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What does it mean to be the designated survivor during the State of the Union?

Nope, it is nothing like the Kiefer Sutherland show. (Fewer fireworks, fewer decisions to make.) Any time the entire US government is gathered in one room, a "designated survivor," usually a Cabinet member in the presidential line of succession, is left out of the party and installed in a secret location. We do this in case, you know, something bad happens and wipes everyone out. This practice has been around since at least the 1960s, but the selection only became public in the 80s.

With Trump's State of the Union this past Tuesday, we found out who we'd be turning to in the event of a mass Congressional disaster: Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.The White House announced his selection right before the SOTU, and Perdue skipped the event, spending it instead in a "secure undisclosed location."

Meet Sonny


Okay, but really who is this guy?

  • Technically, he's ninth in the order of presidential succession.
  • As Secretary of Agriculture, he's prioritized getting new farmers into the biz and even has a mentorship program for the n00bs.
  • Like Trump himself, Perdue was once a Democrat. He served as a Dem in the Georgia State Senate from 1991-1998.
  • In his last job as Governor of Georgia, he made its immigration laws some of the toughest in the nation.
    • The state now requires an immigration status check to get many state-administered benefits and police check the status of people they arrest.
  • He's a climate change denier. In 2014 he wrote, "Liberals have lost all credibility when it comes to climate science because their arguments have become so ridiculous and so obviously disconnected from reality." (Really, Sonny?)