Our Best Stuff on Katie Britt, the RNC, and ‘Labor Shortages’

Sen. Katie Britt speaks during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on July 11, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Hello and happy Sunday. If you’re reading this while enjoying some corned beef hash or maybe a green beer, happy St. Patrick’s Day. 

You might have read—or at least heard about—the staff editorial we published the week before last, in which we wrote “The American people should demand better than the decision our two decaying, corrupted parties—channeling the dueling forces of tribalism and inertia—are set to thrust upon them.” 

Some who did read it took issue with the fact that we did not formally endorse Joe Biden or take greater pains to say that while both Biden and Donald Trump are less than desirable candidates, Trump’s sins are greater than the current president’s.

I don’t want to rehash that too much, though I would note that The Dispatch has a policy since our pre-launch days of not endorsing candidates for office. But the reaction has me thinking about how journalism has evolved in the digital era and how that has changed readers’ expectations. 

Despite what it seems like some days, the internet has not been all bad for journalism. Digital ink and the infrastructure you need to launch a website are much cheaper than printing presses, and that lowered the barrier to entry for individuals who wanted to make their own voices heard and for smaller organizations to compete with established outfits. Of course, that same low barrier has spawned a lot of low-quality news sources and made it very easy to spread outrage and disinformation.

Those of us in the business tend to look at the evolution of journalism in terms of how it has affected us: We look at how it has changed what we write about, and how we report, and how quickly we need to respond to things. We consider how it has changed our business model, and how it has made our jobs easier or harder. But most of us tend to think less often about how the changes have affected how readers consume the news and what you expect from publications or other news sources. 

Back in the day, when reading the news was a more tactile experience, you had a good idea of what you were getting when you picked up a physical newspaper or magazine. If you flipped through the pages of a paper, you knew when you were in the news section, the features section, or the opinion section. (And for all that media bias has always been with us, you probably didn’t question the paper’s motives when it covered city council or school board meetings.) If you were standing before a rack of magazines at a newsstand or bookstore, you could easily discern which ones were newsy and political, which ones were more literary or intellectual, and which ones were going to give you celebrity profiles and recommendations for a new outfit or eyeshadow. The heft and texture of paper they used, and the quality of photography and design imparted certain distinctions.

Then along came the internet—and subsequently social media—and it was like we swept up all those different pages, dropped them into a paper bag, shook it up, and dumped them back out for you to sort on your own. Instead of picking up a physical object, you click on a link, often without enough context. When you see a link on Facebook or Twitter, you can generally tell if it’s from the New York Times or CNN or Mother Jones. But is it a reported piece, or a feature, or an opinion piece? Sure, sometimes these are labeled once you click, but it’s easy to miss those cues when a page is littered with ads, videos, and links to other content. And there are a kazillion blogs, Substacks, newsletters, and hyperpartisan websites that you’ve probably never heard of. If your aunt shares a link from one of those sites, whether you trust it probably depends on whether you love the chocolate chip cookies she sends  you on your birthday or you cringe when she starts talking politics at Thanksgiving. 

Because legacy media outlets haven’t quite figured out how to better tell you what you’re about to read, and because upstart hyperpartisan sites that thrive on telling you what to think have come to occupy a significant place in the media ecosystem, some people have come to see journalists as activists for a certain side or cause. (I should also note that more and more people are indeed going into journalism precisely as activists for certain sides or causes, but that’s maybe a topic for another day.)

All I can say is that we do not see ourselves that way at The Dispatch. We will tell you what we think sometimes, but we want you to figure out what you think for yourself. We are indeed a “new media” type of outlet, but one with an old-school mindset. We’re trying to navigate this messy landscape the best we can while providing you with information you can trust. Sure, we have a worldview, but we’ve told you that from the start. And a big part of our mission is to cut through all the noise and clutter on the internet: reporting the facts, giving you information, and sharing our opinion when it’s warranted. 

Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful weekend. 

Can Katie Britt Recover From Her State of the Union Debacle?

The average viewer who watched Katie Britt deliver the GOP response to President Biden’s State of the Union speech probably thought, “Huh, that was a little weird.” But her overly emotive delivery probably left a few of her Senate colleagues scratching their heads for a different reason—Britt has built good relationships and proved capable of working with senators from both parties during her brief time in the Senate. In this reported piece, John talked to some of those senators. Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman: “She’s just great,” he said. Ohio Republican J.D. Vance: “I love Katie. And we’ve gotten along very well.” The big question in the wake of her appearance is whether it will diminish her chances of being named Donald Trump’s running mate. John writes: “It’s hard to see how Britt’s performance didn’t knock her down the VP shortlist, if not off it entirely. And it’s even harder to see how Britt’s current press-averse strategy will help her get the nod if she wants it. … Of course, some of Britt’s fans think it would all be for the best if she has fallen off of Trump’s shortlist.”

Purge and Binge

Last week, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel resigned, paving the way for Donald Trump ally and former North Carolina GOP Chair Michael Whatley to take over—and for Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump to become co-chair. This week, the RNC laid off 60 staffers and even some Trump supporters are using the p-word: purge. In Boiling Frogs (🔒), Nick details the specific moves being made and notes that the upheaval could lead to the organization helping to pay some of Trump’s vast legal expenses. And, frankly, he’s pretty excited. Huh? Let him explain: “The prospect of a revolutionary populist movement running a country into the ground is a nightmare. It’s why I’m voting for Joe Biden in November: The sort of purges, corruption, and power consolidation that a second Trump term would bring are poison to the constitutional order. But a revolutionary populist movement running its own party into the ground? What’s not to like about that?”

There Is No Labor Shortage

In Wanderland (🔒), Kevin takes a second look ats the U.S. Chamber of Commerce concerns about a “labor shortage,” noting that only low-wage sectors are struggling to fill jobs. He concludes: “What we need isn’t more workers willing to take low-wage jobs—what we need is better wages for those jobs.” Lest you fear that he’s discovering his inner Elizabeth Warren, fear not. He reminds us that this is just the market at work. He takes a cruise through the job postings for Buc-ee’s (for those of who neither live in nor visit the South, it’s a supermarket-sized gas station-slash-tourist attraction with insanely clean and plentiful restrooms) and highlights that the company is looking to pay $125,000 a year to a car-wash manager in Texas and the same to an assistant general manager in Kentucky. He writes: “The real lesson is this: Hotel maids don’t make enough money. Shop clerks don’t make enough money. Restaurant managers don’t make enough money. That’s what the markets are telling us. Sometimes, the market tells you things you don’t want to hear. … The solution to that problem is not painless, but there is a solution: higher wages.”

And here’s the best of the rest:

  • In his Wednesday G-File, Jonah criticizes both Democrats and Republicans for how they treated former special counsel Robert Hur, who investigated President Biden’s alleged mishandling of classified documents and opted not to pursue charges. “The Democrats tried to bully Hur into saying that he’d ‘exonerated’ Biden. Republicans tried to bully him into saying Biden was guilty. Hur steadfastly rejected both claims.” And so Jonah declares Hur “a spirit animal for The Dispatch.” (Relatedly, in The Collision, Sarah and Michael point out that if you follow the arguments made by both Democrats and Republicans in the Hur hearing to their logical conclusions, neither side is saying what it thinks it is saying.)
  • For years I’ve been yearning to try some SLAZ Sauce—made from peppers grown in Scott Lincicome’s garden and bottled in his kitchen. He might even want to sell me some, but as he notes in Capitolism (🔒), it wouldn’t be worth the trouble thanks to all the regulations on home-based food businesses.
  • In Dispatch Politics, Drucker and Michael look at Trump’s recent Senate endorsements and note that he appears to be getting a little bit more pragmatic, choosing candidates who are safe bets even when others might have been more loyal. 
  • Even as Israel’s war against Hamas continues, Western and regional leaders are pondering how Gaza might be governed when it’s over. Charlotte reports from Israel on the complicated situation, detailing a plan for a “revamped” Palestinian Authority as well as explaining Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vision for empowering local Palestinians and deradicalizing the territory’s educational system.
  • It’s safe to say most of us have a lot to learn about artificial intelligence. In a very helpful primer, Joseph Polidoro explains how all of that computing is likely to strain our power grid, and that training AI—feeding it data to “teach it” is the most energy-intensive aspect.
  • The pods! The pods! Sarah and David French offer up their take on Robert Hur’s testimony on Advisory Opinions. Jonah welcomes Dan Senor, a political adviser with considerable foreign policy expertise, to The Remnant to discuss the latest on Israel’s war against Hamas. And on The Dispatch Podcast, Steve, Jonah, and Sarah weigh in on the TikTok debate.
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