This week we ran a very thoughtful article from Ryan Streeter on how Republicans have responded to proposals from the left on such issues as minimum wage and tax policies that seek to give more money to families with children. He notes that Tom Cotton and Mitt Romney, as well as Josh Hawley, have proposed alternative minimum wage hikes and that Romney has formulated a plan that would provide taxpayer-financed child allowances to families. Streeter criticizes this “leftward drift” among conservatives and suggests that workforce training and other assistance would be a better use of resources.
That’s a fairly standard conservative argument. But I mention it because earlier this month, our own David French wrote favorably about Romney’s plan, saying it was pro-family and pro-life, which are also some pretty obvious conservative values. We don’t make a habit of running point-counterpoint articles in The Dispatch. They can be gimmicky, and authors tend to fall back on convenient talking points rather than really thinking through an issue. But complex issues have to be studied from different angles, and the best solutions come from rigorous examinations.
The conservative movement is at a crossroads. One of the many criticisms of Donald Trump from Trump-skeptical Republicans was that Trump wasn’t actually conservative—not just in temperament, but also from a policy perspective. He’s out of office now, but the populism he espoused has taken hold, and that has created a wide gulf.
Building a strong conservative movement will require healthy, robust debate on any number of topics. We need smart people making good-faith arguments and debating differences within the movement just as much as we need them countering liberal proposals that are harmful or ill-advised. What is the best way to deal with illegal immigration? How should we handle relations with such adversaries as Russia, China, and Iran? The pandemic has exposed major flaws with public education. Can we use this opportunity to make fundamental improvements?
Tackling such questions is a big part of what we do at The Dispatch. Yes, we cover the day-to-day happenings on Capitol Hill, and we keep you updated on the big stories of the day in The Morning Dispatch. There’s legal analysis galore from our legal eagles David and Sarah. We wade into the culture wars every once in a while (some good examples from the last week are below), and we even indulge David’s culture nerdery. But making strong arguments for sound conservative policy is right at the heart of it all.
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Now, shameless self-promotion over—let’s get on with our best stuff from the week.
It’s not that the debate over the Seuss estate’s decision to stop publishing six of its books isn’t important. There are good points to make about censorship, slippery slopes, and the like. But these culture-war media moments can be a bit like junk food—and while conservative media and congressional Republicans have obsessed over them, Democrats have happily taken advantage of their distraction to get busy implementing a remarkably progressive policy agenda. Scott Lincicome points out that many measures in the American Rescue Plan—the nearly $2 trillion COVID relief bill President Biden signed into law earlier this month—are not about the pandemic at all but are straight off the progressive wish list for social policy. “I’d call the law a ‘Progressive Trojan Horse,’ but that would imply that these provisions were hidden. They weren’t, yet conservative media and much of the Republican Party barely seemed to notice because they had bigger (one/two/red/blue) fish to fry.”
Speaking of divisions on the right, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has his hands full trying to manage a caucus that includes both Liz Cheney, who led a group of 10 House Republicans who supported Donald Trump’s impeachment, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has spent the first few months of her tenure disavowing her past support for QAnon and gumming up the legislative works with motions to adjourn the House. And then there’s the problem of Paul Gosar, who attended a conference organized by white nationalist Nick Fuetes. Just how big a tent should the GOP be? In Uphill, Haley looks at the challenges facing McCarthy.
Remember when “microaggressions” and “trigger warnings” and “cultural appropriations” were words that you only encountered when reading about life on American’s college campuses? Those were the days. Now corporations brag about their commitment to social justice and “woke mobs” rise up to call for the firings of people who say the wrong thing, even if they said it years before. How did we get here? Sam Abrams argues it’s a reflection of the state of academic trends in hiring and tenure. Here’s the gist: Colleges and universities have been relying more on adjunct and part-time faculty, reducing their number of tenured professors. Research, writing, and publishing is important to getting tenure. And one way to help yourself as an academic is to focus on critical race theory. “With a glut of Ph.D.s looking for jobs, tenure lines are acute in determining what academic fields prosper and what fields contract and, by extension, who teaches what and what work matters and thus which ideas like CRT are coming out of the academy.”
Now for the best of the rest.
Before we lost David for a day or so to a marathon viewing of the Snyder Cut, he wrote about why America needs a strong conservative movement. He calls on the Christian church to reject partisanship, conservatives to reject what he calls an “unhealthy populism,” and for the left to step back from the cliff of illiberalism.
It’s unsurprising when Democrats speak out in favor of unionization efforts. But what’s going on with Marco Rubio’s statements in favor of a union push at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama? Chris Stirewalt explains.
We’ve heard a lot about China’s horrifying treatment of the Uyghurs, its crackdown on Hong Kong, and even its aggressive behavior in the South China Sea. In Vital Interests, Tom Joscelyn highlights why its incursion into the East China Sea is also worrying.
Joe Biden’s foreign policy team has more than a few holdovers from the Obama administration who led the push for the Iran nuclear deal. In their confirmation hearings, many promised to proceed cautiously on Iran this time around. Danielle Pletka wonders if this new administration will adhere to their testimony or revert to form.
On the pods: On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah answer mail from listeners. Ever wondered how to hire an attorney? Give it a listen. Scott Lincicome and Declan join Sarah and Steve on a St. Patrick’s Day Dispatch Podcast to discuss North Korea, the border crisis and, well, Dr. Seuss. Chris Stirewalt sounds so much like Jonah that he guest-hosted an episode of the Remnant. Did you notice?