I think I would have preferred another date for the first installment of this newsletter. My goal here is to be a little lighter and more explicitly political than I am in my Monday columns, so having a January 6 debut is not ideal. This is sort of like the 30 Rock episode when Liz Lemon accidentally pressures her neighbor into a first date on Valentine’s Day. But like Liz, we’ll just have to make the most of it.
I already wrote this week about the events of January 6, 2021, and what we’ve learned since then. As a matter of American history, we still don’t know how important that moment was—for both the mob that attacked the Capitol and the team at the White House that attacked the Constitution. Only time and events can tell us that.
Less than 50 years ago, we had the sitting vice president and president resign in disgrace less than a year apart for different scandals. Rather than the beginning of a period of political chaos, it was the gateway to a period of notable stability, some of which was only wiped away by the Trump era. Conversely, the assassination of a president in 1963 was the harbinger of terrible disruption that led indirectly to those resignations a decade later. We’re the ones who get to decide whether January 6 was the start of something or the end of something.
Many in the blab-o-sphere have engaged in some big talk about the meaning and portent of the events of one year ago. But there has been far too little talk about the most concrete, urgent work to be done: the fair, secure conduct of this year’s midterm elections. This is a political note, after all, so let’s get to it.
Let’s set the stakes with two ideas: 1) As I wrote Monday, the successful completion of the coming elections is terribly important and will require the courage and goodwill of a coalition of fair-minded Democrats and Republicans. People who truly understand the dangers we face will have to face down mobs on the left and right. They will also have to forgo easy paths to political advantage. 2) That’s not what’s happening.
At a moment when the highest value should be placed on rebuilding consensus around the conduct of elections and restoring confidence in results, both parties remain fixated on revving up their respective bases with boob bait.
Yuval Levin lays it out in his New York Times piece this week: “If we take both parties’ most high-minded arguments at face value, they are worried about problems that barely exist. It is easier than ever to vote: Registration has gotten simpler in recent decades, and most Americans have more time to vote and more ways to do so. Voter turnout is at historic highs, and Black and white voting rates now rise and fall together. These trends long predate the pandemic, and efforts to roll back some state Covid-era accommodations seem unlikely to meaningfully affect turnout. Meanwhile, voter fraud is vanishingly rare. The most thorough database of cases, maintained by one of the staunchest conservative defenders of election integrity, suggests a rate of fraud so low, it could not meaningfully affect outcomes.”
Democrats re-re-re-introduction of proposed sweeping changes to the way elections are conducted would be bad enough just now, but even worse because the legislation is widely viewed here as a means to force moderate Democrats in the Senate to knuckle under to progressive demands to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for legislation. Election laws should be bipartisan whenever possible, but election law changes as a vehicle for unrelated partisan ambitions? Super gross, guys. Democrats reflexively comparing our time to the Jim Crow era are increasing the danger of our moment, not diminishing it. I understand the desire to make the most of an opponent’s misdeeds and to press for one’s own advantage. But this is a time to find common ground among reasonable people, not salt the fields. For openers, how about updating the Electoral Count Act of 1887?
That there is only a minority of Republicans willing to openly defy Trump and his followers on the 2020 election results is a matter of great concern for every American, regardless of partisan affiliation. If the GOP is consumed entirely by this turgid mix of grift and cultishness it will not be good for anyone, including Democrats. This election year, the focus should be on consensus among supporters of the Constitution in both parties. If Democrats can’t figure out a way to advance election legislation that can win the backing of even the Republicans who voted to impeach or convict Trump, they’re not really trying.
It’s an election year. Leave the empty point scoring to the candidates on the trail.
TIME OUT: BROTHER, THAT’S GOOD EATING
Atlas Obscura’s Anna Richards tells a delicious tale from southern France: “My host pours freshly brewed coffee and, with the charisma of an actor, regales me with tales of his travels, celebrity encounters (Liz Taylor, Salvador Dalí, Marcel Marceau), and high-fashion photo shoots in Paris. Light from the open fire bounces off the gold leaf wall frescos and polished wooden table. It feels like a film set, but it’s an 11th-century monastery in the Cévennes, Southern France, and my host is an orthodox monk. Many of us change careers in our lives, but few have undergone such a radical change as Frère Jean, a fashion photographer-turned-monk. Having swapped photographing catwalks for gardening and prayers, Frère Jean has become an avid chef and the author of Les Recettes du Monastère (Monastery Recipes), with a sequel cookbook due out next autumn. As he refills my mug, Frère Jean recounts his early life…” Dig in HERE.
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NANCY DREW FEW HEIRS
Probably the most under-emphasized political story in Washington today is the coming Democratic power vacuum. Chuck Schumer has about the same powers of leadership as a coat rack, and President Biden is not much better. It’s hard to say what either Biden or Schumer want the members of their party to do, other than not yell at them anymore. But while those two just want to read their TV Guides in peace, Nancy Pelosi has been setting the agenda for Democrats for most of the past decade. WaPo’s Marianna Sotomayor takes a useful look at the machinations of her would-be successors. I am a little less certain than Sotomayor that Pelosi actually will step down next year. A woman who refused to yield power after losing the majority in 2010 and failing to retake it in three successive cycles is certainly skilled at rationalizing ambition. But Pelosi will turn 81 next month, and her party is all but certain to be out of power after November. That would seem to be too much even for her. Sotomayor’s look at the frontrunner to be the next House Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries, and the other machers in the conference makes for a good topographical guide for what’s ahead.
Taking J.D. Vance Seriously
Writer Simon van Zuylen-Wood sat down with Ohio’s celebrity Senate candidate, J.D. Vance, with a different perspective than most of Vance’s recent interviewers. Rather than trying to answer the obvious question of how much of Vance’s rebirth as an angry troll is an act and how much is sincere, van Zuylen-Wood (early nominee for 2022’s all-name team) tries to place his subject in the context of the emerging “national conservative” movement. If Vance is trying to become the face of the Very Online wing of the Republican Party that mixes progressive economics with radical social conservatism, how is he doing at that task? The answers—and the results of the 2022 midterms in Ohio—may tell us a great deal about the future of the GOP. From the piece: “From a certain angle, anti-wokeness just ends up looking like classic liberalism. If your general critique of the social justice left is that it’s doctrinaire, it becomes harder to push for a top-down ‘common good’ conservatism that probably requires some level of indoctrination.” You can read it all HERE.
Round on Both Ends but How High in the Middle?
Ohio’s Republican Senate primary was already a figurative garbage fire even before the GOP frontrunner made it literal. Owing to what is probably overconfidence in the 2022 political climate and the redness of the Buckeye State, Ohio’s May 3 Senate primary is crowded. And it has turned into the political equivalent of a Rocky Mountain-oyster-eating contest. Since this may end up being the most consequential Senate primary of them all, you’re going to want to know the players. The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Andrew Tobias wrote a handy summary of the race a month before the filing deadline. You can’t tell your NatCons from your MAGA maniacs from your business boosters without a program folks. Read it HERE.
Proving that his political instincts remain just as sharp as ever, Sen. Ted Cruz on his podcast Friday sounded off on the question of whether Republicans will impeach President Biden if the GOP retakes the House. While Cruz’s assessment that House Republicans would be very likely to impeach Biden is quite right, the Texas senator shouldn’t be gassing about it. Cruz is universally known and mostly disliked across the political spectrum, so his comments will provide lots of fodder for Democrats to say that a vote for Republicans this fall is a vote for another impeachment. Cruz justified the idea even if it was not merited, saying “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” “That is not how impeachment is meant to work,” he said. “But I think the Democrats crossed that line.” Adding to the miseries of Kevin McCarthy, Cruz even offered some guidance for the House GOP on how to proceed. Democrats will be trying to get Republicans to wade into impeachment issues right up to the election in hopes of forcing candidates to either scare moderates or anger radicals on their own side. This time, the fish jumped right in the boat for them.
Like rush hour on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, there aren’t really any fixed lanes in presidential primaries. Listening to political professionals and junkies talk about them is like listening to bad movie pitches. “It’s like populism meets pro-business meets compassion—with strong female energy.” But there’s also no doubt that there will be intense competition for the support of key voter blocs inside the GOP that will force similarly situated candidates into conflict. One area of intense competition will be for traditional conservative voters. I don’t mean narrowly contra-Trump or even just anti-Trump Republicans, but rather proponents of the old center-right coalition in the GOP. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan makes a credible claim to that mantle and is doing a smart thing to make it stick: spreading money around. The always observant Alex Isenstadt of Politico gives us a look at Hogan’s operation and the alliances he is building ahead of 2024. Read it HERE.
WITHIN EARSHOT: SHE’S AT LEAST HALF RIGHT
“I’m asking all of my Republican colleagues to leave Twitter. It is a complete waste of time and all they do is try to control our political speech.”—Rep Marjorie Taylor-Greene, R-Georgia, in an interview with Newsmax urging her colleagues to quit Twitter after the platform banned her personal account.
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IT WAS, AHEM, A STING OPERATION
Reuters: “Santiago, Chile—Four beekeepers were detained after protesting in front of Chile’s presidential palace in Santiago on Monday, according to local officials, with seven police officers stung during the demonstrations. Honey production has been hurt by a long-term drought in Chile that has withered the bees’ food sources such as flowers and crops. … The beekeepers want government reform to improve honey prices or to provide subsidies to honey producers. They have asked to meet with President Sebastian Pinera. The beekeepers set around 60 beehives, which contained an estimated 10,000 bees, on the avenue in front of the palace. … Seven national police officers, called Carabiniers, were stung trying to arrest the beekeepers and move the beehives out of the street, police officials said, and were taken to the hospital.”
Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of a forthcoming book on media and politics. Samantha Goldstein contributed to this report.