in my past writing: Mayo is a supporting character, and its core purpose is to make other foods taste better. I think mayonnaise out of a jar serves this purpose just fine — I use Hellmann’s, which is marketed as Best Foods on the West Coast.
If you want to make a flavored mayo (perhaps so your guests who deny their feelings about mayo can call it “aioli”) you can use jarred mayonnaise as a base and get excellent results. I especially like to add some lime zest and chili flakes before putting mayo on turkey sandwiches.
That said, I have made my own mayo from scratch before (when I’ve run out of store-bought mayo, I regularly make my own using Kenji Lopez-Alt’s super easy method. I recommend it. -Sara). Emulsions are kind of fun, and if you feel like it, why not? Show the CDC who’s boss and have some raw egg yolk.
Thanks for reading, and if you haven’t subscribed yet, please do! I’ll talk with you tomorrow.
I can't wait for the next Josh/Ken podcast. I started off as a LRC fan but ATPL quickly became my favorite podcast of the week. If I may suggest a focus on the Supreme Court and all of its machinations. SCOTUS brings together legal, political, and hot-button topics in a compelling and frustrating package. It would seem to be an area ripe with opportunities. Plus if (when?) Garland starts high-ranking Jan 6th investigations and prosecution, SCOTUS will be in the center.
I make my own mayo every week because of IBS-related intolerances (so I can control the ingredients) and honestly I wouldn't go back even if my chronic issues went away. I love being able to make my mayo extra tangy with lots of vinegar (I experiment with different types) and sometimes lemon juice and/or horseradish. A truly delicious dressing/spread/sauce.