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The Morning Dispatch: End of an Era
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The Morning Dispatch: End of an Era

Plus: Can Stacey Abrams catch Brian Kemp in Georgia?

Happy Friday! It’s a bittersweet day for us here at The Dispatch as we say farewell to our legendary podcast producer, Caleb Parker, who’s departing next week for an exciting new opportunity.

Caleb joined the team in November 2019 and quickly transformed our ragtag podcasting activities into a professional operation—on a limited start-up budget and under less-than-ideal circumstances during the pandemic. From transitioning The Remnant to The Dispatch’s new platform to overseeing the launch of The Dispatch Podcast, Advisory Opinions, Good Faith, Dispatch Live, The Hangover, and The Dispatch Book Club, Caleb did the work of a team five times the size, and he did it well. We’ll miss him around the office, but we know he’ll find similar success at his next stop.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Thursday the Biden administration plans to make $2.2 billion available to Ukraine and 17 other European countries “at risk of future Russian aggression” through the Foreign Military Financing program, which provides countries with grants and/or loans that can be used to purchase U.S.-produced military and defense equipment. The Biden administration is also tapping into previously approved congressional aid to send an additional $675 million in military aid to Ukraine, including Howitzers, high-speed anti-radiation missiles, small-arms and HIMARS ammunition, anti-armor systems, and medical-treatment vehicles.

  • The European Central Bank (ECB) announced Thursday it would hike three key interest rates by 0.75 percentage points in an effort to combat inflation, the largest such increase in the bank’s history and up from a 0.5-percentage-point boost in July. Investors expect the Federal Reserve to announce a third consecutive 0.75-percentage-point interest rate hike at the central bank’s next policy meeting on September 21.

  • Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Taiwan this week, the sixth such visit from U.S. officials in the weeks since China began ramping up military exercises near the island in early August. The visit “once again demonstrat[es] the high importance and support that the United States attaches to Taiwan,” Taiwanese President President Tsai Ing-wen’s office said in a statement.

  • The Justice Department filed its appeal Thursday to a Florida judge’s order essentially halting the department’s review of materials FBI agents found at Mar-a-Lago last month. The DOJ is challenging U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon’s contention that some of the materials former President Donald Trump kept at his resort home may be shielded by executive privilege. Cannon had ruled a “special master” should review unclassified materials the FBI recovered that may be subject to executive privilege.  

  • Steve Bannon—the right-wing media figure and longtime Trump adviser—pleaded not guilty on Thursday to fraud and money laundering charges in New York state related to his alleged involvement in We Build the Wall, a group that raised millions of dollars from donors who believed the money would go toward building a wall along the United States’ southern border. Trump pardoned Bannon in the final hours of his presidency—the strategist had been arrested on federal charges related to the scheme in late 2020—but presidential pardons apply only to federal charges, not state prosecution.

  • A 19-year-old man was arrested on Wednesday after four people were killed—and three more injured—by a gunman who went on a partially livestreamed rampage in Memphis, Tennessee, earlier this week that temporarily shut down portions of the city. According to court records, the suspect faced attempted murder charges in 2020 but pleaded guilty to a lesser aggravated assault charge and was released from prison earlier this year after serving 11 months of a three-year sentence. “If [the alleged shooter] served his full three-year sentence, he would still be in prison today, and four of our fellow citizens would still be alive,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said.

  • The average number of daily confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States declined about 23 percent over the past two weeks according to the CDC, while the average number of daily deaths attributed to the virus—a lagging indicator—fell 28 percent. About 29,400 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S., down from approximately 33,400 two weeks ago.

  • The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless claims—a proxy for layoffs—decreased by 6,000 week-over-week to a seasonally adjusted 222,000 last week, the lowest level since late May. The figure has now fallen for a month straight, signaling the labor market remains tight.

End of the Second Elizabethan Era

Queen Elizabeth II, pictured in 2014. (Photo by Stefan Wermuth – WPA Pool / Getty Images)

As the news broke yesterday that Queen Elizabeth II—Britain’s longest reigning monarch—had died, the crowd gathered outside Buckingham Palace looked up at a double rainbow and sang “God Save the Queen.” The chorus grew louder as night fell: More and more Britons gathered, many bearing flowers.

The palace didn’t specify a cause of death, but the 96-year-old’s declining health had forced her to to curtail many of her official duties for months. 

“In a world of constant change, she was a steadying presence and a source of comfort and pride for generations of Britons, including many who have never known their country without her,” President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden said in a statement. “Her legacy will loom large in the pages of British history, and in the story of our world.” The president ordered federal and military buildings to fly American flags at half-staff until her burial, which will take place after a funeral at Westminster Abbey. It’s expected to be a massive event, one for which British officials have been preparing for years.

Elizabeth’s eldest son, Charles, has already become the monarch, choosing King Charles III as his title. He’s expected to deliver a televised address later today and will take official oaths and attend memorial services in several cities over the next few days. Members of Parliament will gather to swear oaths of loyalty to the new king who, at 73, is the oldest person ever to ascend to the British throne. He’s known for his environmental advocacy and his desire to reduce the number of royals with official duties, and he replaces the only British monarch most of the world has ever known. A Washington Post analysis estimates more than 90 percent of the world’s population was born after Elizabeth’s coronation.

Born in 1926, Elizabeth came of age during World War II, living with her younger sister Princess Margaret at Windsor Castle outside London during the Blitz. She delivered her first radio broadcast at age 14, addressing British children who had evacuated London to escape the German bombings. And in 1945, the future queen enrolled briefly in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, learning to drive and repair military trucks. On VE Day, Elizabeth and Margaret joined the celebrating crowd in London. “We asked my parents if we could go out and see for ourselves,” she later recalled. “I remember we were terrified of being recognized. I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief.”

The war helped usher in the end of the British empire. By the time of Elizabeth’s coronation in June 1953—the first British coronation to be televised—many former colonies had gained independence. She oversaw the at-times bloody decolonial transition from empire into Commonwealth of Nations, traveled extensively through the Commonwealth’s member countries, and reigned during Britain’s entry into—and exit from—the European Union.

Possibly no one has ever met more world leaders than Elizabeth. The queen shared her grilled scones recipe with Dwight Eisenhower, rode horses with Ronald Reagan, and attended her first baseball game with George H.W. Bush. Starting with Winston Churchill, she met weekly with the 15 prime ministers who served during her reign. Her final public act was formally appointing new Prime Minister Liz Truss on Tuesday. She became the first British monarch to make an official visit to the Irish Republic in 2011, later shaking the hand of former Irish Republican Army commander Martin McGuinness—a hugely symbolic gesture after the violence that had plagued Northern Ireland for decades, killing one of her cousins.

Elizabeth also experienced massive shifts in public perception of the monarchy—often driven by family scandals. The queen’s 1947 marriage to her beloved Prince Philip lasted until his death in 2021 and produced four children: Charles, Anne, Andrew, and Edward. In 1992, Andrew and Anne’s marriages dissolved—as did Charles’ to Princess Diana amid public infidelity. When the nationally beloved Diana died in a car crash in 1997, the queen’s initial reluctance to grieve publicly prompted widespread criticism. More recently, the family’s reputation has been tarnished by the drama surrounding Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision to step back from their royal responsibilities, and on a much more serious note, allegations that Andrew sexually assaulted an underage girl trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein.

But the queen herself remained incredibly popular until her death—a May 2022 Ipsos poll pegged Elizabeth’s net approval rating at +79 percent—and she seems to have left the status of the royal family secure. About 43 percent of Britons surveyed by Ipsos last year thought Britain would be worse off without the monarchy, compared to just 19 percent who said it would be better off.

Despite her constant public role, Elizabeth remained reserved about her private life. She loved horses, corgis, and driving fast in her Land Rover, and she was devoted to serving in her symbolic role. On her 21st birthday, Elizabeth addressed the realm from Cape Town: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service, and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” She repeated such promises often. “The impact of such clichéd phrases came from the disturbing sense that she meant them,” Royal biographer Ben Pimlott wrote.

In the early days of the COVID-19 shutdowns, the queen addressed the nation with a deliberate callback to a WWII anthem. “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return,” Elizabeth said. “We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again.”

Can Stacey Abrams Catch Brian Kemp?

The Senate has gotten most of the attention, but there are some pivotal gubernatorial races that will be decided in November, and Georgia’s—between Republican incumbent Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams—may top that list. Andrew’s been back in the Peach State this week, and he’s got a piece on the site today digging into whether Kemp’s current five-point polling lead will prove insurmountable.

Though Abrams has never held statewide or national office, there’s little doubt that the former minority leader of the Georgia House has been one of the most consequential American politicians of the last few years.

Her voter-registration efforts are widely credited as the driving force behind the Peach State’s recent red-to-purple turn—a phenomenon that set the stage for Georgia Democrats to score two huge runoff-election Senate upsets against GOP incumbents in 2021. Those seats handed Chuck Schumer control of the Senate and crushed Republicans’ best hope to stymie President Joe Biden’s agenda in Congress.

But while she’s improved the fortunes of Democrats all around her, there’s been an “always the bridesmaid” feel to Abrams’ personal political career, which has recently been marked mostly by disappointments: edged out by Republican Brian Kemp in the 2018 governor’s race, shortlisted as a possible running mate but ultimately passed over by Biden in 2020. And today, despite rising Democratic hopes for the midterms around the country—and despite the odds looking good that one of those new Georgia senators, Raphael Warnock, may stave off Republican challenger Herschel Walker—Abrams has stayed flat in the polls, facing the same rough five-point deficit she’s seen against Kemp since January.

On paper, Abrams goes into the contest with several major advantages, but some key liabilities as well.

Her strong national brand has enabled her to raise eye-watering sums of money: Her May and June fundraising haul (the latest numbers the campaign has been required to disclose) more than tripled Kemp’s, and her campaign had more than $18 million on hand at the end of that reporting period. (Kemp ended the period with $7 million in the bank.)

Abrams has used that cash to hammer Kemp on the airwaves. With the economic climate favoring Republicans going into this year’s midterms, she’s focused her critiques primarily on social policies—in particular, Kemp’s conservative stances on abortion and gun rights. There’s reason to believe the former critique in particular is fruitful territory for Abrams: In a July Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, 42 of respondents said a candidate’s support for legal abortion would make them likelier to earn their vote, while only 26 percent said they’d be likelier to support a candidate who promised to limit abortion access. A heartbeat law outlawing most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, which Kemp signed in 2019, only recently went into effect following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade; a typical Abrams ad calls the law “an attack on the women of Georgia.”

But she remains a polarizing figure in Georgia, having long denied the legitimacy of Kemp’s 2018 election and struggled to distance herself from what she describes as unfair Republican attacks that she supports defunding the police. (Abrams has said she would support reallocating some police funding to other community services in some circumstances, although she argued at the same time that pitting the two against one another represents a “false choice.”)

There have also been some goofier gaffes—an elementary school visit back in February that provoked an uproar after Abrams was photographed maskless in the midst of dozens of masked children, her assertion that she was “tired of hearing about being the best state in the country to do business when we are the worst state in the country to live.”

And then there’s the matter of Kemp, who has shown himself to be an excellent campaigner.

Kemp is a formidable opponent, as his triumph over a Trump-backed primary opponent earlier this year proved. He has paired conservative ideological plays like the heartbeat bill with a general pro-business outlook that has buoyed the state’s economy, which also benefited from his willingness to let Georgia reopen relatively quickly during the COVID pandemic. And he has made moves to blunt the pain of inflation this year, suspending the state’s gas tax and giving raises to public school teachers, which have been broadly popular in the way free-money policies tend to be.

Kemp trails Abrams in campaign finances, but is a tireless campaigner with an unparalleled network of contacts around the state. The stubbornness of his lead has led to some grumbling by state Democrats and at least one behind-closed-doors acknowledgement from Abrams that Kemp is likely to be the toughest Georgia Republican to beat this year.

Still, Team Abrams argues there’s time to make a late push. The campaign’s latest internal polling has her only two points down on Kemp, within the margin of error.

Worth Your Time

  • “London Bridge is down.” That’s the code phrase decided upon years in advance to inform British officials that Queen Elizabeth had died. The government and press have elaborate, exhaustive plans for the 10 days after Queen Elizabeth’s death—right down to bringing in pre-burned candles to the hall where the queen will lie in state. This 2017 investigation from The Guardian is well worth a read for a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the machinations that go into state funerals and royal transitions. “Britain’s commercial radio stations have a network of blue ‘obit lights,’ which is tested once a week and supposed to light up in the event of a national catastrophe,” Sam Knight writes. “When the news breaks, these lights will start flashing, to alert DJs to switch to the news in the next few minutes and to play inoffensive music in the meantime. Every station, down to hospital radio, has prepared music lists made up of ‘Mood 2’ (sad) or ‘Mood 1’ (saddest) songs to reach for in times of sudden mourning. ‘If you ever hear Haunted Dancehall (Nursery Remix) by Sabres of Paradise on daytime Radio 1, turn the TV on,’ wrote Chris Price, a BBC radio producer, for the Huffington Post in 2011. ‘Something terrible has just happened.’”

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • Bad news for folks running out to buy the latest iPhone! In this week’s edition of The Current (🔒), Klon takes a crack at Apple’s decision to source semiconductors from China, explaining Apple’s reasoning for the decision, the security threat it poses, and what’s to be done. “I like Apple products,” Klon writes. “But the company’s seemingly bottomless acquiescence to the Chinese government and infinite capacity for moral posturing and hypocrisy have me reconsidering my options. Maybe we all should.”

  • Chris tests the political winds in Thursday’s Stirewaltisms (🔒), taking stock of essential election influences like the economy, abortion, and student debt cancelation and predicting that Republicans will gain about 15 House seats in November. And the Senate? “You’ll have to wait for next week after the New Hampshire primary when we will return with our fearless forecast for the upper chamber!”

  • On today’s episode of The Dispatch Podcast, Sarah, Steve, Jonah, and Declan try to explain what the heck is happening with the special master in the Mar-a-Lago case, dive into GOP infighting over the effort to take back the Senate, and provide a post-hoc assessment of the United States’ handling of the pandemic. Plus: Is Jonah a maniac for double spacing and indenting his G-Files as he’s drafting them?

  • Also on the site today, Robert Tyler writes about the approach Biden should take toward new U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss and Giselle Donnelly breaks down Ukraine’s recent second counteroffensive in the Donbas from the city of Kharkiv.

Let Us Know

In an era characterized largely by mistrust of elites on the right and mistrust of privilege on the left, why do you think Queen Elizabeth was able to remain so popular throughout her life? What can other politicians/public figures learn from her example?

Declan Garvey is the executive editor at the Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2019, he worked in public affairs at Hamilton Place Strategies and market research at Echelon Insights. When Declan is not assigning and editing pieces, he is probably watching a Cubs game, listening to podcasts on 3x speed, or trying a new recipe with his wife.

Esther Eaton is a former deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch.

Andrew Egger is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.