Our Best Stuff From Another Crazy Week

Hillbilly Elegy, Trump's policy grades, ACB's labor jurisprudence, and Chinese atrocities in Tibet.

We’ve run a few—maybe more than a few—articles here at The Dispatch about schooling in the age of COVID. Back in March, we’d hoped that it wouldn’t be necessary to cancel the rest of the school year. (We all know how that turned out.) But we’ve relied on experts to explain the risks of opening schools, and of keeping them closed. We had a teacher explain how it can be especially difficult for students with special needs to adapt to virtual learning. We’ve highlighted how teachers’ unions were fighting hard to keep schools closed, even at the expense of underprivileged students who are most at risk.

I’ll admit that when our district offered a choice between entirely in-person learning or entirely online learning (no hybrid model, no “start virtually and we’ll see how it goes” policy), we didn’t hesitate to sign up for in-person learning. We decided that was best for our kids. 

I got a little nervous before we started—I saw the stories of high school students taking photos of crowded hallways full of maskless students. I worried that kids might be more susceptible and contagious than we thought, and we could be making a huge mistake. And I worried that  we’d find ourselves stuck with intermittent online schooling featuring bad Zoom calls and confused students and frustrated teachers. 

I got really nervous when, while taking the kids to a waterpark on what was supposed to be the last Friday of summer vacation, we got a text from the district saying school would be delayed for one more week. (I may or may not have purchased a cocktail that came in a plastic bucket. OK, I did. In my defense, it was a small bucket, and there was a lot of ice.)

I mention all this because our kids just finished their first quarter, and I thought I’d offer an update. While I’m superstitious and knocking on every wooden surface within reach, it exceeded my expectations. We live in a suburb that, for lack of a better way to put it, is home to more than a few COVID skeptics. Mask-wearing was uneven before the statewide mandate. My Facebook feed is full of people claiming their masks gave them asthma, that the pandemic isn’t serious, that 200,000+ deaths out of 8 million U.S. coronavirus cases just means you have very little risk.

We’ve either been good, or we’ve been lucky. We have about 4,000 kids in our district, and 80 percent or so chose in-person learning. Out of those 3,200-ish students, there have been fewer than 10 COVID cases since late August. There have been fewer cases with teachers or staff, and if you track the weekly dashboard the district provides, the teachers don’t seem to be getting it from the students (the handful of teachers who are out come from schools that had zero cases in the weeks preceding). 

The accommodations have been sensible. Our high school and junior high have block scheduling—instead of six or seven classes a day, the kids have three or four. The classes are twice as long, and meet every other day. This reduces hallway traffic, as well as the number of kids exposed to one another. Lunch is socially distanced. Each kid has a plexiglass shield on their desk. Sports have continued but big gatherings like homecoming were canceled. 

We live in a time where “normalcy” is something of a privilege. We all crave it, but none of us can feel normal all the time, or even most of the time. And we’re entering a very dangerous period as the weather cools, we’re forced indoors, and the things that kept us sane—outdoor dining, outdoor sports—will be less available to us.

It’s very possible that I could come to you in nine weeks, at the end of the next quarter, and share an entirely different tale. But in a year that would be bizarre even without a pandemic, and in which each week’s news cycle seems to out-crazy the previous week in terms of both quantity and quality, I’ll take two months of normalcy and be grateful. So I’ll let our staff and contributors explain the good, bad, and ugly of the past week.

Here you go:

A Conversation With Ron Howard and J.D. Vance

David got a chance to watch the upcoming Netflix adaptation of J.D. Vance’s memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, and then afterward he had the opportunity to interview both Vance and director Ron Howard. The conversation was full of interesting revelations, like Vance’s account of watching the movie with his mother, who was portrayed by Amy Adams. “Amy spent a lot of time with my mom, who was very apprehensive about how she would be portrayed. Ultimately, she got comfortable with it—in part—because of Amy’s approach which gives [the audience] the woman, the story. It wasn’t that mom was a bad person. She was a person who went astray in important ways and, and kind of really struggled to find her way back to the straight and narrow.”

Grading Trump’s Economic Policies

It’s report card time for Donald Trump, and Scott Lincicome is not an easy grader. In Capitolism (🔓),he gives the president a C  on both fiscal policy and regulation, and even a B on jobs. But entitlements? D+. (“In Trump’s defense, he campaigned on not cutting Social Security or Medicare, so … promises kept, I guess. Congrats.”) Trade? D-. (“President Deals hasn’t actually been much of a dealmaker at all.”)  And immigration? F. (“There are the inhumane detention policies; the travel ban; the Deportation Force; the ‘emergencyblockades due to COVID-19 …”) Overall, Lincicome concludes: “These grades would prevent President Trump from graduating from Lincicome University (which has more rigorous standards than the SEC), but certainly require additional context.” Click through to see what he means.

No, Amy Coney Barrett Is Not Anti-Worker

President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee faced a considerable amount of scrutiny in the runup to her confirmation hearing this week: her religion, her brief tenure as a judge, even her choice, with her husband, to adopt two children from Haiti. One critique that was actually about her potential rulings came from Sens. Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Edward and trickled into the progressive media: the claim that she’s anti-worker. Walter Olson reviewed her record, and has some disappointing news for her critics: There’s not much there there. “In discrimination claims, as commenters have pointed out, Barrett tends to take a fact-intensive approach, and has repeatedly upheld the claims of bias plaintiffs.” And when Barrett has ruled against employees who were contesting firings, there was usually a good reason.

First Xinjiang, Now Tibet

The world has become well aware of the plight of the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province. The Chinese government has detained as many as 1 million Uighurs in what it refers to as “re-education camps,” claiming they are a national security threat. And now the CCP is deploying the same tactics against another ethnic minority, this time in Tibet. The excuse might be different—to eliminate poverty—but the tactics are the same. Charlotte Lawson writes: “The transformation of pastoralists and farmers into ‘rural surplus laborers’ serves the CCP’s end goal of eradicating poverty by providing them with a measurable income, even if it’s at a detriment to their overall quality of life. Many Tibetans who undergo training go on to enter predetermined menial labor occupations such as manufacturing, mining, construction, and driving.”

Now for the best of the rest: 

  • In the G-File, Jonah highlights a flaw in the Democrats’ use of sympathetic stories in the Barrett hearings about people who have faced difficulties with our healthcare system. They're making an argument for empathy, when the role of a justice is to interpret the law. “If the law is an ass, you go through the process of de-assifying it,” he writes. “You don’t read things into the law that aren’t there. Particularly if the ‘you’ in question is a judge.”  

  • Speaking of health care policy, James P. Sutton looks at President Trump’s promises on preserving protections for those with pre-existing conditions in any new health care plan. He looks at the administration’s actions, and finds some contradictions.

  • We live in a time in which, alas, the president sometimes tweets or amplifies some crazy things. Sometimes, it’s harmless. Other times, like this week, he retweets baseless conspiracy theories. In this case, it was a claim that the Obama administration staged the raid on Osama bin Laden for political purposes and then had SEAL Team Six assassinated. Easily debunked as it is (um, the SEALs are still alive), it’s still dangerous. Tom Joscelyn explains in Vital Interests (🔓).

  • We didn’t have a debate this week, but we did have Sarah’s interview with former debate moderator Ann Compton in The Sweep (🔓). Compton first moderated a debate in 1988 and the stories she tells show how debates used to be very different. For example, she had only 48 hours’ notice the first time. Read all of the insightful—and many delightful—anecdotes.

On the pods: I’m biased because he’s a friend and former colleague, but you should definitely catch Will Saletan’s appearance on The Remnant. If you’re confused by that New York Post story about Hunter Biden and whether it has merit, Sarah and David discuss it on Advisory Opinions. And on The Dispatch Podcast, the gang discusses the Barrett hearings, court packing, and the Senate.

Photograph by Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images.

Our Best Stuff From the Week We Turned One

Pro-life partisanship, income stagnation myths, and the VP debate.

I’ll admit, I’m not great with anniversaries. One year we were visiting friends in Atlanta on the tail end of our summer vacation. As we were walking through downtown doing the tourist thing, they randomly asked when our wedding anniversary was. My husband remembered a split second before me and started laughing as I sputtered, “Um … it’s today.”

But I am confident that years from now, I will look back on this past week as an important milestone. The Dispatch turned one, and—I’m not going to lie—we’re pretty excited about how far we’ve come. In the “manifesto” we sent out on October 8, 2019, we wrote: “Right now, we are a small and merry band, boarding a pirate skiff with limited provisions amid choppy waters crammed with well-equipped battleships, barreling through the smoking wrecks of larger vessels that came before us.”

The past couple of decades have wreaked havoc on the media business. The internet changed things in ways no one could have foreseen when we were accessing it via a dial-up modem and using AOL discs as drink coasters. Some changes were good. It was remarkably equalizing—remember the blogosphere?—in that it lowered the “cost of entry.” Register a domain, find yourself a publishing tool, and you’re on your way. Best of all, the ink is free and you never run out of space. But print publications early on disregarded the value of online advertising and all but gave it away. And they gave away their online content, setting up an expectation that, if it’s on the internet, it should be free. There were many other miscalculations along the way, but this is supposed to be a celebratory musing.

As much as I’m in denial about how close I am to AARP membership … I’ve been around long enough to have seen all the ways online publications responded to the various pressures: Home pages that refreshed automatically to increase page views. Articles that were “paginated”—forcing readers to click three or four times to read an article that went on longer than 1,000 words (news flash: No one got to the end). Emphasis on “volume” publishing: publishing 30 or 40 or 60 pieces a day, just throwing everything at the wall to see what might stick. Along the way, editors had to learn to deal with search engines and then social media. 

If you’re a regular reader, you’ve already heard our spiel. We’re doing something different, zagging while everyone zigs, yadda yadda. You don’t need to hear it again. But you should know that we still very much feel like the merry band of pirates on our light and swift skiff. Okay, sometimes we’re very tired pirates. We anticipated that there would be an impeachment. We knew it would be a fraught election year. But we didn’t include any tarot card readers on the crew, so we didn’t predict a pandemic. Or the most significant protests on race and civil rights in decades. Or a Supreme Court nomination fight a month before the election. 

But we’ve risen to the challenge. To cover the pandemic, we’ve talked to epidemiologists and published pieces by physicians. We’ve consulted economists about lockdowns and education experts on opening schools. We’ve had law professors explain the charges against the police in George Floyd’s death. We’ve relied on our own constitutional lawyer, David French, to discuss the problems with policing in America and other topics related to criminal justice and civil rights. 

One of the most rewarding aspects of this crazy journey is the community we’ve built. It’s cliché to say we couldn’t have done it without you, our readers. But it’s true. And it’s made the hard work worthwhile. We are proud and grateful that the comments that appear at the bottom of our articles and newsletters feature such a high level of discourse. We appreciate when you share your own personal stories, and when you listen to ours. We get pretty jazzed when we see how many people join our Dispatch Live virtual events, even if you’re just tuning in for a photo bomb by Jonah’s dogs or to marvel at Steve’s bottomless glass of Spanish wine. 

As we look to the year ahead, we’re going to keep our pirate mentality. We anticipate adding some new members to the crew, and we might need to make the skiff a little bigger. But we’ll remain nimble and look forward to the journey. Thanks for taking it with us. 

Now, here’s some good stuff you might have missed:

The Perils of Pro-Life Partisanship

We hear so often from Trump supporters that they tolerate his scandals, his tweets, and his generally bombastic ways, “because he fights.” This is a sentiment popular among the pro-life community. In his Thursday French Press (🔐), David exposes the flaws in this line of thought, and points out the difference between being anti-abortion and pro-life. It’s impossible, he says, to view Donald Trump as “pro-life” given his dismissive attitude toward the pandemic. And when pro-lifers hold him up as a champion, they are doing damage to their cause: “[H]ow does the rest of America experience this pro-life Christian’s political activism? The partisan pro-life Christian thinks they’re saying, ‘Life, life, life.’ The world hears ‘Trump, Trump, Trump,” he writes.

The Annoying Persistence of the Income Stagnation Myth

We hear it all the time: Income inequality is rampant. Wages are stagnating. The middle class is shrinking. The last one of those might be true, but not for the reasons you think. In this week’s Capitolism (🔐), Scott Lincicome explains that things aren’t as bad as we’ve been told. He highlights the statistical measures that aren’t quite right, like looking at trends among groups rather than what’s happening to individuals within those groups, or emphasizing “household” income when the marriage rate has gone down. As for the middle class? Yeah, it’s shrinking. But some of those people are “disappearing” into higher income brackets.

Pence Was Right. Now Is Not the Time to Raise Taxes.

Let’s face it. The thing we’ll remember most about the vice presidential debate was the fly that sat on Mike Pence’s head for two minutes. But Abby McCloskey was paying attention, particularly to Kamala Harris’ claim that Joe Biden’s tax plan would raise taxes only on the wealthy. McCloskey points out that the campaign’s promise to repeal the Trump tax cuts would raise taxes on most Americans, and Biden’s plan would reduce household incomes indirectly. And now is not the time. But she also has some words for the Trump administration, noting that many people have been left behind in the economic recovery. “Then and now, Republicans must look beyond raw economic growth to build an economy that is inclusive, dynamic, and sustainable.”

And here’s the best of the rest:

  • The economic impact of the lockdowns has not been felt equally. New statistics show that a disproportionate number of women are leaving the workforce. Dan Lips writes about how it’s important to get schools back open, and offers other remedies.

  • Jonah has a warning about October. He predicts it’s going to look a lot like that famous haunted bedroom scene from Poltergeist. “An unplugged lamp flies through the air, docks with a lampshade, and turns on (which would be kinda porny on a planet inhabited by sentient table lamps). A toy Hulk is riding a flying toy horse.” It makes sense if you read the whole thing.

  • Speaking of anniversaries … it’s been 19 years since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. In Vital Interests (🔐), Tom Joscelyn looks back at the mistakes that hampered Operation Enduring Freedom.

  • When this summer’s protests led to calls to “defund the police,” many people on the right said, “Whoa, that’s a little extreme. How about some common sense criminal justice reforms?” Well, as it so happens, California just passed some. Brad Polumbo has the details.

  • On the pods: The Supreme Court is back, and Advisory Opinions is on the case, weighing in on the court’s refusal to hear a challenge to the Obergefell decision that legalized gay marriage. On The Remnant, Jonah talks marijuana politics with Jonathan Adler (no Doritos were harmed during the production of this episode). And on the Dispatch Podcast, the gang talks about Biden’s lead in the polls and whether we could be looking at a landslide. 

Our Best Work From a Surreal Week

A really bad debate, and then a COVID outbreak at the White House.

We can make all the jokes we want about 2020—about how weeks feel like months and months like years, about how the writers of this season of America are really overdoing the surprise plot twists, about how we didn’t have murder hornets on our 2020 bingo card. But the events of this week, most notably President Trump’s announcement at about 1 a.m. Friday that he and Melania had tested positive for COVID-19, were no laughing matter. 

We were able to bring you the news early Friday morning because The Morning Dispatch crew was just putting the finishing touches on the newsletter when Trump tweeted. They scrapped the other items they’d been planning to publish and put together a thorough accounting of the news as we knew it at that point. But, as one would expect, the news evolved quickly. By late afternoon, Trump had taken Marine One to Walter Reed Hospital, where he’s expected to stay for a few days. 

On Friday morning, Steve and Sarah interviewed Dr. Jonathan Reiner on The Dispatch Podcast. He’s a cardiologist, professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, former physician to Vice President Dick Cheney, and a consultant to the White House Medical Unit during the Bush, Obama, and Trump years. 

We have a piece on the site today by Audrey that features analysis from Reiner’s interview and also provides updates on what we’ve learned since the interview took place, namely that several people who attended Donald Trump’s announcement of Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee have tested positive. Reiner explains why this event in particular was dangerous.

How did we get to this point? “It’s a failure of common sense,” Reiner said. He said that the White House could have prevented this situation by simply limiting the president’s face-to-face interactions with other staffers, conducting meetings via secure video link, and instituting a universal mask-wearing mandate for all White House staffers at all times and without exceptions.

Trump has downplayed the risk of the coronavirus for months now, continuously claiming the virus will “disappear” and often carrying out his duties in close proximity to other White House staffers without wearing a mask. “For those of us who know how viruses are spread—and it’s not that complicated—it was horrifying to see all these people in close proximity to the president,” Reiner said. “I thought it was really malpractice for the White House to allow so many people so close to the president.” 

Besides Tillis and Lee, GOP officials in Trump’s orbit who have tested positive for the virus include Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, campaign manager Bill Stepien, and former counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway. Vice President Mike Pence tested negative on Friday, as did speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who shared a stage with Trump during the first presidential debate on Tuesday, also tested negative. (The New York Times is keeping an updated list here.)

In the time since we published that story, new developments have raised questions about the timeline of Trump’s diagnosis. His physician, Dr. Sean Conley, gave a press conference midday Saturday in which he made reference to being “72 hours into the diagnosis.” That would mean, of course, that Trump could have tested positive as early as Wednesday. On Thursday, Trump attended a fundraiser with about 100 people at his golf course in Bedminster, N.J. The physician released a clarification an hour after the press briefing, indicating that he’d misspoken about the timeline.

Trump’s diagnosis and the ensuing realization of how many people in his orbit have contracted the disease, plus the late-breaking revelations that he could have knowingly exposed others, has rendered most of the week’s other stories forgettable, if not forgotten. And that is saying something considering the bizarre spectacle that was Tuesday’s debate.

Keep reading for our coverage of those two big stories, and a few other things that were important this week.

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More on the White House COVID Outbreak

For the second edition of The Sweep this week, Sarah lined up an interview with election lawyer Chris Gober to talk about the various lawsuits we might see pertaining to mail-in ballots, Election Day delays, and more. Fortunately, Gober was able to speak to the ways that Trump’s illness might affect the election. He addresses the possibility that Trump could be incapacitated, that Pence would be the acting president during the election, and that lawsuits could well result. “And to make matters even more complex, ultimately, in a dispute—which all of this would be—Congress may ultimately determine who becomes president. Nancy Pelosi will most likely be speaker of the House and that would just add more drama to the chaos.” In the G-File, Jonah cautions Trump’s critics against engaging in schadenfreude, and he cautions Trump supporters against pointing to anonymous trolls as proof that all liberals are saying awful things about Trump. He sees it as a sign of what he calls “the troll addiction problem”: “Each side has an incentive structure to pick the worst examples of the other side and say, ‘See, this is what they’re all like!’”

So, About That Debate

Partisans can, and have, fought about which candidate turned in a worse performance on Tuesday night. But if there is anything that most Americans can agree on, the debate itself was … not one of America’s finer moments. Trump interrupted Joe Biden repeatedly, Biden refused to answer questions on divisive issues like court packing, and moderator Chris Wallace had to scold both candidates, at one point saying, “Gentleman! I hate to raise my voice but why shouldn’t I be different to the two of you?” In a midweek French Press (🔓), David worries that Trump’s bullying nature has spread to his supporters. “The Trump style is seductive—especially for some GOP men—on two main grounds. First, it’s simply easier than substantive toughness. It doesn’t require discipline. It doesn’t require knowledge. And it actively shuns the manners and decency that are often indispensable to the project of persuasion. Combine a dose of animosity with a dash of shamelessness, and you’re ready to fight,” he writes. On The Dispatch Podcast, the gang analyzed Trump’s strategy of trying to force Biden into a “senior moment” and debate which low point was the lowest. The Morning Dispatch (🔓) did its own postgame analysis, touching on Trump’s refusal to denounce the Proud Boys, a vigilante militia. 

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Here’s some stuff you might have missed:

  • Danielle Pletka and Brett D. Schafer check in with the U.N. Human Rights Council and remind us that it's the same laughingstock it’s always been.

  • Declan asked readers who voted for Evan McMullin or Gary Johnson in 2016 to avoid voting for Clinton or Trump what they intended to do this time around. He found a whole lotta people once again frustrated by their options. 

  • Scott Lincicome might be better known as “that tariffs guy,” and in this week’s Capitolism, he does a deep dive about Trump’s tariffs and why they not only haven’t worked, but in some cases backfired.

  • Maine will be the first state to use ranked-choice voting in a presidential election. ISI fellowJames Sutton explains how that will work, and the pros and cons of asking voters to rank candidates rather than choose one.

Photograph by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 1933-2020

Remembering the life and legacy of the second woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court.

The workweek was just about done last night when my phone started pinging with the news that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away. Even though Ginsburg was 87 and had battled cancer many times … shocking doesn’t begin to describe it. RBG’s previous recoveries had given her an air of invincibility, for one. And then there are the political implications.

In fact, my first reaction to the news was, well, unprintable, because the vacancy on the Supreme Court will add tumult to an already chaotic election. But Ginsburg deserves to be remembered for her accomplishments, for her long service to the court, and for the way she fought for other women to have the same opportunities she did. 

My friend and former colleague Dahlia Lithwick has a lovely tribute, focusing on that last point. “I never heard her give a public speech in which she didn’t thank, by name, the allies, champions, fighters, of whom she inevitably saw herself as a beneficiary; she cast herself as someone lucky enough to be in a long line of champions and fighters, and also as someone set and determined to pay it forward.”

At the Washington Post, former clerk Edith Roberts shared some personal memories, including about how she met her husband while clerking for Ginsburg, and how supportive RBG was of those who worked for her. “This slow talker, ruthless editor and die-hard romantic wanted to make sure that every woman could find her best place, whether in a military-academy classroom, on the floor of a factory or behind the wheel of a minivan.”

Speaking of minivans … well, they didn’t exist when Ginsburg was raising her kids. But over at The Atlantic, Jeffrey Rosen shares an interview he had with her that wasn’t included in his book, Conversations with RBG. Given the many tributes to her career that have already been published, it’s nice that Rosen chose some passages in which she discussed her relationship with her parents and what it was like to be a law student with an infant and later a working mother in the 1950s. 

“Our nanny came in at 8 o’clock and left at 4 o’clock. I used the time in between classes to study, to read the next day’s assignment, but 4 o’clock was Jane’s time. We went to the park, played games, sang silly songs. When she went to sleep, I went back to the books. I had to make the most of the time I had,” Ginsburg said. 

And then there was her much-discussed friendship with the late Antonin Scalia,  which serves as an important reminder that we shouldn’t let political beliefs define us to the point that we can’t see past our differences. Scalia’s son Christopher shares some favorite anecdotes in this Twitter thread.

It is, of course, a strange coincidence that Scalia’s death shaped the 2016 election and now RBG’s death will have its own, yet-to-be-seen effect on this year’s race. There will be time to weigh those implications in the coming weeks. While the debate over the propriety of President Trump nominating a replacement this close to the election started almost immediately, it’s likely that much of the early reaction we are seeing is wrong, or that things could change. 

We’ll have full coverage of the news and the coming battles in our newsletters and on the podcasts. And Dispatch members can join us Wednesday evening for a special Dispatch Live, with our two seasoned legal experts, David French and Sarah Isgur. Sarah will be interviewing David about his terrific new book, officially out on Tuesday, and inevitably discussing RBG, the vacancy, the election and consequential debates in front of us.

For now let’s take a day to remember how, in the words of Mitt Romney, Ginsburg’s “grit, character and sharp wit made her an iconic and inspirational jurist beloved by people young and old.” 

One more thing …

I had written much of this newsletter before the Ginsburg news broke, and now that I’m finishing it up on a gorgeous September afternoon, having spent the morning with ESPN’s Gameday on in the background, I’ve still got my original topic on the brain. It was a big week here in the Ohio bureau. After a considerable amount of frustration, uncertainty, and conflicting reports, the Big Ten (or as real fans call it, the B1G) decided to play football this season. This Buckeyes fan could not be more … cautiously optimistic. 

Yes, a lot of it has to do with the lingering, and stinging, memories of Ohio State’s playoff loss to Clemson last December. I wanted Justin Fields, Shaun Wade, and all the other Buckeyes to have another chance at a national title. But I was pleased to see the way the conference used the time between announcing a postponement and reversing course to formulate a strategy to keep the players as safe as possible in these crazy times. 

Players, coaches, and staff will be tested daily. The conference established a “color code” based on team positivity rates and community positivity rates. Too many positives, and your team ends up in the red zone. On the field, you WANT your team in the red zone—inside the 20 with a good chance to score. On the testing front, the red zone is sit-on-the-sidelines-for-a-week bad. But there’s one more component. Given the potential for complications, myocarditis in particular, players who test positive will have to get a signoff from a cardiologist before returning. Even in “normal times,” there are legitimate concerns about the way universities take advantage of the unpaid labor of young men to fund the athletic department budget. So It’s encouraging that the conference is taking the long-term health of its athletes into consideration on this front.

Is it entirely safe to be playing college sports, football in particular? Of course not. It’s not entirely safe to go to the grocery store, or fly on an airplane, or send our kids to school. It’s easy to say that it’s not a big deal to sacrifice a sports season, or muddle through another semester or year of dysfunctional Zoom learning. But those losses are very real to the people who are affected. Consider how the push to save the B1G season was led in many ways by the players and their parents, the ones with the most to lose. (No, I’m not naive. There were also considerable financial considerations at play, plus sitting out could have affected recruiting in a way that would have lasting consequences.)

The return of sports has yielded mostly positive results. The NBA, WNBA, and NHL have pulled off their bubbles with remarkable success. Major League Baseball struggled early, and some players got in trouble for making some dumb choices, but things have improved. It’s early in the NFL season, but so far social justice kerfuffles have far outstripped any positive test rates

But the professional leagues and college conferences are showing us what is possible. The NBA’s need for reliable testing yielded a real breakthrough on rapid tests that could benefit everyone. They are giving us something to do while we’re trying to stay home more. They are giving us something to be hopeful about, as this pandemic is not going away anytime soon, and the “new normal” is looking more permanent than any of us would like. 

The Progressive Mismanagement of America’s Cities

In some ways it seems like our big cities have long been ruled by Democrats. Can you even imagine a Republican mayor in, say, San Francisco or Seattle? Maybe not. But the fact is that as recently as 1995, there were eight Republican mayors and 11 Democratic mayors (with one independent) in the nation’s 20 largest cities. And in those days, cities were making progress on school choice, community policing and other pragmatic solutions to urban problems. Today, those numbers are three, 16 and one. And that lack of ideological diversity shows in the problems that our biggest cities are facing. Ryan Streeter looks at the problems created by progressive mayors and city councils. “Platitudes against inequality and injustice notwithstanding, today’s left-leaning urban overseers are responsible for the unaffordable housing, poor school outcomes, income segregation, and policing problems that characterize much of urban life today. These problems predate our current crisis, which has merely blown the top off for all to see.” 

American History and the Battle Between 1619 and 1776

This summer’s racial turmoil has brought renewed attention to the New York Times’ 1619 Project, a series of essays and analytical pieces that uses as its starting point the idea that the “real” founding date of the United States dates to when the first slave ship landed on our shores. The project has been celebrated by some but also criticized by historians for author Nikole Hannah-Jones’ assertion that the Revolutionary War was fought to maintain slavery. David makes a robust argument in defense of 1776. While it is essential we learn the lessons of 1619--how hundreds of years of enslavement and subsequent discrimination have made life harder for black Americans--it’s also important to consider the promise of the founding. “[T]he principles of 1776 created their own systems, including legal and cultural institutions that provided consistent critiques for the systems of 1619 and also formal instruments of raw power that broke the back of the legalized repression and discrimination. The Union Army broke the Confederate Army. The judiciary, the Department of Justice, and Congress broke segregation and Jim Crow.”

To Even Debate Immigration, We Must Use the Right Language

We were thrilled this week to publish our first column by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born Dutch human-rights activist and scholar. In her Dispatch debut, Hirsi Ali addresses the immigration debate and argues that it’s hard even to have a debate when we don’t use the right language. Proponents for more open immigration policies use terms like migration, “which lumps together all routes of entry, lawful and unlawful.” Hirsi Ali points out that refugees and undocumented immigrants, many of whom seek asylum but are denied, often face difficulties starting a new life and are denied opportunities. “Too often, businesses—particularly food processing and construction—have been more than willing to employ undocumented workers, often for low wages in substandard conditions,” she writes.   

Here are some other things you shouldn’t miss:

  • Ryan Hooper is a public school teacher in Baltimore, working in a school for students with emotional and behavior issues. He shares his concerns about expecting such students to succeed in a virtual learning environment.

  • Audrey is back on the QAnon beat, this time looking into how it is that people end up falling for conspiracy theories. One reason is that conspiracies  “become a vehicle through which people who feel they have lost a sense of control in their lives can channel their fear and uncertainty of the future into something productive.”

  • In the G-File, Jonah indulges in a little schadenfreude over the announcement by the Department of Education that it will investigate Princeton for claiming falsely in its reporting to the department that it doesn’t discriminate. Why would the DoE suspect Princeton of racism? Only because the university’s president said as much.

  • In the late-week mop-up edition of The Sweep (members-only) Sarah interviews pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson about registered voters vs. likely voters, the pitfalls of trying to get sample sizes right, and more.

  • On the pods: Steve and Sarah had an enlightening discussion with Miles Taylor, the former chief of staff for the Department of Homeland Security in the Trump administration, on The Dispatch Podcast. On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah discuss Bill Barr’s speech to a gathering sponsored by Hillsdale College, where he “defended political judgment in bringing prosecutions and railed against federal prosecutors’ propensity to punish as much misconduct as possible.” And if all the news of the last 24 hours has you stressed, go back and listen to Jonah’s chat with Ron Bailey and Marian Tupy for some good news on the human condition on The Remnant.

Photograph by Shannon Finney/Getty Images.

Our Best Stuff, and a Great Deal for You

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Regular readers know by now that this missive comes to you each week from Ohio, which is where I grew up and where I returned with my husband to raise our family 15 years ago. Maybe you’ve wondered how that came to be, or what it’s like to work in political journalism without living in or near the Beltway. (Quick answer on the latter: sanity saving!)

It’s a long story, but I’ll spare you the boring stuff about how I went to college with dreams of becoming a features writer at Sports Illustrated. We’ll skip ahead to the early 2000s. We were living in the Seattle area, but I was given a chance to start doing my job from home. And it didn’t matter where home was. We called a real-estate agent, told my parents we wanted to crash with them for a few months, and started packing.

There were many reasons we’d been wanting to move to Ohio … someday. We had it good in Seattle: The mountains were beautiful, and we had many options for culture and recreation. And the breweries! So much good beer. But it was crowded and expensive even then, and we were far from most of our family, which was tough once we had a baby. And it never quite felt like home. I missed the Midwest. And there was one simple thing I was very much looking forward to. I just wanted to go to a dinner party or a cookout that did not devolve into some heated political exchange.

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Obviously, Seattle was a pretty liberal place and we were kind of misfits as moderate conservatives. That didn’t bother me. Heck, I was working for a liberal publication. It was just the constant politicization of … Every. Little. Thing. I don’t want to stereotype Midwesterners or imply they aren’t politically engaged or aware. It’s just that Ohio is a somewhat purple state, or used to be, and people knew they were in mixed company in social settings or realized that what they had in common with their friends was more important than what divided them. If we were going to fight, it would be about who was worse, the Bengals or the Browns. 

All these years later, that has mostly held up. At least “in real life.” Obviously social media has changed things. As much I like using Facebook to keep in touch with old friends from high school and college, I’ve learned stuff about some people that I wish I never knew. And the fights are stupid. People get outraged at the drop of a hat, and our national polarization has filtered down into local issues. 

All that has done has strengthened my belief that politics should be compartmentalized. It doesn’t need to dominate every conversation and people don’t need to wear their ideologies on their sleeves (or in their social media profile images). 

At this point, you might be wondering if I have one. A point, that is. I do! Thanks for bearing with me. All of what I mentioned above gets at what I love about what we’re trying to do at The Dispatch. For starters, we want to turn down the heat on all the outrage. We’re bringing you smart, well-reasoned, and level-headed arguments on the issues of the day. We don’t chase after every Twitter spat or write about every time President Trump calls into Fox & Friends. We want you to turn to us when you want to know the real deal on the latest COVID data, or what to think of the Israel-UAE announcement, or how to interpret the campaign strategies of Trump and Biden. 

And, we don’t want to take up your whole day. For the most part, we publish all of our articles for the day by 8 a.m. You can pop by our home page with your morning coffee, read what you want, and know that you’re not missing anything for the rest of the day. Anything else you want to read will come to your inbox in the form of a newsletter, and it’s there whenever it’s convenient for you to read. Go ahead, have lunch with a friend. Talk with the other parents at your kid’s soccer practice. Enjoy socially distanced driveway drinks with your neighbors. We’ll still be here. 

And now is a great time to become a paying member of The Dispatch, because we are letting you try it out for free for 30 days. It’s risk free—you can cancel at any time. And in the meantime, you’ll get all of our content: The full Morning Dispatch, all the G-Files and French Presses and Sweeps that you want, plus Vital Interests and Scott Lincicome’s Capitolism.

Now, here’s your weekly sampling of our best work. We hope you’ll give us a chance.

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Why ‘Outside-In’ Diplomacy Could Be the Key to Middle East Peace

In many of our “Biden Agenda” pieces, our contributors have been laying out what a President Joe Biden might do in a certain policy area irrespective of what Trump has been doing on that front the last four years. But when it comes to the Middle East, we can’t ignore the potentially huge deal between Israel and the UAE. So in this case, Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies dives into what the normalization of relations between those two countries means for the larger Middle East, and he looks at whether a Biden administration would be able to build on that success.

This Is What We Mean When We Say ‘Character Is Destiny’

Wednesday was a news day for the ages. News broke that a Homeland Security official had been accused of manipulating intelligence, and then that a Health and Human Services official had tried to manipulate Dr. Anthony Fauci. It went almost unnoticed that Mike Pence was slated to appear at a fundraiser hosted by QAnon adherents. (You can catch up with The Morning Dispatch if you missed anything.) But all of that was overshadowed by the news that Donald Trump had told Bob Woodward back in February that he knew that the coronavirus was more deadly in the flu, and that he had downplayed the threat on purpose. After letting that news digest for a day, David addressed it in the French Press, and “dismayed” doesn’t begin to describe it. “We will debate for years why the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nation, a nation chock-full of many of the best doctors and hospitals in the world, experienced such a disproportionately staggering death toll. But here’s one reason: A man who millions of people trust and who sets the tone for communications from massive right-wing news outlets and for massive right-wing celebrities told a series of lies.”

Should We Really Expect Democrats to Promote Democracy Better Than Trump?

President Trump has faced criticism for his foreign policy. He’s made many favorable statements about dictators like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un but has been harsh toward some of our allies. But Danielle Pletka asks an important question: Will the Democrats be any better if they are in charge? She contrasts Trump’s words with his administration’s actions (sanctions against bad actors, and efforts at human rights promotion) and casts a critical eye toward Democrats, reviewing some of the ill-advised moves by the Obama administration and looking at what Biden might do. “The former vice president, the Democratic caucuses in the Senate and House, and the Democratic apparatchiks who filled the Obama administration’s ranks have proven time and again their belief that small-d democracy is a weapon to be wielded in domestic politics, not a value to be upheld in foreign policy.”

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And here’s the best of the rest:

  • Abby McCloskey previews how Biden might handle safety-net issues for working families. She says his empathetic messaging and proposals on childcare and paid leave will likely appeal to families that have been hit hard by the pandemic, but she cautions about the cost of his programs.

  • The Los Angeles Unified school district opted for virtual learning this fall, and reports are that some kindergarten classes are only half full. Frederick Hess points out it didn’t have to be this way, except that the district spent six months appeasing the teachers union while ignoring the needs of its low-income students.

  • In Vital Interests, Tom Joscelyn calls out President Trump for saying “top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t [in love with me] because they want to do nothing but fight wars.” He writes: “We are thus left with President Trump impugning the motives of the Pentagon for carrying out the very same strategy for which he advocated and also still wants to claim credit.” 

  • We almost never do hot takes, but Jonah had some thoughts in the immediate aftermath of the Woodward revelations in his midweek G-File. “[Trump] didn’t like the idea of having to do the very hard work of dealing with it responsibly.  Why is that? Well, because Trump has made it manifestly clear that he doesn’t think he’s the president of the whole country…”

  • We can’t forget the pods! On the flagship Dispatch Podcast, Steve, Sarah, and Tom Joscelyn reflect on their memories of 9/11, and Tom offers an update on al-Qaeda. On Advisory Opinions, Sarah and David discuss voter fraud, in light of Trump’s suggestion that people in North Carolina should vote twice. And you won’t want to miss Jonah’s conversation with “eminence grise” Andy Ferguson on The Remnant.

Photograph by Jessica Rossi/Flickr.

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