Our Best Stuff From a Week Where Everyone Else Was on Spring Break

David French on Ron DeSantis, a look at the state of the race to replace Rob Portman in Ohio, and two warnings about China.

The past and future collided in an interesting way in the Ohio bureau this week. While my social media feeds were full of photos from friends’ trips to Florida or the Carolinas or the Great Smoky Mountains, we kept our spring break a little more low-key. Our oldest is a high school junior, so we kicked off the college tour process with a quick trip to my alma mater, Ohio University. 

I’m a little in denial about the whole process—it seems not that that long ago that he was learning how to ride a bike, and then Friday he drove part of the way home—so there was comfort in starting the process in a familiar place. I still mostly know my way around, and I was able to point out my dorms and apartments, buildings where I took classes, and bars and restaurants that are somehow still in business despite their bathrooms being permanent health code violations. 

But there is something remarkable in watching your child take steps toward adulthood, even when you’re not entirely ready for it. When kids are little, it’s easy to know whether you’re doing the right thing. If you read them books, play Legos with them, teach them their pleases and thank yous, and try to make sure that once in a while a vegetable makes it into their stomachs, you can feel pretty good about yourself. The early years might be physically exhausting, chasing them around and trying to make sure they don’t fall down the stairs or run out into the street, but the later years are more mentally taxing. As they head toward puberty and then young adulthood, parenting is a different kind of exhausting. Their friends influence them more—are those positive influences or not? They start having their own opinions about politics and the way the world works—did you give them enough perspective for them to seek out good information? They are more guarded about privacy—should you give them room or be more involved? If they are up to something, you risk missing out on warning signs. And if they’re not, you risk hovering and keeping them from figuring out things on their own.

There have been plenty of times during the last year where I lamented that we were hardly winning the whole “parenting in a pandemic” thing. Our kids spent too much time playing video games somedays, and I ran out of good answers when they expressed frustration about not seeing friends, or having to deal with school quarantines, or why they had to go to practices for various sports when there were very few competitions. 

But the weekend in Athens, Ohio, left me feeling a little better. When I chose to go to OU all those many years ago, it was in many ways a practical decision. It had a highly ranked journalism school, which is what I wanted to study, and in-state tuition made it affordable. I was close enough to home that I could visit occasionally, but not so close that I could show up at home on a Saturday morning and beg my mom to do my laundry. 

I got to see a little bit of history repeating itself through our son. He is interested in the military, but not so much through the service academy route. He learned that OU has a highly ranked ROTC program and is strong enough in the academic fields he might end up studying. He feels at home on campus. He’s using the information he has at hand to make a pragmatic decision. He’s growing up, and thinking on his own. It could definitely be worse. 

One last note—I also came away from our tour with a deep sense of gratitude that he is still just a junior. The campus wasn’t deserted, exactly, but neither did it look like you’d expect during beautiful spring weather. We saw students in restaurants and out exercising. But classes are almost exclusively online, and during our tour, the guide showed us a dining hall from the outside and then explained that all meal service is carry-out. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year worried about the state of our K-12 education system. But college students have had a rough year, too. The staff and students we talked to were all hopeful that next year will be more normal. I’m just very glad that by the time we drop our oldest off at college—whether it’s at my alma mater or someplace he’s yet to consider—that his experience will be a positive one that he’ll be happy to tell his own kids about someday.

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‘The Only Defense You Have Is to Shine a Light’

Maria Ressa is a Filipino-American journalist who was Time’s Person of the Year in 2018 and has been nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. She has faced harassment and trumped-up legal charges in response to her work exposing the corruption and abuse of power by the Rodrigo Duterte regime in the Philippines. Ressa spoke with our Charlotte Lawson about her rise to prominence as a journalist for CNN and how she opted to focus her work on her homeland. Ressa helped launch a news site called Rappler in 2012, a move that angered Duterte and led to him touting false information about the publication. Ressa remains undeterred. “Courage comes from being prepared,” she told Charlotte. “It’s not a pill you take, it’s from knowing exactly what you’re facing.” 

Ron DeSantis and the Most Politically Potent Path Past Trump

As Donald Trump slowly recedes from public view, many are eager to be considered his political heir. And plenty of politicians have garnered attention for adopting Trump’s fighting stance: Josh Hawley saluting the Capitol election protesters, Ted Cruz trying to own the libs. In his Thursday French Press (🔒), David asks an important question: But what if a person can fight and govern at the same time? Which brings us to Ron DeSantis. DeSantis was the subject of what David calls an “extraordinarily unfair hit piece” by 60 Minutes accusing DeSantis of making a vaccine deal with the grocery store Publix (which also has pharmacies), a company that donated to his campaign.  David looks at DeSantis’ record on COVID —Florida is doing better than most states—and concludes: “How do you hold an angry base while recapturing suburbanites who were repulsed by the incompetence and corruption of the Trump administration? Perhaps by governing well and fighting hard for a righteous cause.  

‘This Race Needs To Be About Ohio’

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman announced in January that he would not seek re-election this fall, and the race to fill his seat is heating up on the GOP side. Donald Trump might have lost the 2020 election, but he won Ohio by more than 500,000 votes, and it’s easy to see how that is shaping the race. Declan reports on his illuminating conversation with Jane Timken, who leads the Ohio Republican Party and has already declared her candidacy. Back in January, when Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez voted to impeach Trump, Timken called his choice “rational” though she said she didn’t necessarily share it. These days? She wants him to resign. “Let me be clear,” she told Declan. “I always took the position that Anthony Gonzalez’ vote was wrong. The impeachment was unconstitutional and a scam, and I’ve made a very clear statement that he can no longer be effective representing the 16th District because he’s gone against the wishes of his constituents.” Declan also profiles candidates Josh Mandel, Rep. Mike Turner, and Rep. Bill Johnson*, and looks at whether Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance will enter the race.

China, China, China!

We published two different articles on China on two different days, but they are worth looking at together because they demonstrate a theme. On Tuesday, Danielle Pletka looked at how China has responded to various—and normal—diplomatic moves in Australia by implementing heavy-handed tariffs. She views it as a cautionary tale: “Beijing once circumscribed its range to China’s actual and claimed territories (think Taiwan, Hong Kong, the India-Chinese border in the Himalayas, the South China Sea), and has steadily been venturing further abroad using its police state tactics to influence Europe, the United States, and most easily, Australia.” In our other piece, Tim Morrison details how China is targeting Western corporations who’ve moved to make sure their supply chains don’t involve products or materials generated by forced labor in Xinjiang province, where the Chinese are detaining Uyghur Muslims. 

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And now for the best of the rest:

  • In the G-File, Jonah considers whether Joe Biden is trying to be like LBJ or FDR, and it sends him down a rabbit hole on the New Deal. “That stuff was a grab bag. … Some stuff was good, some arguably good, some bad, and the rest arguably bad. But it wasn’t some coherent program with a serious public policy theory stitching it all together.”

  • When you think infrastructure, you think roads and bridges, right? But maybe not long-term elderly health care or retrofitting private homes. Those are just two of the many more unusual things packed into Joe Biden’s “infrastructure” package. Brian Riedl breaks it down.

  • Chris Stirewalt uses Matt Gaetz’s current travails as an opportunity to look at how both sides are more than happy to police each other’s moral failings but fall back on excuses when it’s one of their own.

  • Biden can’t say he wasn’t warned. Thomas Joscelyn has been beating the drum on the badness of the Trump administration’s Afghanistan withdrawal agreement since it was signed, and now a deadline looms for Biden to remove U.S. troops. Joscelyn warns in Vital Interests (🔒) that now is not the time to make concessions to the Taliban.

  • On the pods: Former Virginia Rep. Denver Riggleman joins Jonah on The Remnant. Come for the political talk, stay for the booze (Riggleman’s family owns a distillery) and Bigfoot talk. Are social media platforms “common carriers,” public accommodations, or something else? David and Sarah discuss an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas that probes that very question on Advisory Opinions. Is there any infrastructure in the infrastructure bill? The gang discusses that and more on The Dispatch Podcast. And on the Friday episode, Steve and Sarah talk to Julia Galef, who’s out with a new book Tuesday on The Scout Mindset, an approach to seeking information that elevates truth over affirmation and aligns quite nicely with the editorial approach of The Dispatch.

*Correction, April 11: The article originally referred to U.S. Rep Bill Johnson as a member of Ohio’s state legislature.

Our Best Stuff From a Week Georgia Was on Our Minds. Again.

Plus: a U.S. diplomat visits Taiwan, Eric Greitens is attempting a comeback, and an anti-Trump Republican is trying to win a congressional election in Texas.

Is it me, or has Georgia become the center of the universe since last November? A quick review: The state went blue, President Trump demanded recounts and then bullied state election officials in phone calls, and then all the talk about election fraud helped contribute to the Republicans losing not one but two Senate seats in special elections, leaving the Democrats in charge of Congress. Did I miss anything?

Georgia’s state legislature recently passed an election reform bill that has drawn the ire of the left, which is calling it a voter suppression bill. The biggest talking point is that it’s a return to an era of Jim Crow, a term that even President Biden used. And the talking points worked. Coca-Cola and Delta, both of which are headquartered in Georgia, put out statements condemning the bill, and Major League Baseball announced late Friday afternoon that it was removing this summer’s All-Star Game from the state. In response, conservative politicians have threatened legislative actions against both Delta and MLB. It’s a vicious cycle.

I don’t mention this to get into a big analysis of the bill—I’ve included a summary of our coverage below, and it’s a good look at how the bill is in many ways more innocuous than Democrats have framed it. I mention it because one of my colleagues made an excellent point last night and I think it’s worth expanding on. Here’s Declan:

Yes, by all means. Everyone—on both sides—needs to take a deep breath and get some fresh air. As Georgia elections official Gabriel Sterling pointed out on CNN, a group founded by former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams bought the domain StopJimCrow2.com weeks before the legislation passed. It didn’t matter what was going to be in the bill, the messaging was already set.

Just last week, more than a few people on the right (including Jonah!) criticized Elizabeth Warren for tweeting at Amazon that she would “fight to break up Big Tech so you’re not powerful enough to heckle senators with snotty tweets.” Is it really any different when Ted Cruz threatens to go after MLB’s antitrust exemption?

Politics has permeated every aspect of our culture. David French makes this point a lot when discussing our polarization. Democrats and Republicans don’t read the same books or watch the same TV shows. In some cases, they don’t even shop at the same stores. But they do pressure corporations to fall in line politically—or else. And it happens on both sides. When NFL players started kneeling for the national anthem to protest police brutality, many conservatives said they would no longer watch the sport. Vice President Mike Pence made a big show out of leaving an Indianapolis Colts game in 2017 after players knelt. Declan’s tweet above highlights that some conservatives are now adding baseball to the list of sports they aren’t watching.

None of this is healthy. I know, I know. The Dispatch is a publication that covers … politics (among other things). Is it weird for me to tell you not to get so worked up about politics? Yes, and no. We all care about politics and government, or we wouldn’t have made this our life’s work. But toning things down is actually part of our mission. That’s why we send you The Morning Dispatch everyday. It’s a concise roundup of the news, with focus on a few stories that you should know about to get through your day. We publish a few articles every morning, and that’s it. You don’t have to come back six times a day to get our take on whether it was Major or Champ who pooped in the White House. We don’t live-tweet White House press briefings. When we write about Georgia’s election law, we’re not going put one particular aspect—like, say, a prohibition on handing out water to voters in line—on blast and leave out the context or other provisions.

OK, that accidentally turned into a sales pitch. So I guess I’ll follow through and remind you that we’re doing a 30-day free trial. If you haven’t joined as a full member yet, now is a great time. You get 13 months for the price of 12, and it’s risk free. And then after you sign up, go take the dog for a walk or call your mom. We’ll be here when you’re done.

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Why State Election Reform Bills Don’t Signal a New Jim Crow Era

Clearly, the execs at Major League Baseball don’t read The Dispatch. If they did, they might not have been so hasty in announcing their decision to pull this summer’s All-Star Game from Georgia. Walter Olson breaks down the law that caused all the hubbub and points out the many problems with these arguments. “If the terrain over which people are bickering is solidly within the range of election law considered normal a half dozen years ago, it’s probably not a return of Jim Crow, nor is it likely to spell the end of American democracy. And most of the bickering—on measures likely to pass—is on stuff like this.”

A Diplomat’s Trip to Taiwan Draws the Ire of the CCP

During the waning days of the Trump administration, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo moved to make it easier for diplomats and high-level officials to engage with their counterparts in Taiwan. How would China react? We found out when the U.S. ambassador to Palau, John Hennessey-Niland, joined the president of Palau on a trip to discuss the pandemic. China was … not happy. In Vital Interests, Thomas Joscelyn goes through the complicated “One China” policy and details how the Trump administration ramped up sales of defensive weapons to Taiwan. He explains how the otherwise benign diplomatic visit has only ratcheted up the tension. “The increasing tension is easy to see. Speaking at China’s annual National People’s Congress earlier this week, Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned the Biden administration that the CCP’s claim on Taiwan is an “insurmountable red line” that shouldn’t be crossed.”

Eric Greitens Tries Again

Having resigned as governor of Missouri in 2018 after being accused of blackmailing a woman with whom he had an affair, Republican Eric Greitens wouldn’t seem like the most obvious candidate to replace retiring Republican Roy Blunt in the Senate. But here we are. Andrew goes back and details the various scandals that plagued Greitens as governor, and looks at his comeback. In this case, Greitens has to contend not only with the skeletons in his closet, but also Josh Hawley. Hawley was the state attorney general and was investigating Greitens for a possible campaign finance violation when the latter resigned. Now, Hawley is a senator himself and has the ear of former President Donald Trump. How that plays out remains to be seen. “For Hawley to endorse one of Greitens’ competitors would be a heavy blow to the former governor’s comeback chances. So far, Hawley hasn’t signaled that he’s ready to let bygones be bygones,” Andrew writes.

Can an Anti-Trump Republican Win a Special Election in Texas?

Campaign season never really ends. As Texas gears up for a special election to replace Rep. Ron Wright, who was fighting lung cancer when he died in February after testing positive for COVID, one candidate is finding a way to separate himself in a field of 23 candidates. Michael Wood is running a campaign explicitly trying to get the GOP to move past Donald Trump. Audrey talked to Wood: “If we can pull this off, I really do think that it’s going to create a domino effect that will carry into the 2022 midterms,” he told her. “They can say, ‘I understand why you supported Donald Trump. Maybe I even supported him in years past. But now is the time for the good of everything that we care about to move past him.” 

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And now for the best of the rest.

  • If you’ve been following the Matt Gaetz saga at all, you won’t want to miss Jonah’s take on it from the Friday G-File.  “We have politicians who think their job is to be pundits and social media trolls,” he writes. “That’s literally why they run for office—not to get things done, but to become famous for complaining about what is being done.” Click through for even better turns of phrase.

  • The World Health Organization has kowtowed to China throughout the pandemic, bungled its messaging, and just generally not lived up to its mission. What’s next? The organization is calling for a treaty that would give it more power—and money—to foster “an all-of-government and all-of-society approach, strengthening national, regional and global capacities and resilience to future pandemics.” Dalibor Rohac explains why this is a terrible idea.

  • Chris Stirewalt looks at various attacks on the First Amendment by Elizabeth Warren and others, as well as the threats presented by misinformation. How to handle these? He turns to Thomas Jefferson: “When the river of misinformation overruns its banks, Jefferson’s advice was not to build the levees higher but to address its source.”

  • On the pods: Check out Advisory Opinions for David and Sarah’s take on the Supreme Court case that will decide whether the NCAA’s restrictions on athletes’ compensation run afoul of antitrust law. On the solo Remnant, Jonah ponders whether our politicos have always been this crazy or whether it’s a recent phenomenon. And on The Dispatch Podcast, Steve and Sarah talk to Mick Mulvaney about his time in the Trump administration (and also about his time in Congress, where he co-founded the House Freedom Caucus, which he described as a group of “reasonable nutjobs”).

Our Best Stuff From the First Full Week of Spring

The sun is shining, birds are chirping, and March Madness is back.

Happy Saturday! We hope you had a better week than the crew of the Ever Given, the massive ship that went adrift and got stuck sideways in the Suez Canal. 

It was a pretty good week here in the Ohio bureau. Last weekend I got to watch my alma mater, Ohio University, earn a big victory in the NCAA Tournament, knocking out defending champion Virginia in the first round. My Bobcats lost on Monday night to Creighton, but the team is young and the future is bright. Can’t wait for next year.

March Madness has always been my favorite sporting event of the year, at least in years without a Summer Olympics. I remember, as a kid, getting the issue of Sports Illustrated that featured the brackets as the centerfold and carefully bending back the staples so I could take it out and fill in my predictions. In college, I was lucky enough to cover the OU men’s basketball team when they won the Mid-American Conference tournament and earned a bid, so I got to attend in person (only the first round, alas). When we turned our basement into, for lack of a better term, a “man cave” a few years ago, we installed three televisions. Not because we’re ostentatious, but because during the first couple of rounds of the tournament, there might be up to three games on at once. Who wants to choose?

This year, the tournament feels like a bit of a barometer for where we are. Last year, March Madness was one of the first big casualties of the coronavirus pandemic, and it illustrated the uncertainty we faced. Some teams earn bids to the tournament just based on the strength of their record, but every conference gets at least one team in. For smaller programs, winning your conference tournament is the only way to guarantee a spot. Last year, those conference tournaments were underway when the NBA shut down and some governors started locking down their states. The Big Ten Tournament was canceled while teams were warming up for their first game; the Big East canceled its tournament during halftime of a game. The NCAA announced on March 11 that it would play March Madness games with no spectators. Within 24 hours, it canceled the whole thing. 

Now, a year later, the tournament is back. It’s not quite the same: The NCAA scrapped its usual practice of playing games at various sites around the country for a sort-of bubble in Indiana (and in Texas for the women’s tournament). The schedule, which for as long as I can remember ran Thursday-to-Sunday for the first two weekends, is a little off. I was itching to reach for the remote on Thursday this week, but instead the games started on Saturday and run through Tuesday. There are very few spectators. One team, Virginia Commonwealth, had to forfeit its first round game after positive COVID tests.

It’s imperfect, but we have it. We even invited a few friends—who’d either had COVID already or been vaccinated—over to watch games. We had all three TVs going. There were upsets—including my Ohio State Buckeyes losing to No. 15 seed Oral Roberts. (Did I also call the Bobcats my team up above? I did. You’re allowed to have more than one favorite team in March. I make no apologies.) 

As vaccinations increase and warmer weather means we can all get outdoors, more normalcy is coming. It’s not going to be perfect for a while yet. But we’re getting there.

Thanks for reading! Please don’t forget that now is a great time to join The Dispatch if you haven’t already, as we are doing a special 30-day free trial. Getting 13 months of The Dispatch for the price of 12? That’s almost as sweet as your team pulling off a first-round upset.

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Should George Floyd's Past Record Be Admitted as Evidence in Derek Chauvin's Trial?

A Minnesota judge faced criticism after indicating in a pretrial hearing for police officer Derek Chauvin that he would allow evidence detailing George Floyd’s behavior during a 2019 arrest. Wait a second, the critics said. Floyd was Chauvin’s victim. Law professor Ted Sampsell-Jones offers an in-depth explanation of Minnesota’s character evidence rules. Limits on admitting character evidence are designed to give defendants a fair trial, but over the years and through the courts, they have been watered down by prosecutors eager to earn convictions. “Courts have expanded the common plan doctrine far beyond its original bounds to include all prior similar offenses—even if they are not linked to the charged crime, even if they are not constituent parts of a whole.” And now Chauvin’s lawyers are trying to take advantage.

January 6 Investigations Stall

Remember all the talk of a 9/11-style commission to investigate the events at the Capitol on January 6? Democrats suggested that would be a better solution to learning what happened than calling witnesses during President Trump’s second impeachment trial. So … how’s it going? Not well, Haley reports in Uphill. For all the comparisons to the 9/11 commission, that panel was evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s proposal for a commission provides for 11 members, with seven Democrats and four Republicans. Meanwhile, some Republicans want to include investigations into how the violence that resulted from last summer’s racial justice protests might have contributed to the events at the Capitol.

The Supreme Court Is Headed for a Second Amendment Showdown

Over the past few decades, gun rights supporters had an obvious retort to calls for more gun control from the left. The decrease in violent crime rates around the country came at a time when gun ownership was increasing: “More guns, less crime.” All along, the Supreme Court has taken very few cases addressing the issue of gun control. And now, just as the court considers whether to take New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Corlett, a case that could answer whether gun owners have a right to carry outside their homes, popular sentiment is again trending against gun rights in the wake of two horrifying mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado. Why does this matter? Because for all their skill and trainings, judges are still human beings. “I have long argued,” David writes, “that American gun rights depend greatly not just on the text and original meaning of the Constitution, but also on the present conditions in American streets and schools.” 

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And now for the best of the rest:

  • Much of the focus on H.R. 1, the House bill that would overhaul our election system, has been focused on campaign finance, early and absentee voting, and voting registration. But fully one-third of the 800-page bill targets political speech, including disclosure mandates for nonprofits. Casey Mattox explains how such measures will chill speech and worsen our polarization.

  • As a Gen Xer (some would argue the best generation), Chris Stirewalt remembers the 1990s. So he’s a little mystified by the recent surge in nostalgia for it. “It felt very much like, well, the lamest possible moment in human history: homogenized, corporate, and painfully politically correct.”

  •  House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has complained that terrorists are using the border crisis to sneak into the U.S., and Axios reported recently that four such suspects have been caught since October. Elisabeth Neumann points out that yes, the border is vulnerable, but it’s dangerous to elevate isolated incidents into a national security threat.

  • The International Olympic Committee has a bad habit of awarding Olympic Games to authoritarian governments, which in turn use them as geopolitical events to boost their standing on the world stage. With the 2022 Winter Olympics scheduled for Beijing, and many calling for the U.S. to boycott in response to the Chinese Communist Party’s multitudes of human rights offenses, Ellen Bork offers an alternative: Let the games go on, just not in China. 

  • Last but not least, the pods: On The Remnant, Tevi Troy joins Jonah to talk about cancel  culture and debate Marvel vs. DC  Comics. David and Sarah catch up on the latest Supreme Court goings-on, look at a Second Amendment case before the 9th Circuit, and share Netflix recommendations on Advisory Opinions. And if you wonder what we thought about Sidney Powell’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit against her filed by Dominion Voting Systems, don’t miss The Dispatch Podcast.

Our Best Stuff From the Week and a Great Offer

The future of the conservative movement, the GOP's big tent, and how trends in academia have driven critical race theory into the mainstream.

This week we ran a very thoughtful article from Ryan Streeter on how Republicans have responded to proposals from the left on such issues as minimum wage and tax policies that seek to give more money to families with children. He notes that Tom Cotton and Mitt Romney, as well as Josh Hawley, have proposed alternative minimum wage hikes and that Romney has formulated a plan that would provide taxpayer-financed child allowances to families. Streeter criticizes this “leftward drift” among conservatives and suggests that workforce training and other assistance would be a better use of resources.

That’s a fairly standard conservative argument. But I mention it because earlier this month, our own David French wrote favorably about Romney’s plan, saying it was pro-family and pro-life, which are also some pretty obvious conservative values. We don’t make a habit of running point-counterpoint articles in The Dispatch. They can be gimmicky, and authors tend to fall back on convenient talking points rather than really thinking through an issue. But complex issues have to be studied from different angles, and the best solutions come from rigorous examinations.

The conservative movement is at a crossroads. One of the many criticisms of Donald Trump from Trump-skeptical Republicans was that Trump wasn’t actually conservative—not just in temperament, but also from a policy perspective. He’s out of office now, but the populism he espoused has taken hold, and that has created a wide gulf. 

Building a strong conservative movement will require healthy, robust debate on any number of topics. We need smart people making good-faith arguments and debating differences within the movement just as much as we need them countering liberal proposals that are harmful or ill-advised. What is the best way to deal with illegal immigration? How should we handle relations with such adversaries as Russia, China, and Iran? The pandemic has exposed major flaws with public education. Can we use this opportunity to make fundamental improvements?

Tackling such questions is a big part of what we do at The Dispatch. Yes, we cover the day-to-day happenings on Capitol Hill, and we keep you updated on the big stories of the day in The Morning Dispatch. There’s legal analysis galore from our legal eagles David and Sarah. We wade into the culture wars every once in a while (some good examples from the last week are below), and we even indulge David’s culture nerdery. But making strong arguments for sound conservative policy is right at the heart of it all. 

This weekly newsletter goes to our paid members as well as those of you who are what we affectionately call “freelisters.” We appreciate all of you. For those of you who haven’t joined  yet, we have a great offer running right now. You can check us out for 30 days—absolutely free. You have no obligation and you can cancel at any time. So why not give us a shot? Not only do you get all of our work—more David, more Jonah, more Haley, more Sarah, plus members-only newsletters like Capitolism and Vital Interests—but you can also comment on our articles. If you’ve ever read the comments, you probably have noticed that they’re often the opposite of the anger and vitriol typical of online comments sections. We’re building a really great community. If you aren’t already, we’d love for you to be a part of it.

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Now, shameless self-promotion over—let’s get on with our best stuff from the week.

While You Were Seussing

It’s not that the debate over the Seuss estate’s decision to stop publishing six of its books isn’t important. There are good points to make about censorship, slippery slopes, and the like. But these culture-war media moments can be a bit like junk food—and while conservative media and congressional Republicans have obsessed over them, Democrats have happily taken advantage of their distraction to get busy implementing a remarkably progressive policy agenda. Scott Lincicome points out that many measures in the American Rescue Plan—the nearly $2 trillion COVID relief bill President Biden signed into law earlier this month—are not about the pandemic at all but are straight off the progressive wish list for social policy. “I’d call the law a ‘Progressive Trojan Horse,’ but that would imply that these provisions were hidden. They weren’t, yet conservative media and much of the Republican Party barely seemed to notice because they had bigger (one/two/red/blue) fish to fry.” 

Who Runs the House GOP?

Speaking of divisions on the right, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has his hands full trying to manage a caucus that includes both Liz Cheney, who led a group of 10 House Republicans who supported Donald Trump’s impeachment, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has spent the first few months of her tenure disavowing her past support for QAnon and gumming up the legislative works with motions to adjourn the House. And then there’s the problem of Paul Gosar, who attended a conference organized by white nationalist Nick Fuetes. Just how big a tent should the GOP be? In Uphill, Haley looks at the challenges facing McCarthy.

What Happens in the Ivory Tower Doesn’t Stay There

Remember when “microaggressions” and “trigger warnings” and “cultural appropriations” were words that you only encountered when reading about life on American’s college campuses? Those were the days. Now corporations brag about their commitment to social justice and “woke mobs” rise up to call for the firings of people who say the wrong thing, even if they said it years before. How did we get here? Sam Abrams argues it’s a reflection of the state of academic trends in hiring and tenure. Here’s the gist: Colleges and universities have been relying more on adjunct and part-time faculty, reducing their number of tenured professors. Research, writing, and publishing is important to getting tenure. And one way to help yourself as an academic is to focus on critical race theory.  “With a glut of Ph.D.s looking for jobs, tenure lines are acute in determining what academic fields prosper and what fields contract and, by extension, who teaches what and what work matters and thus which ideas like CRT are coming out of the academy.”

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Now for the best of the rest.

  • Before we lost David for a day or so to a marathon viewing of the Snyder Cut, he wrote about why America needs a strong conservative movement. He calls on the Christian church to reject partisanship,  conservatives to reject what he calls an “unhealthy populism,” and for the left to step back from the cliff of illiberalism.

  • It’s unsurprising when Democrats speak out in favor of unionization efforts. But what’s going on with Marco Rubio’s statements in favor of a union push at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama? Chris Stirewalt explains.

  • We’ve heard a lot about China’s horrifying treatment of the Uyghurs, its crackdown on Hong Kong, and even its aggressive behavior in the South China Sea. In Vital Interests, Tom Joscelyn highlights why its incursion into the East China Sea is also worrying.

  • Joe Biden’s foreign policy team has more than a few holdovers from the Obama administration who led the push for the Iran nuclear deal. In their confirmation hearings, many promised to proceed cautiously on Iran this time around. Danielle Pletka wonders if this new administration will adhere to their testimony or revert to form.

  • On the pods: On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah answer mail from listeners. Ever wondered how to hire an attorney? Give it a listen. Scott Lincicome and Declan join Sarah and Steve on a St. Patrick’s Day Dispatch Podcast to discuss North Korea, the border crisis and, well, Dr. Seuss.  Chris Stirewalt sounds so much like Jonah that he guest-hosted an episode of the Remnant. Did you notice?

Our Best Stuff From the Week We Hit an Awful Anniversary

Where were you when our world changed overnight?

We probably all remember exactly where we were a year ago on March 11, right? When our phones buzzed with news alerts or texts that Tom and Rita Hanks had contracted COVID-19 and that the NBA had shut down after the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Goebert tested positive? That part is easy. The real question is: Do you remember what you did in the days that followed?

I couldn’t, so I went to my phone to see if my photos told a story. I found a few of our middle son dressed up for Outsiders’ Day at junior high—it was the last day of school until August. I had taken a photo of the TV while we watched Star Wars, and so remembered that we stopped and rewound a few times on the crucial cantina scene. (Spoiler alert—Han shot first.) There were photos of a glass of beer (to lament that the cancelation of March Madness ruined my favorite annual day-drinking experience), some stuff I was trying to sell or donate, and a screenshot I accidentally took while canceling my beloved Orangetheory classes (the studio closed a couple days later). Let’s see: beer, family movie night, spring cleaning, and no more gym. Yup, that pretty much sums up the early days and weeks of our pandemic. Not necessarily in that order.

What else I remember about everything, at least at first, was a certain good-natured sense of purpose. Granted, we thought we were looking at a month or two of precautions, that “flattening the curve” would get us through it. Our kids couldn’t go to swim practice, so the team brought in a former club member who’d swam in the Olympics to give them a Zoom pep talk. Online school was such a novelty that our youngest, on his own and not even for extra credit, did a research project and built a PowerPoint presentation on World War II. (I’d prefer to remember that over the day a couple of months ago when, home on quarantine, he sneakily skipped a whole day of Zoom classes to play video games on his computer. But I suppose those are bookends to this journey that we will look back on and laugh about some day.) We couldn’t go out, so the local breweries sent delivery trucks through neighborhoods like so many adult ice cream trucks. 

One thing that strikes me now is that, living in Ohio, we could only watch from afar as the pandemic hit states like California, Washington, and New York—especially New York—hard. I think it might have given us a false sense of, not superiority, exactly. But a sense that we would get through relatively unscathed. Less scathed? Is that a word? We were doing all the right things. We watched the governor’s daily 2 p.m. press conferences—”Wine with DeWine” T-shirts and coffee mugs popped up for sale in Facebook ads in no time—to hear Mike DeWine and health director Amy Acton provide updates and reassure us that we were flattening the curve. We were one of the “good” states.

Were we, though? Or were we just lucky? I have no doubt that the strict lockdowns were necessary and saved lives. And getting through that first wave relatively well did let us have a summer that was … not normal, but tolerable. We could visit with neighbors outdoors. Kids played sports. We checked out as many restaurant patios as we could. I’m grateful we had that, because I don’t like to think what it would have been like to be locked down for months on end, only to watch the third wave of fall and winter devastate us anyhow. 

And so here we are a year later. More than 500,000 Americans dead, our polarization exacerbated by fights over mask mandates and lockdowns, an unfathomable $6 trillion spent on economic relief. Finally, though cases are dropping as precipitously as they went up in early winter. We have truly miraculous vaccines going into arms all over the country. Many kids are heading back to school. 

The challenge before us now is just to  get through these next few months. As we mark this grim anniversary, it would be nice if we could look back on those early days and remember the sense of shared purpose that sustained us then. Brighter days are ahead.

Now, here’s our best stuff from last week. Thanks for reading.  

Joe Biden Prepares to Turn Back the Clock on Campus Due Process

It might not be surprising that the Biden administration is reviving some Obama policies that Donald Trump tried to undo. But that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Back in 2011, Obama bypassed a lot of regulatory hurdles to require college campuses to adjudicate sexual assault claims on a “preponderance of evidence” standard that served to strip accused students of due process. It led to hundreds of lawsuits and devastated the lives of young men who’d been falsely accused. The Trump administration worked to undo that policy, but Biden has said he will seek to reimplement it. In the French Press (🔒), David dissects everything that was flawed and dangerous about this policy, and sums it up with a telling illustration: “A sad irony of the Biden plan is that if Joe Biden was a student—and the Obama guidelines he supports applied—Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegation would have likely ended his career. After all, he would have no right to a detailed description of the charges against him, he would have had no ability to discover exculpatory evidence, and he would have enjoyed no right to cross-examine his accuser.”

Schooling in the Time of COVID

Well, this is awkward. I look forward to sharing the fine work my colleagues and our contributors are doing each week. Yet here I am indulging in a little self-promotion. But this article was near and dear to my heart. When you live in flyover country but national stories are overrepresented in your media diet, you often see a disconnect. And the national narrative on schools is that they aren’t open. I knew this wasn’t true: We’ve been very lucky that our kids have had in-person school all year (barring occasional quarantines). I started with our own district because I’m intimately familiar with our mitigation measures, quarantine policies, and how the district has fared. But I also had wonderful conversations with representatives from other districts, including Steven VanMatre out in tiny Premont, Texas. He’s a gregarious man whose concern—and affection—for his students really shines through. And Daniel Merck in Easley, S.C., had great insight about how, while the district had already been ramping up its virtual learning options even before the pandemic (hello, serendipity) when the pandemic set in he encouraged his teachers not to worry too much about logging into video conferences but to reach out to students via email and phone, just to check in. Give it a read if you missed it.

The Biden Administration’s Afghan ‘Peace Plan’ Is an Act of Desperation

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Tom Joscelyn was a fierce critic of the Trump administration’s “deal” for withdrawing from Afghanistan, which was negotiated without the participation of the Afghan government and amounted to some toothless promises from the Taliban. Now Afghanistan is the Biden administration’s problem and … it’s not getting better. In Vital Interests, he analyzes an eight-page letter from Secretary of State Antony Blinken and “peace plan” published in an Afghan outlet. Together, they’re a shameful dereliction of American responsibility—even if your ultimate goal is withdrawal.

How Mean Tweets—And Bad Predictions—Threaten to Derail Another Biden Nominee

Colin Kahl might not be a household name, even though he served in several prominent roles in the Obama administration, including national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. But after leaving the Obama team, he developed a reputation as a caustic commentator, especially on Twitter. And now his nomination to be the Pentagon’s third-ranking civilian is up in the air. Charlotte details some of his more incendiary comments—calling the GOP a “death cult” and the “party of ethnic cleansing”—but raises a larger issue: When it comes to Iran, his area of specialization, he’s often been flat-out wrong. 

And the best of the rest:

  • This will be a shock to people who’ve agonized over getting vaccine appointments for themselves or loved ones but we might be looking at a vaccine glut. Production is ramping up and our capacity to get shots in arms must ramp up.

  • Biden is trying to navigate a fine line on immigration, undoing some of Trump’s more restrictive policies while also dealing with limitations brought on by the pandemic, and he’s making no one happy, left or right. Andrew explains

  • I don’t include enough of Jonah’s G-Files in this roundup, well, just because we can tell a lot of you are reading them already. But please don’t miss this one, on elites and bubbles and what happens when secular ideology takes on a religious fervor.

  • In The Sweep (🔒) on Friday, Andrew has a fantastic interview with Georgia election official Gabe Sterling about how H.R. 1, the House bill on election reform, will have negative repercussions on our voting processes by taking control away from states and localities.

  • There’s not a lot of things Democrats and Republicans agree on, but China might be one of them. In Uphill  (🔒), Haley looks at a bipartisan measure introduced in the House to make it easier for Uyghurs to apply for asylum. 

  • And on the pods: If you love Scott Lincicome’s Capitolism newsletter, you’ll love his appearance on The Dispatch Podcast with Sarah and Declan. On Advisory Opinions, check out David’s tale of spending three hours in the Clubhouse room “David French: Based or Cringe.” (And if you are unsure what “Clubhouse” or “based” or “cringe” is, check out his Friday newsletter.) Last but definitely not least, on The Remnant, Jonah welcomes Steven F. Hayward for a fascinating conversation on conservatism, illiberalism, cancel culture, and more.

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