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Our Best Stuff on the Classified Document Scandal, the Turkish Election, and the Whigs
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Our Best Stuff on the Classified Document Scandal, the Turkish Election, and the Whigs

A little history with your news and politics roundup.

A photo illustration shows the Discord logo reflected in an image of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Photo by Stefani Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

Hello and happy Saturday. I spent most of the week in our D.C. office, and it was a treat to see all of my colleagues. But, to be honest, I’m a bit less productive when I’m in the office: There are so many people to talk to, more meetings to attend, and I like to make Steve buy me coffee.

We’ve got a lot of good stuff coming next week, and I want to get a head start on that, so I’m going to keep this short (or try to) and give you, dear readers, a homework assignment. 

In Kevin’s Wanderland newsletter on Monday (summarized below), he wrote about the demise of the Whigs and the emergence of the Republican Party in the mid-19th century. We’ve seen some failed attempts through the years to establish new political parties in this country, but the most they’ve ever accomplished is tilting elections in favor of one of the major candidates. Ross Perot got about 19 percent of the popular vote in 1992 as a Reform Party candidate, but that mostly helped Bill Clinton beat George H.W. Bush. And liberals are still mad at Ralph Nader for the 2000 election. Nader, running under the Green Party banner, earned 97,000-plus votes in Florida—just a tad more than the eventual 537-vote margin that gave George W. Bush the victory.

For all the rumblings today about third parties—Andrew Yang, the failed 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and 2021 New York mayoral candidate, has his Forward Party, and a group called No Labels is trying to get on the ballot in a bunch of states for 2024—it seems unlikely that any new organization could emerge and land a candidate in the Oval Office as quickly as the nascent Republican Party did with Lincoln.

But let’s have a little fun and do a thought experiment. If you’re reading this, you’re probably at least a little unhappy with both of our major parties today. Maybe you’ve stopped calling yourself a Democrat or a Republican but at the same time, you don’t want to join the other team. If you could start your own party, what would it look like? What positions would you take on the issues that matter today and will continue to matter in the future? I’ll go first, then please jump in in the comments.

I still call myself a conservative, at least most days, or sometimes a “conservatarian” as National Review’s Charles W. Cooke puts it. So I’m going to start with a “strong national defense and robust foreign policy.” That one’s kind of easy—the Ukraine war shows that there is considerable bipartisan support on this issue.

My dream third party would also be serious about entitlement reform, not only willing to speak the hard truths but to advance serious proposals. I’ll even take some tax increases! That’s not an easy thing to say, especially right after filing my taxes this year. But we need something between “tax all the billionaires” and “let people suffer.” 

Abortion is a tricky one, and this might be the part of the convention (or maybe we’ll meet in a smoke-filled room like the old days) where people start throwing things at each other. But now that Roe v. Wade is gone, we’re seeing that extreme abortion restrictions not only endanger women’s health but also that they are electoral losers. My fantasy team would find a sensible compromise on the legality of abortion while also working to support women and families so as to render it all less necessary. 

On K-12 education, we’d preach the value of public schools, argue that states need to fund them better, work to mitigate the influence of overly politicized teachers unions, and emphasize the importance of school choice. 

You can probably see where I’m going with this so I won’t give you the whole platform. It’s not that I’m a squishy moderate. It’s just that if a new party were to emerge (remember, this is just a thought experiment) it would largely be made up of both former Republicans and Democrats. We might not agree on a specific percentage for the corporate tax rate or what the exact solution is to save Social Security, but we’re willing to sit down over a beer to talk about it, and we’re a heck of a lot closer to each other than we are to the extremists on each end. 

Oh, some final practical ideas: Our candidates would sign a pledge to stay off social media, and they will pay a kangaroo-court-like fine if they skip a vote but then show up later that day on cable news. Serious candidates are welcome, others need not apply.  

Thanks for reading, and I would truly love to see your ideas in the comments.

Jack Teixeira, an Air National Guardsman from Massachusetts, has been arrested and faces charges for leaking classified documents relating to the war in Ukraine and alleged spying on U.S. allies. But Jonah argues in an excellent G-File that Teixeira’s intel dump might not be his biggest reveal: His case has also exposed how willing some on the right are to serve as Russian propagandists. Teixeira—whose alleged motive is trying to show off to a group of mostly teenage gamers on a social media/chat platform called Discord—is being hailed as a martyr-slash-hero by MAGA figures like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Fox News host Tucker Carlson. In their view, Teixeira is not a pathetic attention seeker but a true hero exposing the evils of the “Biden regime.”  He writes: “There’s a whole cottage industry of tough losers telling us that Vladimir Putin is a manly man standing up for Western values and that ‘our’ real enemies are fellow Americans. … Putin despises the West and America. He sees the people saying this stuff as modern day useful idiots. And the idiots demonstrate their usefulness daily, choosing to argue fellow Americans are literally enemies while calling literal enemies misunderstood friends.” I’ve actually left out most of the good bits, like where Jonah compares MTG to a Korean toilet goddess, so do read the whole thing.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has ruled Turkey for two decades, overseeing its devolution from a nation with a fragile, secular parliamentary system of governance to a more authoritarian Islamist regime. But elections are approaching in a couple of months, and Erdoğan faces a real challenge from Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who’s trying to separate himself from the current president by focusing on “bread-and-butter issues with broader concerns over the fate of Turkey’s democracy,” as Charlotte, reporting from her perch in Istanbul, writes. Kılıçdaroğlu has built a large coalition, but the nation’s runoff electoral system could favor the incumbent if those who don’t support the current regime split their vote. Worst of all?  “Erdoğan’s opponents worry that a tight race will open the door to government interference, as it appeared to during the 2019 municipal elections,” Charlotte reports.

If you read Kevin Williamson enough, you know he’s an expert on many issues: GOP politics, firearms policy, and economics for people who don’t understand economics. Lucky he’s also a bit of an historian. In Wanderland (🔒), he offers up a lesson for modern-day Republicans. Kevin reminds us that today’s GOP itself started as a third party. It was founded in 1854 and got Abraham Lincoln elected to the White House just six years later.  He writes: “The Republican Party emerged from the wreckage of the Whig Party because the Republicans believed in something and the Whigs did not: When it came to the most important issue of the day—slavery—the Republicans had a firm position, if a painfully moderate one, while the Whigs could not quite figure out what they should think about it.” He draws a parallel between slavery then and abortion now, and argues that the GOP needs to get its act together, though not through enacting stringent abortion restrictions across the land: “Anti-abortion advocates who want to expand the range of the politically possible have a big job in front of us, one that does not begin with electing anti-abortion politicians (we have plenty of those) but with persuasion and consensus-building.” 

And here’s the best of the rest:

  • Continuing the third-party theme … the Dispatch Politics team reports on the efforts by No Labels—not technically a party—trying to get on the ballot in 37 or 38 states and the legal challenges the group is facing.
  • Vladimir Putin’s escapades in Ukraine are horrific, but he’s found a new low: Russian police are arresting children and their parents for vocal opposition to the war. Leon Aron thinks the whole thing is a return to Stalinism. 
  • Did you know the 1991 authorization for the use of military forces (AUMF) to push Saddam out of Kuwait is still in effect? As well as the 2002 AUMF that paved the way for the second Iraq War, even though the small contingent of U.S. forces is there only at the invitation of the Iraqi government? Emma Rogers explains why, and why there is a congressional effort to repeal those authorizations.
  • In his Friday newsletter (🔒), Stirewalt lays out all the reasons it’s a terrible idea for the Dems to stage their 2024 convention in Chicago (and he doesn’t even mention the 1968 Chicago convention that led to riots or the 1996 convention that led to a … Macarena outbreak).
  • Dozens, if not hundreds, of Americans are presently detained in China. As relations worsen between our countries, what will happen to them? Harvest reports.
  • Is Ron DeSantis more electable than Trump? In Boiling Frogs (🔒), Nick lays out the case for DeSantis’ electability, and then the case against it. You’ll have to click to see where he comes down.
  • The pods! The pods! On Advisory Opinions, Sarah and David French discussed the dueling rulings handed down by two different judges on the FDA’s approval for mifepristone, which is used in medication abortions. On The Dispatch Podcast, the gang wonders how a gamer bro hanging out in a chat server populated by teenagers caused a national security and diplomatic crisis. Jonah has been waiting for eons to get AEI’s Frederic Kagan on The Remnant, and it finally happened. The two have a super nerdy discussion on Ukraine and Taiwan.

Rachael Larimore is managing editor of The Dispatch and is based in the Cincinnati area. Prior to joining the company in 2019, she served in similar roles at Slate, The Weekly Standard, and The Bulwark. She and her husband have three sons.