Hello and happy Saturday. I don’t know what your plans for the weekend look like, but here in the Ohio bureau, baseball season is starting up (officially, that is—unofficially it’s pretty much a year-round thing) so the kids have practice. We need to hit the grocery store, there’s laundry to fold, and we’re hoping to get some quality family time by going to see Cocaine Bear.
That sounds mundane—and I hope that many of you have more interesting or at least more highbrow cultural plans. But I’m also feeling pretty grateful that we can do such things with ease. So many can’t. Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Russia’s war in Ukraine, a conflict that has killed tens, if not hundreds, of thousands and displaced millions. People have lost their homes to Russian missile strikes, and too many Ukrainian children have died, been orphaned, or spirited away into Russia in violation of the U.N. Genocide Convention.
We see the horrific images and hear the horrifying stories daily, but even after a year, it sometimes seems unfathomable. Yet the people who are living through it are doing so with incredible bravery and resolve.
And it’s not just Ukraine. Turkey and Syria are still dealing with the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. The Taliban is making life harder on Afghan women by the day. There’s far too much violence and ugliness in this world.
And that is why Marjorie Taylor Greene’s call for a “national divorce” rankles me so much. It reeks of extreme privilege. We have real problems and real differences. But we also have the means to address our problems peacefully. And, well, we’re always going to have differences. However, we are not living under the threat of annihilation by a neighboring dictator, or under the thumb of one ourselves. Our country is by no means perfect, but Americans have it pretty good.
On the one hand, it’s tempting to ignore Greene’s comments. And doing so would be in keeping with our mission at The Dispatch. We’d prefer to disregard the nonsense and focus on smart policy, intelligent debate, and sensible politics. There is some danger in giving her comments too much oxygen—we don’t want to add fuel to the fire.
But recent history shows us that there is also danger in ignoring a threat because it seems too outlandish to take seriously. In 2015 and 2016, Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency seemed like a circus sideshow: Look over there at the crazy guy waving his arms and begging for attention. The networks aired his rallies because they were great for ratings. But not enough people believed or understood that he could actually win. (I worked at Slate then, and we had multiple articles written, edited, and ready to publish the moment Hillary was declared the winner. Do you know how many we’d prepared in the event of a Trump victory? Zero.)
It’s important to at least be aware of arguments like Greene’s—even if they are being made mostly on Twitter, which is not the real world. Because those tweets lead to cable news segments and plenty of people let cable news pundits and guests shape their worldview. And they share those views at family dinners, with their fellow church congregants, and other parents at soccer practice.
So as much as we would like to ignore these comments, we won’t. We also won’t let them dominate our work—there are plenty of other stories to cover. But we will try to put them—and whatever the next outrageous suggestion or idea might be, and the one after that—in proper perspective.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy your weekend.
As I was saying, it would be easy to laugh off Marjorie Taylor Greene’s calls for a “national divorce,” or unleash a stream of snark about it. Instead, Kevin treats us to a history lesson. Putting aside the fact that we could not easily split up into red states and blue states because our divisions are more about blue cities surrounded by red rural counties, he notes that what she’s really calling for is a partition. And he recalls the Partition of India, which carved Pakistan and what we now call Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) out of India. The partition led to violence that claimed the lives of 2 million people. “Their plan was (or should have been) obviously unworkable from the beginning in that practically every city and village in India was home to both Muslims and Hindus and that the Muslim-majority areas comprised two non-contiguous masses on either side of what is today India,” Kevin writes. He cites a comment from the Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh that there is nothing that holds Americans together anymore and responds: “Neither political tribe finds much satisfaction in the United States as it actually is and in Americans as they actually are. That is because the United States of America is a real place full of real people rather than an exercise in ideological (more genuinely tribal) wish-fulfillment.”
On the one hand, the Roald Dahl kerfuffle this week was a little refreshing. The company that holds the copyright to his works hired an outfit called Inclusive Minds to sic their sensitivity readers on his collection of often delightful but definitely always weird children’s books. But instead of spawning a culture war battle, there was widespread agreement on right and left that it was bad. As Nick says in Boiling Frogs, “What if they gave a culture war and nobody came?” On the other hand, a few people found room to push back, pointing out that it’s just capitalism—the company must believe it can sell more books this way, so what’s the problem? Nick points out that, well, “art is different” and that some countries grant artists and authors “moral rights” that prevent works from being altered in a derogatory way. “If you’re reading a bowdlerized version of Matilda, you’re not reading Roald Dahl; you’re reading Roald Dahl as abridged by Inclusive Minds,” Nick argues. “If the book appears with only Dahl’s name on the cover, it’s nothing more or less than false advertising. It’s not his work.”
The Dispatch Politics newsletter is only a month old, but it isn’t just taking baby steps in covering the 2024 election, it’s off and running. Audrey has a scoop this week: Jaime Herrera Beutler, the former-six term GOP representative from Washington state who lost her primary after voting to impeach Donald Trump for his role in the January 6 Capitol riots, is pondering a run for governor. It would be an uphill battle: Washington hasn’t elected a Republican governor since 1980. (Dino Rossi came close in 2004, when I lived there, and was even named governor-elect until a recount and protracted legal battle sent Christine Gregoire to Olympia, but I digress.) But incumbent Jay Inslee won reelection in 2020 by a smaller margin than Joe Biden carried the state, and her allies are hopeful but cautious. “She says that at this moment in time, given the complexion of the Republican Party, that her brand of Republicanism may still be out of favor, and she recognizes that she may need to wait for a while until such time as the party moderates itself—if it ever does,” one source said.
Here’s the best of the rest:
- It looks like the Democrats will continue meddling in GOP primaries to boost extreme candidates who make for easier general election opponents. In The Sweep, Sarah looks back at some ads run on behalf of these candidates by Dems and argues that it’s hard to blame the voters for falling for the scheme.
- When Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida schools would not offer AP African American Studies, critics accused him of not wanting to teach “true history.” Frederick Hess knocks down this strawman argument and points out that a lot of what progressives bill as “true history” is neither true nor has much to do with history.
- What is the For Country Caucus? Charlotte profiles the bipartisan group of veterans working to restore Congress’ role in drafting national security and foreign policy.
- On Friday, The Morning Dispatch checked in on the latest from East Palestine, Ohio, where a train derailment earlier this month unleashed toxic chemicals into the air and the water supply. The EPA has said Norfolk Southern will pay for the cleanup, or face huge punitive fines if the government has to do it.
- For all that the Biden administration has criticized Donald Trump’s handling of illegal immigration, Harvest writes that Biden’s latest proposal for dealing with those seeking asylum looks more than a little bit like Trump’s own policy—and will likely face similar legal challenges.
- Andrew Biggs offers an excellent explainer on what insolvency does—and does not—mean for Social Security. At the end of the day, he says, it’s more of a public policy issue than an economic one.
- And on the pods: On The Dispatch Podcast, David Drucker interviews Peter Rough of the Hudson Institute about Putin’s nuclear rhetoric and actions, and they discuss the unwelcome specter of world war. Is your right to recline your airline seat a legal issue? Believe it or not, it is. David and Sarah discuss the topic with Michael Heller, a professor of real estate law, on Advisory Opinions.