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The Morning Dispatch: American Pride Hits Record Low
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The Morning Dispatch: American Pride Hits Record Low

Plus, explaining China's crackdown on Hong Kong.

Happy Friday, and Fourth of July Eve! Thanks to all of you who joined us for Dispatch Live last night! We had a great time discussing book recommendations, the Russia bounty story, ways to get out of our echo chambers, ranked-choice voting, Steve’s new dog, and more. 

If you weren’t able to make it, never fear: You can watch an archived version of the show here—password: dingo.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • As of Thursday night, 2,739,092 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the United States (an increase of 53,286 from yesterday) and 128,742 deaths have been attributed to the virus (an increase of 681 from yesterday), according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Dashboard, leading to a mortality rate among confirmed cases of 4.7 percent (the true mortality rate is likely much lower, between 0.4 percent and 1.4 percent, but it’s impossible to determine precisely due to incomplete testing regimens). Of 33,462,181 coronavirus tests conducted in the United States (634,822 conducted since yesterday), 8.2 percent have come back positive.

  • The U.S. economy regained about 4.8 million jobs in June, lowering the national unemployment rate to 11.1 percent, down from 13.3 percent in May. A total of 1.43 million Americans filed initial unemployment claims last week, bringing the total number receiving benefits to 19.3 million. Economists cautioned that this economic rebound may “stall out” if the coronavirus continues to spread at current levels and states begin instituting new lockdown measures.

  • The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the fall over whether the House Judiciary Committee is entitled to review the grand jury evidence that was part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and obstruction of justice. A decision by the court is not expected until after the 2020 election.

  • Ghislaine Maxwell—longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein—was arrested in New Hampshire Thursday morning and charged for her alleged role in Epstein’s sex trafficking enterprise. “Maxwell assisted, facilitated, and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse victims known to Maxwell and Epstein to be under the age of 18,” the indictment reads.

  • Geoffrey Berman—the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York—is slated to testify in a closed-door session before the House Judiciary Committee on July 9 regarding the circumstances surrounding his resignation last month at the behest of Attorney General William Barr. 

  • With new COVID-19 infections surging in the state, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday joined the ranks of more than 20 states and instituted a mask mandate that applies to all counties with more than 20 coronavirus cases. With the exception of people who are medically unable to cover their nose and mouth or who are eating, drinking, or exercising, any adult Texan not wearing a mask in a public space is subject to a fine of up to $250.

National Pride at a Low Point This Fourth of July

Tomorrow is America’s 244th birthday, but this year’s Fourth of July celebrations won’t be like any Independence Day in recent memory. States and counties across the country have canceled parades and fireworks shows in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Anthony Fauci discouraged Americans from attending mass gatherings. “Avoid crowds, wear a mask, keep physical distance,” he said in an interview. “It doesn’t matter what the reason for the congregation, whether it’s a celebration here, the demonstration there. It doesn’t make any difference.”

But COVID-19 isn’t the only thing putting a damper on the Fourth this year. A mid-June Gallup poll found only 63 percent of the country is extremely or very proud to be an American—down from 92 percent in 2003 and a record low since the organization began asking the question 20 years ago. Even Republicans—who are on average more likely than Democrats or independents to report feelings of patriotism—saw a 9 percent drop-off in extreme pride since 2019.

Additional polling confirms these findings. Anger and fear are the emotions most felt by Americans right now, per the Pew Research Center: 71 and 66 percent, respectively. Just 46 percent feel hopeful, and a meager 17 percent said they were proud thinking about the state of the country these days. Back in April, only 31 percent of respondents reported being satisfied the way things are going in the country. Today, that number is just 12 percent.

As longtime readers of this newsletter know, a lot’s happened since April. We’re in the midst of a deadly pandemic that has killed nearly 130,000 of our fellow citizens. About 20 million people have lost jobs in just over a month, and friends and families have—out of love—been forced to keep their distance and isolate from one another. A series of high-profile police killings have reminded us again that there’s still work to do as we attempt to live up to the founding ideals that were put to parchment and adopted 244 years ago tomorrow.

The American experiment has always been messy. In fact, that’s part of the appeal. But this is not America at its best. America, at its best, is not banned from traveling to Europe because it has so badly failed to contain a disease that a mere tourist is considered a public health risk. At its best, America does not get so swept up in the mob mentality that it indiscriminately tears down monuments of abolitionists and patriots, nor does it shrug its collective shoulders when it learns a foreign adversary placed bounties on the heads of our servicemen and women.

Here’s hoping the country feels more like celebrating next year.

China Cracks Down on Hong Kong

Just as Americans are gearing up to celebrate our independence, citizens of Hong Kong are in the process of losing theirs. Charlotte Lawson talked to a series of experts to help explain China’s new national security law—its origins, its contents, and its implications for the future.

What did the Chinese Communist Party do this week?

After a year of historic pro-democracy protests thwarted Beijing’s 2019 extradition bill—which would have permitted Hong Kong’s chief executive to extradite criminals wanted for crimes in China back to the mainland—Xi Jinping enacted a law that is aimed at stamping out dissent in Hong Kong once and for all. Since the territory was returned to China from British rule in 1997, Hong Kong had previously enjoyed a semi-autonomous state characterized by the maxim “one country, two systems.” As a special administrative region, Hong Kong managed its own courts, currency, and extradition. However, according to Margaret Lewis—an expert in Chinese law at Seton Hall—this system increasingly looks more like “one country, 1.5 systems.” Many view the national security law as another step toward the end of Hong Kong’s economic and legal sovereignty.

The law paves the way for Beijing’s intrusion into Hong Kong’s long history of judicial independence, allowing for the introduction of China’s repressive legal practices. It sets up extensive administrative networks to investigate and prosecute various vague offenses thought to undermine the Chinese government.

“China is criminalizing what, in places like the United States, and most countries in the world, would be considered normal discourse,” Fred Rocafort, a legal expert on China and former diplomat, told The Dispatch.

Have the protests stopped?

Not yet. Mass demonstrations in response to the law erupted on Wednesday, July 1—the anniversary of Hong Kong’s independence from British colonial rule—in the city’s largest display of resistance this year. Nearly 400 people were arrested, including 10 under the new national security law.

Derek Scissors, an expert on China at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Dispatch that scare tactics play a key role in the legislation. “The goal for the Chinese here is not to arrest 10,000 people. It’s to scare all these people into doing what China wants without any arrests,” he said, “The idea here is to intimidate them. And that’s why you write the law in this very vague fashion so that everybody realizes it could apply to me.”

How has the United States responded?

The Trump administration has promised retaliation in response to the law through a series of punishments leveled against Chinese officials, including the suspension of defense equipment exports and visa restrictions. In a statement on Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned, “The United States will not stand idly by while China swallows Hong Kong into its authoritarian maw.”

Although he concedes the sincerity of Pompeo’s aversion to China’s recent oversteps, Scissors doubts the Trump administration’s eagerness to counter Xi Jinping. President Trump, he said, is unwilling to compromise his economic ambitions in China in order to stand up for human rights. “If the president continues to hold on to the Phase One trade deal, he’s not going to allow meaningful action against the Chinese over Hong Kong, unless they provoke him with open violence,” he says. “And the whole point of the national security legislation is to not have to use open violence.”

Not surprisingly, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden released a statement condemning Trump’s response to Xi Jinping’s human rights violations in Hong Kong and elsewhere. “Trump’s record on Beijing’s human rights abuses is indefensible, marked by desperation for a failing trade deal, fealty to Xi Jinping, and an open admission that he’s willing to turn a blind eye to even the worst atrocities,” the statement reads.

Worth Your Time

  • Late last year, President Trump pardoned a number of U.S. soldiers who had been charged with or convicted of war crimes, scoffing at a military justice system where “we train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill!” One of those men, Clint Lorance, had been sentenced to 19 years in prison for second-degree murder after ordering his soldiers to shoot and kill three unarmed Afghan civilians, in addition to other war crimes, in 2012. This heartbreaking, exhaustively reported Washington Post feature by Greg Jaffe tells the story of the aftermath from the point of view of Lorance’s shell-shocked platoon, who turned him in and testified against him at his court-martial. Based on a creative new story amplified by Sean Hannity, false in many of its particulars, Lorance eventually came out a Fox News hero—while his former soldiers, spurned by the Army and their fellow soldiers, unable to cope with what they had gone through, turning to booze and drugs and even suicide, tried to take care of one another the best they can.

  • Independence Day comes this year at a time of great national turmoil. We encourage you to spend a few minutes this weekend reading one of the great Independence Day speeches ever delivered, one which, though tied to a long-past historical argument, still feels relevant today: Frederick Douglass’s 1852 address “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” The speech is uncompromisingly brutal in its clear-eyed look at the intolerable practice of racial slavery, but Douglass still manages not to fall into cynicism or nihilism—not using the country’s hypocrisy to denounce its lofty ideals of equality and humanity as a sucker’s game, but leaning on those ideals to scourge the hypocrites. 

Something Fun

If you need a pick me up after today’s relative downer of a TMD, we’ve got one. By the time this newsletter hits your inbox, you’ll be able to stream all two hours and 40 minutes of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton on Disney+. We know what we’ll be doing with our day off today.

Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • Alec wasn’t messing around with his latest Dispatch Fact Check, looking into claims that face masks make it hard to get enough oxygen. “Wearing a mask poses no threat to your oxygen levels,” he writes, “and it is an important tool in preventing the spread of coronavirus.

  • David’s Thursday French Press (🔒) broke down what happened at the Supreme Court this week with regards to abortion. “The law is confused and contentious. The future is uncertain,” he writes. But “there’s still no hard evidence that any justice besides Clarence Thomas is willing to reconsider either Casey or Roe, and thus the core of the abortion right remains secure.”

Let Us Know

We want all our Dispatch readers to have an excellent weekend celebrating Independence Day—but we also want you all to keep safe and healthy! How are you planning to do both?

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Sarah Isgur (@whignewtons), Charlotte Lawson (@charlotteUVA), Audrey Fahlberg (@FahlOutBerg), Nate Hochman (@njhochman), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).

Photograph by Gotham/Getty Images.