Out Best Stuff From the Week the Midterms Finally Ended

Raphael Warnock speaks to supporters on Election Day in Norcross, Georgia. (Photo by Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.)

Hello and happy Sunday. Our long national nightmare, ummm, I mean the 2022 midterm election, is finally over. On Tuesday, incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated Republican Herschel Walker in Georgia’s Senate runoff. After all that, the GOP enjoys a slim House majority and the Democrats control the Senate 51-49. Gridlock, anyone?

We’ll see what the new Congress will be able to get done in January when the new term starts (and there are a few things Dems hope to get done in the lame-duck session too). But that gives us time to do just a little more postgame analysis of what ended up being a very revealing election. And the Georgia result served to confirm the biggest reveal of all: Donald Trump is pretty unpopular outside of his base. 

Incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp won easily, despite his refusal to support Trump’s efforts to steal the 2020 election. Yet Walker lost the runoff in the same state to Warnock by nearly 3 points. The real loser in the race might have been Donald Trump. Walker won his primary easily—and likely could have done so without Trump’s endorsement, given his status as a college football legend in Georgia. The candidate then distanced himself from Trump in the general and especially in the month between Election Day and this week’s runoff. 

Even before Warnock’s victory on Tuesday, some Republicans whom Andrew spoke to at a Walker rally in Georgia sounded ready to move on from Trump. “You know, not that I hate him, I just think the country’s burned out on him,” one man said. “Somebody who’s a fighter but less divisive in some ways would be better.” Anyone in particular come to mind? “I like the Florida governor myself,” another rally goer said. 

David covered similar ground in his Wednesday French Press. “It turns out that people don’t want to be bullied into the ballot box,” he writes. “It turns out a significant enough number of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters will turn to their own party and say, ‘Do better.’ They’ll call the Trumpist bluff and turn the challenge back to them—if these issues are so vital, why are you nominating obviously deficient candidates? Why aren’t you taking the high demands of public office seriously?” 

David is even feeling a little optimistic. “The message is clear—conservatism can still win, Trumpism loses, and no amount of bullying will push the most reluctant Republicans into supporting candidates who are not fit for public office.” 

We’ll have little reprieve from election mania—Trump of course has already declared as a candidate for 2024. But the idea that conservatism can, um, trump Trumpism is cause for a moment of hope. Thanks for reading.


Devil’s Bargain

The news of WNBA Brittney Griner’s release from a Russian prison created an immediate backlash from critics of the Biden administration. They were upset that not only was Griner swapped for Viktor Bout—a notorious arms dealer “convicted in 2011 of supplying FARC guerrillas in Colombia with weapons for the purpose of killing Americans,” as Nick notes—but also that former Marine Paul Whelan was not included in the deal. In Boiling Frogs (🔒), Nick argues that fomenting that backlash was part of Putin’s plan: “Frankly, I’m surprised Vlad didn’t make things really hard on Biden by publicly offering him Griner or Whelan but not both, forcing him to choose. You can imagine him lifting a pinky to his lips a la Dr. Evil in floating that proposal, knowing the sort of uproar it would cause here no matter which captive Biden chose.”

Zero-COVID’s Lasting Damage

After nearly three years of enforcing harsh lockdowns and severe restrictions, the Chinese government finds itself in a tough spot, Charlotte reports. Its zero-COVID policy has (possibly, if you believe the official Chinese reports) warded off some of the devastating surges that most countries have faced. But it’s also created a restless population, one that has just staged the largest protests the country has seen since Tiananmen Square. Charlotte writes about how the government is finally lifting some of those restrictions, and how that is going to create a whole host of other problems. “Lifting zero-COVID under current conditions could result in as many as 279 million cases and upwards of 2 million deaths in China, a recent study by health risk analysis firm Airfinity found,” she writes. “The assessment draws on data from this year’s COVID surge in Hong Kong, which experienced one of the highest mortality rates in the world after two years of a stringent lockdown policy. The immunity of mainland China today closely resembles that of Hong Kong nearly a year ago, and its healthcare system is even less equipped to deal with a spike in cases.” 

The Art of Compulsion

The Supreme Court heard a big case about religious liberty this week, 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, in which a Christian website designer sought to establish that she could offer wedding websites exclusively to opposite-sex couples. There’s plenty of legal analysis to be had—check out David and Sarah on Advisory Opinions if you’re curious—but Jonah wants to have a more practical conversation in the G-File (🔒). He takes issue with the idea that allowing Christians to refuse to do creative work for gay weddings is akin to Jim Crow by reminding readers that Jim Crow policies were embedded in law and enforced by the state. And he raises an important question: Why would anyone want to give their business to people who don’t support them? “Normal black people wouldn’t want to hire a Klansman as a wedding photographer and normal Jewish people don’t want antisemites painting their family portraits,” he writes. “When you think about it, it’s weird that so many people want to force greater profits on people they think are bigots.”


And here’s the best of the rest:

  • You know the meme where the odd-looking dude says, “I’m not saying it’s aliens, but … it’s aliens.”? We’ll understand if that’s the vibe you get from reading Kevin’s piece on the attacks on electricity substations in Moore County, North Carolina. We don’t know who did it, but there have been other similar attacks, and there are some similarities among the people who carried them out.
  • Did the government learn anything from the baby formula crisis, in which it lifted tariffs and other regulations on imported formula in response to a shortage here? Scott Lincicome’s audible sigh in the latest Capitolism will give you your answer.  
  • Are you not so Very Online that you are unsure of what to make of the “Twitter Files”—a tweeted report by journalist Matt Taibbi exposing internal Twitter discussion around the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story in 2020? Harvest has you covered with a valuable explainer. 
  • It looks like the military can expect a boost in spending to compensate for the aid provided to Ukraine and to prepare for any contingencies with China. Haley breaks down the National Defense Authorization Act in Uphill (🔒).
  • It wouldn’t be a complete roundup without the pods: On The Dispatch Podcast, the gang discusses the Georgia runoff and the future of the GOP. What approach for Christians should Christians take toward criminal justice and why should they care about people in prison? On Good Faith, David and Curtis Chang speak to a former convict who is working to help other former prisoners flourish. On The Remnant, Jonah and Scott Lincicome have an especially nerdy conversation about pro-worker policies and also debate werewolves vs. vampires. And on Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah talk about the “independent state legislature” doctrine.

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