Our Best Stuff From Yet Another Week We Relived the 2020 Election
The January 6 committee hears from a witness who regrets participating in the Capitol riot.
Hello and happy Sunday. Back in late October 2020, I was talking to a friend about the upcoming election and she shared her belief not only that it wouldn’t be over on Election Night, but that it would take days, if not weeks, to resolve. She was right on the specifics—Joe Biden effectively became president-elect on Nov. 7 when all the major media outlets called Pennsylvania for him and put him over the 270-vote threshold in the Electoral College. And yet, for millions of Americans, the election still isn’t over 20 months later.
At its convention in June, the Texas GOP approved a platform that rejected the results of the 2020 election, and the Idaho GOP was poised to do the same in its convention this week. Dinesh D’Souza’s 2000 Mules is, as our fact check upon its release noted, “riddled with errors and previously debunked claims of voter fraud” but it’s also the most-watched political documentary in at least a decade.
Could the tide finally be turning? A few events of the past week give me hope.
On Monday, the January 6 committee heard testimony from Stephen Ayres, an Ohio man who traveled to D.C. for the Stop the Steal rally. He hadn’t intended to storm the Capitol, but ended up being part of the crowd that did. In his testimony, he discussed how he was very active on social media and how it influenced him to make the trip to D.C. He has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and is awaiting sentencing in June. As Price St. Clair noted in his coverage of the hearing for The Dispatch, “He told the House committee he no longer believes the election was stolen and is mad Trump is still lying about it.”
Then on Thursday, eight prominent conservatives—including former federal judges, two former senators, and former Solicitor General Theodore Olson—released a report that carefully examined each claim of fraud made in the wake of the election and explained why they were false. They went through the legal challenges and noted that 34 were dismissed, in some cases voluntarily by Trump’s legal team, before they ever reached a hearing. The report is detailed and careful and, most importantly, aimed at changing the minds of conservatives.
It’s immensely frustrating to see and hear people sticking to their belief—fervently—that Donald Trump won the 2020 election. It’s frankly disturbing to see state parties rejecting the results of an election that happened going on two years ago. (On a more selfish note, it would be nice to take a beach vacation and not see, as we did last week, Trump flags emblazoned with “F--k Your Feelings” flying from cabanas.)
But the correct response to that frustration is not to give in to the temptation to condemn and sneer. That doesn’t change minds. Testimony from regretful Capitol marchers and reports that seek to persuade might not lead to a wholesale change of heart among millions of Americans, but reaching even some of them is a good start.
Thanks for reading, and have a great week.
In French Press (🔐), David weighs in on a trend that he has noticed as Ron DeSantis gains traction as the candidate most likely to keep Donald Trump from gaining the Republican nomination: the complaint that Trump is bad, but DeSantis is worse. David has many critiques of DeSantis, particularly on “culture war issues (he calls out DeSantis’ action toward Disney as well as a social media censorship bill that has been blocked by courts and the vaguely written law on teaching sex and gender, and others) but notes that Trump is an existential threat to the U.S. while DeSantis is just “normal bad.” And he finds that DeSantis is actually little different from California Democrats like Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris. “If Kamala Harris or Gavin Newsom is the Democratic nominee in 2024 and Ron DeSantis is the Republican nominee, the American people won’t have the choice of voting for a major party nominee who consistently protects and respects American civil liberties. They’ll have profoundly different views on multiple other fronts—such as economic policy, judicial nominees, foreign policy, and abortion—but largely the same dim view of the Bill of Rights.”
One of the positive developments of Donald Trump’s tumultuous presidency was the Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and a handful of Gulf Arab states, but Joe Biden has done little to capitalize on them. Ahead of Biden’s trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia this week, Harvest examined how the agreement is shaping the Israeli-Palestinian conflct. She reported from Hebron, a city in the West Bank where a wall separates the Jewish residents from the Palestinians. In our other previews of Biden’s trip, Arthur Herman argues that a reformed Saudi Arabia under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “with strong U.S. support would also become the keystone in the growing Israeli-Sunni alliance to block Iranian regional hegemony and derail its nuclear program.” And Charlotte details the behind-the-scenes diplomacy that went into setting up Biden’s trip and what the administration hoped to accomplish.
It looks like Vladimir Putin has noticed that he has fans among the West’s right-wing populists. In a recent speech, he derided “globalists” and said his efforts in Ukraine would cause a transition away from “liberal-globalist American egocentrism.” What’s funny, Andrew Fink notes, is that Putin’s definition of globalism is nearly the opposite of how the term is understood by Western populists. He calls it an “updated rendition of neocolonialism”—countries making themselves dependent on the U.S. Meanwhile, Pat Buchanan types see globalism as a force that has made the U.S. dependent on the rest of the world. Still, Fink notes, “Many on the right in the West, especially in America, will lap up Putin’s talk of ‘globalists’ and ‘globalism’ as the enemy, and even use it to explain Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
And now the best of the rest:
In Capitolism (🔐), Scott Linciome draws a parallel between Germany’s decision to up its use of coal (while sticking with a plan to shutter nuclear plants) in place of Russian natural gas and the recent unrest in Sri Lanka over food shortages that was caused by the country’s shift to organic agriculture. In short, he blames—and explains—the precautionary principle.
Snake Island has been a symbol of how the war in Ukraine has been going since the very first day, when a Russian soldier famously told the crew of the Moskva, “Russian warship: Go f--k yourself.” The Ukrainians eventually surrendered, but only temporarily, and now the Ukrainian flag flies once again over the island. James Brooke credits assistance from NATO and the U.S. in particular.
There is not much we agree on these days, but Jonah has discovered (🔐) one thing that left and right have in common: the belief that Kamala Harris is bad—really bad—at her job. It’s not just her weirdly inappropriate laughter or mangling of the language when she speaks, but the fact that people hate working for her and are only too happy to discuss it with the media.
New Dispatch-er Price St. Clair spoke to some of the signatories of the new report that examined—and debunked—Donald Trump’s claims of fraud in the 2020 election.
In the wake of Boris Johnson’s resignation as the leader of the U.K.’s Conservative Party, John Gustavsson draws a parallel between the scandal-ridden prime minister and a U.S. president. No, not Donald Trump. Richard Nixon.
On the pods: On Good Faith, David talks to Nashville pastor Scott Sauls about the dangers of culture war obsessions. Jonah welcomes Paul D. Miller (a Dispatch contributor) to The Remnant to discuss his new book, The Religion of American Greatness: What’s Wrong with Christian Nationalism. On The Dispatch Podcast, Sarah, David, and Jonah talk about inflation and also ponder the possibility of a primary battle between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis for the 2024 GOP nomination. Last but not least, David and Sarah dive into Twitter’s lawsuit against Elon Musk on Advisory Opinions.