Our Best Stuff About the Campaign, the State of the GOP, and More

Two Republican PACs take different approaches to defeating Donald Trump.

We tend to mark defining moments in our history with the “Where were you when …” question. It makes sense: The moment is frozen in time, and it’s unforgettable. I was in seventh-grade art class when a teacher entered the classroom and announced that the Challenger had exploded. Almost 20 years ago, I remember my husband answering an early morning (on the West Coast) phone call and reaching for the TV remote. I didn’t know what to expect other than it had to be bad news, but I was definitely not expecting to see the Twin Towers burning.

Pandemics, however, are a different kind of beast. We’d all heard the horrifying accounts from China, we’d read the stories about cruise ships stuck at sea, unwelcome at many ports. But there was so much uncertainty, and it was a slow buildup. So where were you when it became very real? 

It was March 11. I was folding laundry, and Donald Trump was workinghis way through his Oval Office speech. But that wasn’t the big moment. No, for me at least it was when the news alerts started blowing up my phone. Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz had tested positive, and the NBA was suspending its season. The league wasn’t going to attempt to play games without fans, or any other half measures. A full-on shutdown.

The one glimmer of hope that emerged after the initial confusion was that the season wasn’t canceled, just on hold. If it all blew over, maybe we could have games again in a few weeks, or a month. 

Well, March turned into April—and what felt like six months or so later—April turned into May. But the only playoff basketball available to watch were rebroadcasts of old games. (Yes, yes, I did watch the fourth quarter of the greatest game in NBA history more than a few times.)  

Finally—FINALLY—that all changed Thursday night. More than a month after the season should have ended, the NBA staged its first games since March. What struck me, besides the simple joy of having one of my favorite sports back, was how the whole situation is a kind of microcosm of our present situation, about how much things have changed, and how many things have happened since.

The conditions under which the league reopened—in the Disney “bubble” in Orlando, with no fans, with coaches and players spread out theater-style, in a socially distanced bench area—reflect the kind of compromises we are all making right now. The pandemic is a very real threat, but so is an economic shutdown. We want to be safe, but we’ve lost patience with isolating at home. 

There’s still so much uncertainty, about everything. We don’t know how our kids can go back to school. We don’t know if we’re going to have to revert to more extreme precautionary measures and what the economic fallout might be. At this point, we just have to take what we can get.

And so on Thursday, I was just happy to be sitting on the couch watching games, knowing that if I watched SportsCenter afterward, there would be real highlights of real games. It might not have been the BEST basketball—players had tired legs, there were more airballs than you’d expect, and it will take some time to get used to watching with no fans. 

But there was exciting rookie Zion Williamson doing his disruptor thing. There was Anthony Davis lighting up the Clippers until LeBron found his groove. And, of course, there was LeBron rallying at the end to hit a go-ahead shot and then getting a great defensive stop to end the game. 

Yes, we have to take what we can get for now. Some days, that’s not so bad.

Now, on to our best stuff from the week:

Donald Trump Stole Their Republican Party. They Want to Take It Back.

As we inch closer to the 2020 election, two different conservative anti-Trump PACS are taking different approaches to addressing Donald Trump’s reelection. Declan profiles them together this week. The Republican Voters Against Trump is airing video testimonials from people who voted for Trump in 2016 and won’t be this time. The group’s efforts are aimed at keeping Trump from being re-elected and, as strategic director Sarah Longwell puts it,“Politics is very tribal, and so we’re trying to create kind of a new tribe.” Meanwhile the Lincoln Project has a decidedly more anti-Republican approach, s targeting not just Trump but also his Senate Republican “enablers.” As Steve Schmidt, a political operative who helped start the Lincoln Project, put it: “The Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, lunatic fringe of the party is a specific type of metastasis of the cancer that’s in our politics. These guys are nuts and fools,” he said. “In some degree, the [Sen.] Susan Collinses and the [Sen.] Cory Gardners are worse than all of them because they know better. And their issue is cowardice,” Schmidt argues.

T-Minus 99 Days and Counting ...

Last week, we told you that our own Sarah Isgur was launching a campaign newsletter to cover the last 100 days of the 2020 campaign. In her debut, she compared the dueling ad strategies of Biden and Trump, and she described what Biden’s efforts to pick a running mate look like. “My best comparison is a Jane Austen novel. “Not any particular one mind you, but you’ve got the most eligible bachelor in the county who can have his pick of wives and then you’ve got a bunch of would-be mates doing their best to try to win him over (but not look like they are trying too hard or look like they aren’t trying,” she writes. “Interested, but not desperate. Charming, but not frivolous. Serious, but not insipid.) Biden needs to figure out what kind of partner he wants and what kind of partner she will be.”  And speaking of the veepstakes ... in a midweek edition just for our paid members, Sarah interviewed the author of a book about Dick Cheney who also broke the news in 2012 that Mitt Romney had chosen Paul Ryan as his running mate (Pssst … it’s Steve).

America First? More Like America Whenever.

Did you catch Donald Trump’s conversation with Jonathan Swan of Axios, wherein he admitted he had not raised the issue of whether Russia offered the Taliban bounties for attacks on U.S. soldiers? Jonah did, and oh, does he have thoughts in his members only midweek G-File. “Let me pause for a moment to make an important point: The president’s desk isn’t magic. … In 1688, James II thought he could prevent a new Parliament being formed or a new king being named if he threw the official seal of the monarch in the Thames. After all, the seal was the instrument of his power. … Well, no similar rules apply to the Resolute desk. If the president hears credible information about anything, he can act on it whether or not it physically reaches some random piece of furniture in his office in paper form. I suspect the news of the Demon Semen Doctor didn’t reach the president’s desk either, but that didn’t stop him from acting on it.”

And some other stuff we’d love for you to check out:

  • Is it really a big deal that we are reducing the number of U.S. troops in Germany by 12,000? In his midweek (members-only) French Press, David makes the case for why it is.

  • Was Nixon wrong about China? In Vital Interests (members only), Thomas Joscleyn highlights a speech Mike Pompeo made at the Nixon Library about China and analyzes what has happened in the four decades since Nixon met Mao.

  • Nicholas Clairmont takes on the woke grammar police, criticizing the recent decision by many publications to capitalize “Black” in reference to those of African descent and resulting kerfuffle over what it means to do the same thing for “White.”  

  • On the pods: Joe Trippi dropped by the Dispatch Podcast to chat with Steve and Sarah about how the weakness of our current political parties means we’re going to get more personality-driven candidates. On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah discussed mail-in voting and concerns over whether there might be problems that result from having to adjust to so many mail-in ballots on short notice. And on The Remnant, Jonah and A.B. Stoddard indulge in rank punditry and somehow the topic of Jonah wearing a man bun comes up.

Our Best Stuff From the Past Week. And Announcing a New Feature!

What's going on in Portland, the danger of burning down the whole GOP, and more.

Happy weekend! Regular readers know that the purpose of this newsletter is to share our best work of the past week. This week, I’m going to preview a coming addition to our newsletter lineup.

To say that this doesn’t feel like a normal election year veers well past understatement territory. The chaotic Iowa caucus feels like it happened years ago, not months. There’s been almost no gladhanding and baby-kissing, there have been very few rallies, and livestreamed videos have replaced town hall meetings and diner visits. Whatever shape the party conventions take this summer, they will look unlike anything we’ve seen in the past: no raucous state delegations, over-the-top patriotic fashion choices, or big speeches that end with the nominee’s family on stage amid a balloon drop.

Regardless, Americans will cast their votes (by mail or in person) for president on Nov. 3, and that is a mere 101 days away. It’s not quite crunch time, but we’re getting there. 

This past week, Sarah wrote a fun piece with the thesis that “Curling is the perfect analogy for political campaigns. … Once the stone is moving, this thing is heavy and it’s got momentum that is out of the “skip’s” control. The campaign staff are like the guys with the brooms that are frantically sweeping the ice as this 44-pound rock slides along the ice."

No less an authority than the coach of the U.S. men’s Olympic gold-medal winning curling team responded:

With that ringing endorsement, we’re happy to announce a campaign newsletter that will focus on the strategy and mechanics of political campaigns with some behind the scenes flavor along the way.  Sarah is the perfect person to tackle this subject. I’ll let her explain why:

My first campaign was John Cornyn's 2002 senate race. I spent most of my time licking stamps (remember when that was still a thing) and cutting out news clips (also used to be a thing). But I also got to watch our communications director spar with reporters, organize volunteers for a letters-to-the-editor campaign, and hear our policy director—now congressman Chip Roy—pontificate on conservatism. I fell in love with the pace, the camaraderie, and the feeling like I was contributing to something larger than myself. Since those heady days of fax machines and landlines, I've worked on 3 presidential campaigns and any number of down-ballot races. And within campaigns, I've bounced from the legal team to opposition research to communications. 

In addition to Sarah’s unique insider analysis, Steve, Andrew and our team of Dispatch reporters will contribute, too. Look for the first edition to hit your inboxes on Monday. If you like what you read, you can sign up to receive the newsletter and have it emailed to you through the election on November 3 (and, perhaps, beyond that!). All of Sarah’s weekly missives will be free to all readers and posted online; regular “bonus” editions will be sent to paid members only. To join The Dispatch as a paid member to ensure that you don’t miss any of these newsletters or our other work, click here

And now, with that, let’s talk about the best stuff we published this week.

What, Exactly, Is Going on in Portland?

Depending on one’s point of view, the reports of federal agents whisking Portland protesters into unmarked cars indicated that we were living in a dystopian police state, or that the feds were rightly stepping in to quell Antifa-inspired violence that city and state law enforcement officers had been unable to contain. As Charlotte Lawson reports, the truth is somewhere in the middle. There have been protests, some of them violent, going on for close to two months now, and the federal government is well within its rights to send in officers to protect federal property. But, it’s also true that the federal law enforcement officers have strayed outside the boundaries of federal property, and that Portland’s mayor and Oregon’s governor have asked for the officers to be removed.  Jonah has some thoughts on the matter, too: “Democrats and media commentators glibly talk about how this use of a ‘gestapo’ makes us a ‘police state’ no different from China. That’s absurd, not least because the law is on the administration’s side (so far), but also because China’s police state is competent.”

Dump Trump, But Don’t Burn Down the GOP

It’s been a long three-and-a-half years for conservatives who don’t like Donald Trump. Now he’s up for re-election, and certain elements of the NeverTrump world have decided it’s not enough for him to lose, Republicans in the Senate have to go, too. David explains why it’s a bad idea to actively campaign against some of Trump’s alleged enablers: “We can (and should) stand and applaud the extraordinary courage of Mitt Romney without making it a mandatory precondition to maintaining federal office. I’ve said this before, and I’ll keep saying it. Vice often leaves virtue with few good options, and the GOP’s good senators have faced few good choices in these last four years.”

Would Biden’s Foreign Policy Really Be Much Different From Trump’s?

For people who hope that a Joe Biden administration would be the exact opposite of the Trump administration, Danielle Pletka has some bad news on the foreign policy front. She runs through  the a series of hot-button issues and explains that Biden’s policies are unlikely to be much different from the current occupant of the White House: “On Russia, Biden promises to talk tough, but doesn’t suggest he’ll impose even more sanctions than the Trump administration, which has tightened the economic noose around Putin and his cronies. … He promises to be nicer to Europe than Trump, a low bar for sure, but doesn’t suggest he’ll recommit troops to Germany, where Trump intends to draw down, countering lamely that he will only ‘review’ Trump’s decision.” 

Now for some other good stuff:

*We’ve been hearing for years that cities are where it’s at. The cost of living in  New York, San Francisco, Seattle and other big cities has skyrocketed in response to demand for urban living. But… what happens when a pandemic forces you to stay in your tiny apartment for months and cuts down on the culture and social life that made the city so attractive in the first place? Samuel J. Abrams reports.

* Did the Trump campaign send a blimp around the country equipped with “spy gadgets” to vacuum up data from would-be voters below? While there were plans for a Trump blimp tour and the Trump campaign had a data-gathering effort planned in connection with it, some viral reporting conflated the two and made them sound far more nefarious than the reality. In a well-researched Dispatch Fact Check article, Alec Dent cuts through the confusion. 

*Americans paid tribute to the life of civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis last week when he passed away at the age of 80. In Congress, Senate Democrats renewed their push for voting rights reform and renamed their bill in honor of him. Audrey Fahlberg explains what’s in the legislation.

  *And we can’t forget the pods. Breaking news of sorts from the Dispatch Podcast: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan dropped by on Friday and in the course of his conversation with Steve and Sarah, he mentioned he would “probably not” support Donald Trump in November. On the Remnant, Jonah and Luke Thompson delve into rank punditry and also throw some jabs at frequent podcast guest Rep. Mike Gallagher. And on Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah explain why former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was sent back to the pokey and then just as quickly sent back home.

Photographs of Donald Trump and Joe Biden from Getty Images.

Our Best Stuff For You to Read on a Lazy Sunday

Last thoughts on the Supreme Court term, predictions for 2020, and more.

Back when we accessed the newfangled doohickey called the internet via 14.4K modem, when email was an amazing new way to communicate, it was easy to be excited about the potential for how this new tool could be used for journalism. One of my favorite go-to answers in job interviews in those early days involved discussing how I loved that the World Wide Web offered the immediacy of broadcast and the depth of longform print journalism all at the same time. Plus, the ink was free. So many possibilities!

And indeed the internet has in many ways been a positive for journalism. The low cost of entry (not only is the ink free, you don’t need a printing press) has let many talented independent writers become prominent voices and, in some cases, even media moguls. (I remember when ESPN.com gave a relatively unknown Boston sports blogger a column. Now everyone knows who Bill Simmons is.) It allows for beautifully designed multimedia storytelling. And, heck, it made it a lot easier for us to get The Dispatch off the ground.

But online journalism was still a relatively nascent medium when YouTube, Google, Facebook, and Twitter and similar companies came to prominence in the first decade of the 21st century. And while none of them set out with the intention of influencing our industry, it’s undeniable that they have. Social media gives everyone a voice, which is good! Or could be. 

But let’s be honest. The rampant polarization that has so soured the national discourse for so long has been made possible, at least in part, by the fact it’s much easier to sling insults at people from behind a keyboard than in person. And, thanks to the fact that we all have “friends” on social media we’ve never met in real life, and we can see the friends of our friends, you can sling those insults at vastly more people. What’s true on Facebook is true of the comments fields of many publications. 

And while it’s great that it’s easier to start a media company than it used to be, not every publication seeks to hold itself to high standards. Some even cater to this social-media driven toxicity. We have infinitely more partisan and activist “news” sites than we ever did intellectual ideological journals. 

It’s easy to despair. But it’s important to remember that even our most challenging problems can, if not be solved, at least be addressed. It was one of our goals at The Dispatch. It’s why we focus on reported analysis and sober commentary, and we’re proud of the fact that our community of commenters largely debates respectfully.

We send you this newsletter every week to help you catch up on stories you might have missed, and I’ve enjoyed the comments we get from readers who appreciate that. But, we also have a (fairly obvious) ulterior motive. If you haven’t joined us as a paid member yet, we hope that you’ll consider it. But this week I’m going to use this space to talk about a few other projects that deserve your attention. I want to talk about them because they give me a little optimism about the state of our discourse.

You might have heard of Yascha Mounk’s new project, Persuasion. David and Sarah talked to Yashca on The Dispatch Podcast about the new venture, in which he hopes  to create a “community of thinkers, activists and citizens who are committed to debating and reinvigorating the values of a free and fair society.” I don’t know Yascha personally, but I’ve found him fascinating since he was an occasional contributor at Slate, where I used to work. He is intellectually curious, he excels at challenging conventional wisdom, and his writing is far more conversational than most academics. 

And then on Friday, Andrew Sullivan announced that he was leaving New York magazine and relaunching The Dish, the blog he ran for almost 15 years and where he wrote about politics, foreign policy, Catholicism, gay marriage, and more. (Coincidentally, both of these projects are launching on Substack, which is the platform we use here at The Dispatch.)

Many many years ago, I started at Slate as a copy editor. I’d been a sports journalist, and the dot-com bubble burst about the same time I was getting married and preparing to start a family, and all of a sudden a lifetime of working nights and weekends seemed less appealing. I was grateful for my new job, but media elites intimidated me, even as I worked on their articles. The Dish was one of the sites I turned to help understand this new world I’d found myself in. And so I’ve always appreciated Andrew Sullivan, even when I didn’t agree with him. One passage in his farewell column at New York that has stayed with me:

[M]aybe it’s worth pointing out that “conservative” in my case means that I have passionately opposed Donald J. Trump and pioneered marriage equality, that I support legalized drugs, criminal-justice reform, more redistribution of wealth, aggressive action against climate change, police reform, a realist foreign policy, and laws to protect transgender people from discrimination. I was one of the first journalists in established media to come out. I was a major and early supporter of Barack Obama. I intend to vote for Biden in November.

It seems to me that if this conservatism is so foul that many of my peers are embarrassed to be working at the same magazine, then I have no idea what version of conservatism could ever be tolerated. And that’s fine. We have freedom of association in this country, and if the mainstream media want to cut ties with even moderate anti-Trump conservatives, because they won’t bend the knee to critical theory’s version of reality, that’s their prerogative.

On the one hand, it’s depressing that mainstream publications have so little tolerance for intellectual diversity at the same time they work so hard on other types of diversity. (If Andrew Sullivan’s struggles at New York aren’t enough for you, do read Bari Weiss’s resignation letter from the New York Times.)

On the other, I’m starting to feel the same hope I did when I was an idealist about the potential of online journalism back at the turn of the millennium. The people who really care about free exchange and rigorous debate are starting to reclaim the public square from those who want to narrow the window of acceptable discourse (and from those who really just want to yell at one another).

We’re grateful that you’ve given us a chance; I hope you’ll check them out. We each have our own boats, but I’d like to think we’re sailing toward the same destination. Now, here’s our best stuff from the past week.

It’s the Roberts Court Now

If you tune in to the Advisory Opinions podcast regularly, you know that David and Sarah hashed out the big Supreme Court decisions as they came down. This week, Sarah took a step back and looked at what could be gleaned from the term as a whole. She made the case for why conservatives could feel like they came away with a victory, and also argued why liberals could, too. “Taken as a whole, neither side can be said to have gotten all they wanted from the court. Conservatives saw their first full term with two Trump appointees and still lost, but liberals’ worst fears of a 5-4 steamroller didn’t come to fruition either.”

We’re Learning More About How COVID Spreads. What You Need to Know Now.

One of the problems with a novel virus is that we don’t know exactly how it spreads. Some early fears—that it could linger on surfaces, for one, have proved unfounded. But it appears that we are now gaining a better understanding about why it spreads so much more indoors than out, and how superspreader events originate. And, as Andrew reports, it comes down to aerosolized droplets, smaller droplets that don’t fall to the ground immediately. “If viruses can be carried by vapor that small, then the longer an infected person and uninfected people share the same space, the greater number of particles will be transmitted and the greater the infection risk grows.”

What Happens After 2020? Well, it Depends

In the French Press, David lays out three possible scenarios for the November election—a narrow Trump win, a narrow Trump loss, and a decisive Biden victory—and makes predictions for both the Trump wing of the GOP and the NeverTrump holdouts. One thing is for certain, he writes: “[F]or Trump skeptics in the conservative remnant, there is no good electoral outcome. A narrow Trump victory or a narrow Trump win leaves a formerly conservative party in nationalist/populist hands. For the time-being, there would not be a viable conservative party in American national politics.” And a Biden victory could result in more progressive policies than a Hillary Clinton presidency ever would have. 

Highlights from The Morning Dispatch

It wasn’t the busiest news week since we started sending out our morning newsletter (well, at least relative to recent history), but that allowed us to drill down on some important stories. First off, on Monday, we got you all caught up on the Roger Stone commutation that went down late Friday.  On Wednesday, for example, we reported on the latest kerfuffles with Chinese tech companies, as Prime Minister Boris banned Huawei from helping to build the U.K.’s new 5G wireless network, reversing an earlier policy  decision and the U.S. threatened to ban TikTok. And on Thursday, we talked to vaccine experts about the promising news about Moderna’s COVID vaccine. 

And here’s the best of the rest:

  • What’s going on in Iran, where various military and industrial sites have been the scenes of mysterious fires and explosions? Charlotte Lawson talks to some Iran experts, and they explain how it’s most likely not a coincidence, and point out that Israel and the United States have obvious motivations to create unrest.

  • Because apparently everything even tangentially related to the pandemic has to be politicized or controversial, some folks have gotten themselves worked up about businesses that don’t take cash. Some even complain it’s illegal. Except for two states and a handful of cities, that’s incorrect. Alec Dent  is on the case for The Dispatch Fact Check. Check out his other filings on Joe Biden and a blackface skit and a claim that Barack Obama, Anthony Fauci, and Melinda Gates went to a Wuhan lab together in 2015.

  • We’ve written a few times about the way China has taken advantage of the pandemic to be aggressive about territorial claims and antagonize foes. In Vital Interests, Thomas Joscelyn explains why we now have an even bigger worry: Xi Jingping and Vladimir Putin are getting awfully cozy

  • On the pods: Andrew Egger joins the gang on The Dispatch Podcast. They talk about Peter Navarro’s attack on Anthony Fauci and Bari Weiss’s resignation from the New York Times, but those are just lead-ins to the real debate, about french fries. Over on Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah discuss Biden’s campaign strategy, presidential pardon power, and also Trump’s threat to pull the tax-exempt status of universities that are about “Radical Left Indoctrination” (Trump’s words, not ours). And on the Remnant, David guest-hosts for Jonah and interviews David Bahnsen, a portfolio manager and author.

Our Best Stuff From a Week Where We Felt Stuck in Place

Supreme Court decisions, Roger Stone's commutation, and more.

It’s not an understatement to say that the pandemic has created a few different kinds of time warps. We’ve all joked that April lasted six months, or two years, or more. Same with May. The coming return of professional sports creates its own distortion: regular season NBA games in July? Playoffs in September? Major League opening day on July 23? It’s weird. (I’ll be honest. I’m not going to complain.)

It happens on a smaller scale, too. I’ll get a Facebook memory about an end-of-season baseball tournament or swim meet, and it feels off because this year baseball season started in late May, and, well, no one is sure when we’ll have swim meets again. 

And now, with cases spiking around the country, it almost feels like time is at once on hold and rushing forward. When schools first closed back in March, it was supposed to be for a few weeks. Now a new school year looms and very few people have any idea whether their kids will be in classrooms in the fall. Office workers are looking at an indefinite future of Zoom calls and apologizing to colleagues and clients for the dog barking in the background. (Sorry, Dispatch colleagues!)

We can’t move forward until things get better⁠—governors in the South and the Sun Belt who are experiencing the worst outbreaks are walking back or pausing their reopening measures. The Ivy League schools canceled fall sports. I would crack a joke about them not being missed, but just days later the Big Ten said it would cancel all non-conference competition to free up schedules for possible delay, so it appears they may be a canary in the coal mine. 

And yet time fall will arrive, even if college football doesn’t (and without college football fall will be a pale simulacrum of its normal self, but I digress). Back-to-school time will come, even if the school buses don’t. Holidays will come, even if we can’t celebrate with family and friends.

What that means to me is a continuing sense of loss, one that we can’t easily dismiss. I use Tweetdeck to manage the occupational hazard that is Twitter, and I have a whole list for COVID coverage. I follow doctors and public health officials and politicians and journalists who are writing about it. And recently an author of one account I follow, a former health care official, launched into a long thread about adjusting to our “new normal.” He went on about how we might lose a football season, or basketball season, or suffer through a suboptimal school year but—hey—it’ll eventually be OK. And I was immensely bothered by the glibness with which he dismissed very real losses and setbacks. There are economic costs, mental health costs, physical health costs. Too many complex situations are being reduced to binaries, when they aren’t.

I know there are no easy solutions or quick answers. And there are downsides to being a permanently negative Nellie. But we cannot have real conversations about how to survive the journey to the “other side” of this pandemic without acknowledging the costs and losses of what it will take to get there. For now, though, we are stuck in place.

On that cheery note, on to the week that was.

The GOP’s Conspiracy Theorist Problem

Lauren Boebert owns a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, called Shooters. It's aptly named: she encourages her employees to open-carry on their shifts. She’s also sympathetic to the QAnon conspiracy theory that there is a “satanic, pedophile, child sex trafficking deep state” that runs Washington, D.C., and can be conquered only by Donald Trump. And, by the way, she’s also running for Congress in a solidly red district. Audrey Fahlberg profiles Boebert and other candidates who indulge in fringe movements to illustrate a growing problem within the GOP.

The Shot Heard Round—and Round and Round—the World

It didn’t take long for the protesters and rioters who tore down Confederate statues while protesting the death of George Floyd to turn their attention to the Founders. Jonah has a powerful retort to those who suggest we should condemn Washington, Jefferson and others because they were imperfect men and because our Constitution didn’t abolish slavery at the outset: “As I keep saying, the choice the Founders faced at the Constitutional Convention wasn’t between a Constitution without slavery or one with it, but a choice between a workable Constitution or no Constitution at all.” Instead, in his midweek (members-only) G-File, Jonah opts for gratitude for how the Founders “set up a constitutional order designed to protect against the worst aspects of human nature.”

The Supreme Court Ruling That Beat Back the Administrative State

Every year, the end of the Supreme Court term brings with it the most anticipated rulings in the biggest cases, and this year was no exception: abortion, religious liberty, and Donald Trump’s financial records were all on the docket. But one decision that garnered less attention amid the hubbub may prove to be long-lasting and significant. Ronald L. Rubin writes that the decision has the potential to undo decades of growth in the administrative state⁠—the many agencies that are largely independent but under the purview of the executive branch. In other Supreme Court coverage, Andy Smarick calls the decision in Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue “a significant win for advocates of school choice and, more broadly, for those who believe faith-based institutions should be able to more fully engage in government programs.” 

Now for the best of the rest:

  • Donald Trump commuted Roger Stone’s 40-month sentence for lying under oath, obstruction, and witness tampering Friday night. Charlotte Lawson wrote an important piece chronicling the crimes that got Stone convicted in the first place.

  • Even if you don’t count yourself among the Very Online crowd, you might have heard about “the Letter.” Harper’s published a brief (and anodyne) open letter in defense of free speech and warning against illiberal “cancel culture. Backlash, as you might expect, was swift and fierce. David has thoughts in his Thursday (members-only) French Press.

  • President Trump has inspired vocal opposition from conservative circles since even before he was elected, and those voices are growing only louder. But Christian Schneider notes that some groups have turned their attention to defeating Senate Republicans, and he has a warning. “Once in place, a Biden presidency and a Democratic-led House and Senate could unleash a torrent of progressive policies on America.” 

  • Testing, testing, testing. Our initial response to the coronavirus pandemic was hampered by our inability to manufacture and distribute enough tests. Now that we have solved that problem, Andrew looks at current problems with our testing regime: the current spike in cases is straining our capacity, and some hotspots are back to having testing shorages.

  • It was a busy week on the pods: David and Sarah cranked out three episodes of Advisory Opinions. We recommend all of them, but you might have missed the latest, where they talk about the SCOTUS decisions on Oklahoma and Trump’s financial records. On the Dispatch Podcast, you won’t want to miss the conversation about the Harper’s letter. Jonah had been waiting a long time to have linguist John McWhorter on The Remnant. You shouldn’t wait to listen.

Photograph by Zach D Roberts/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Our Best Stuff for You to Read on Independence Day

Thoughts on freedom and unity.

Many years, it’s easy to take the Fourth of July for granted. It’s a day to have cookouts with family and friends, and hope that your neighbor doesn’t lose a finger setting off fireworks in the cul-de-sac. 

When I was a child, we’d often celebrate with my maternal grandparents, because they lived within walking distance of the park where my hometown had its fireworks display. My grandfather would man the grill, cocktail in hand. I don’t remember what the adults talked about during those lazy afternoons, but I do know that one topic almost never came up: his service in World War II. He was a belly gunner in a B-24 bomber (the Fascinatin’ Witch, pictured below), and on his last mission he was shot in the leg and could have died. He didn’t hide his scars—his thigh was pretty mangled—but neither did he tell his war stories until later in his life.

Much has been made of the stoic nature of the men like my grandfather who went off to fight the Germans and the Japanese. Freedom was under siege, and they went off to do their part. But that sense of duty was not limited to soldiers overseas. The war effort required huge upheavals on the home front, as companies shifted production toward the war effort and women entered the workforce. Americans accepted rationing and planted gardens.

In the best of times, living in a free society affords its citizens countless opportunities, to be who you want to be and do what you want to do. But when there are threats to that freedom, it’s incumbent upon us to come together with a sense of unity. 

The symbolism of our Independence Day celebrations being curtailed should not be lost on anyone. The coronavirus isn’t “an enemy” per se, and it alone is not a threat to our democracy. But it’s unquestionable that all of us feel considerably less free than we did last winter. What we need now is unity, and instead we fight about wearing masks, and whether it’s protests or partiers who are to blame for recent outbreaks, and which people get how much blame for various decisions that have contributed to the deaths of 130,000 Americans. 

It’s depressing, but I want to end on a lighter note. There is  a movie that feels particularly apt for this time. It’s corny, and hokey, and even mentioning it here ends whatever chance I have of taking up a second career as a movie critic, but it also has Will Smith decking an alien and ranting while he drags its unconscious body through the desert. Oh yeah, I’m talking about Independence Day.

When the rapacious aliens take out the world’s major cities and communications are down everywhere, somehow militaries around the world coordinate on a plan to fight back. And so we get war-hero fighter pilot President Bill Pullman delivering this speech to rally his ragtag band of quasi-amateur pilots. Now, if you can buy in enough to believe that the U.S. government is going to turn over a fighter jet to a drunk Randy Quaid, you’ll be inspired.

I can’t really top that, so let’s get on with the good stuff.

Tim Scott Didn’t Ask For This

When Senate Republican leadership tapped Tim Scott to lead the way on the GOP’s police reform legislation, it seemed like an obvious fit. Police reform has always been a priority for Scott, and he’s one of three African Americans in the Senate (and the only Republican). But in an insightful profile, Declan Garvey reveals that for the early part of his congressional career, Scott avoided being the go-to for the “conservative black perspective” in Congress. That changed in 2015, when police shot and killed Walter Scott, an unarmed black man from Tim Scott’s hometown, after a routine traffic stop. And then a few months later, Dylan Roof killed eight people at a Charleston church. Scott’s Christian faith—at one point he thought about going to seminary—called him to raise his voice on this issue. As his friend Trey Gowdy explains, “He believes that he has been given an opportunity, and that he should seize that opportunity, even if it is not necessarily what he most wants to talk about.”

The Supreme Court Is Sowing Abortion Chaos

If you weren’t confused by the Supreme Court’s action on abortion this week, in a members-only French Press, David French explains why you should have been. He walks through John Roberts’s siding with the progressive judges to strike down a Louisiana abortion law. David explains that Roberts didn’t entirely agree with the liberals and wrote his own concurrence. And then he dives into the two new abortion cases that the court will hear next term. “The law is confused and contentious. The future is uncertain. I’m tempted to do my best Donald Trump impersonation and say that I, David A. French, call for a total and complete shutdown of Supreme Court abortion jurisprudence until the justices can figure out what is going on, but I have the distinct feeling that the court is going to place its own pause button on cert grants, at least until the reaffirmed Casey standard works back through the lower courts.”

Cancel Woodrow Wilson

As we watch protesters tear down statues of Confederate generals, Christopher Columbus and—bizarrely—U.S. Grant and abolitionists, we’re also seeing universities reckon with renaming buildings. And when it comes to canceling Woodrow Wilson, Jonah is here for it. He writes about how much he learned about Wilson while writing Liberal Fascim, none of it flattering to the former president. We’ll let him explain: “Wilson was a reactionary on race and the Confederate cause in his own time. The first Southerner to take the White House since before the Civil War—a war in which he thought the good guys lost. When he came to Washington, one of his first priorities was to undo the racial progress made by the Republicans: He restored segregation in the federal government.”

You’re Missing Out if You’re Not Watching Our Dispatch Live Events

Back when we launched The Dispatch, we had planned to offer members not only great journalism and podcasts, but also live events. Smaller gatherings like live podcast tapings and meet-and-greets with staff, and larger events like weekend conferences. Well, then COVID happened. It gave us pause, but slowed us only temporarily. Like everyone else, we discovered Zoom. On Thursday, Sarah—with a special (and brief) appearance from her new son—led a conversation with Steve, Jonah, and David where they answered reader questions. They shared their lists of fundamental conservative readings, and also discussed their favorite writers and thinkers on the left. Live events are available to members only, and normally we send the video to those who couldn’t make it. But, hey, it’s a holiday. The video of Thursday’s event available to all. Enjoy!

And now for the best of the rest.

  • Charlotte Lawson talked to several experts about China’s sweeping new national security law that strips Hong Kong of some of the autonomy it has enjoyed since the British handed control back to the Chinese in 1997. She points out that the law is less designed for mass arrests than it is to silence Hong Kongers. 

  • Have you seen the videos going around Facebook wherein someone uses a fancy device to measure oxygen levels while wearing a mask? You’ll be shocked—shocked we tell you—to learn that the devices are not designed for that purpose. Masks are safe, folks. Alec has all the details in this Dispatch Fact Check.

  • The videos of two St. Louis homeowners brandishing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters who had entered a private street might have been ugly, but was their behavior illegal? Andrew talks to Stephen Gutowski of the Washington Free Beacon—one of the country’s best reporters on firearms issues.

  • On the pods: Atlantic contributor Yascha Mounk has a new editorial project, Persuasion, and he came on The Dispatch Podcast with David and Sarah to talk about it. After you get through that, you won’t want to miss Jonah’s conversation with Kevin Williamson on The Remnant. And back to David and Sarah, who had a very busy week on Advisory Opinions. On Monday, they tackled the court’s big decision striking down a Louisiana abortion law, and on Wednesday they did a deep dive on Espinoza, in which the court handed down a victory for religious liberty.

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