Our Best Stuff From a Truly Unprecedented Week

Vaccines, COVID deaths, and Texas v. Pennsylvania.

Trump supporters after SCOTUS declined to hear Texas’ suit against four states that voted for Joe Biden. (Photo by (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images.)

It’s a good thing that 2020 is coming to an end, for lots of reasons. But especially for this newsletter: It so happens that I’m running out of analogies. There was the time warp (um, twice actually), the whiplash, and the roller coaster. I thought I’d been really patient in waiting for a really crazy week to reference the scene in State and Main where Alec Baldwin’s character flipped a car, crashed into a light post, and then laughed, saying, “So ... that happened.” That was February.  

But I’m not sure any of those rise to the level of the events of this week. We experienced the full complement of the good (Britain started distributing the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and the FDA approved it for use in the United States last night), the bad (the U.S. experienced a single-day record of 3,124 COVID deaths on Wednesday), and the ugly (that little matter of the Texas attorney general trying to sue Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin at the Supreme Court to overturn the election).

We were just putting the finishing touches on Jonah’s G-File last night when the news broke that the Supreme Court had declined to hear Texas v. Pennsylvania. Jonah let out a bunch of frustration at the Republicans who had supported President Trump’s efforts to overturn a legitimate election and encouraged millions of Americans to believe in dangerous conspiracy theories. It was written before the decision came down, and we briefly discussed making some tweaks to account for the news. We decided that it was better to append an editor’s note and let you read it in full. We hope you will. (Speaking of analogies, he’s got a great one about the Kraken, courtesy of Game of Thrones.) 

One reason we did so, as he pointed out, is that the refusal of so many—including elected officials—to acknowledge the reality of Trump’s loss is both dangerous and unlikely to abate even though the Supreme Court’s rejection of the Texas case was unanimous. We’ll certainly have more on that in the coming days.

I don’t want to go on too long. We had a lot of great content this week, and it was tempting to find a way to pack all of it into this newsletter. Plus, I’ve reached the point in the holiday season where I’m Googling “What to get your kids when everything is sold out and only available on eBay for twice the price?” I’ll leave you with our coverage of the Trump legal challenges, Biden’s Cabinet picks, and some podcast highlights while I go try to find something more exciting than socks and underwear to put under the tree this year.

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Analyzing Trump’s Legal Challenges

The sheer volume of lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign and his supporters have made it hard to keep up with all of the proceedings. They filed suits in several states, working their way through county, state, and federal courts. Some observers have kept “score” by reporting on every motion and every appeal. We wanted to give readers a bigger picture, so we went through 18 major cases and reported on the overall outcome--or where they stand. They show some clear trends: not just loss after loss for the Trump campaign, but arguments based on hearsay and reliance on witnesses who were ill-informed or making claims that simply did not hold up to scrutiny. 

The Case Against Xavier Becerra

Of course Joe Biden was going to appoint a pro-choice secretary of health and human services, David writes in The French Press (🔒). But Biden’s nominee, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, goes well beyond that and is in fact a “punitive progressive culture warrior.” David offers up a long list of actions Becerra took that show he’s a threat to the First Amendment and freedom of conscience: From forcing pro-life pregancy centers to advertise that the state offers subsidized abortions to trying to force churches to provide abortion coverage to employees, to prosecuting pro-life David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt for recording conversations with Planned Parenthood executives, to a relentless pursuit of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “America does not need a vitally important cabinet member to push up to and past the statutory and constitutional red line in suppressing free speech and religious freedom and in supporting abortion rights. Becerra is a bad choice,” David writes.

The COVID Vaccines Are a Triumph of Globalization

In response to the somewhat underwhelming news that Time honored Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as its Person (People?) of the Year, Dispatch contributor Scott Lincicome tweeted that the honor should have gone to Big Pharma. As it happens, in his Capitolism (🔒) newsletter this week he wrote about the COVID vaccines and how they should make us grateful for globalization. He details how Pfizer, Moderna, and BioNTech are led by immigrants and how global collaboration contributed to the speed with which the vaccines were developed before getting into the nitty gritty of the supply chain and distribution.

What’s Next for Chris Sununu?

New England is a fairly blue region of the country, but with Republican governors in three states. How do they get by? “Vermont Gov. Phil Scott stretches the definition of “moderate” in the current GOP, and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker would be in the center-left of the Democratic Party in most states,” writes Michael Graham, managing editor of New Hampshire Journal. But then there is Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, who has “has found a way to appeal to both his Trump-supporting Republican base and the affluent, college-educated suburbanites in places like Bedford and Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.” His pragmatic approach to governing and down-to-earth personality helped him win re-election with ease and have some hoping he’ll run for Senate. Graham argues that he might be better suited as a running mate for a 2024 presidential candidate. “Is there any other Republican who could bring a real shot at blue Electoral College votes with them to the ticket?” he asks.

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And here’s the best of the rest:

  • Lots of people are talking about whether Congress will grant retired Gen. Lloyd Austin a waiver from the requirement that any defense secretary be out of the military for seven years. In Vital Interests (🔒), Tom Joscelyn has a few other questions, like: Why did Biden tout the general’s handling of the Iraq withdrawal? And: Why has the president-elect not shared how he thinks Austin will deal with the growing Chinese threat?

  • The conventional wisdom says that well, actually, sure, the Democrats won the White House, but they really lost the election. Political science professor Nicholas Grossman offers a few counterpoints, reminding readers most of the gains the GOP made in the House were in seats that the party held until 2018.

  • Georgia has been the target of many angry Trump supporters, who believe conspiracy theories that the state’s election was “stolen” for Joe Biden through widespread voter fraud. In The Sweep (🔒), Andrew interviewed DeKalb County elections officer DeKalb County Baoky Vu. “This, I think, is a very dangerous time for democracy. It’s extremely disturbing to me, and these threats of domestic terrorism upon the election officials, upon poll workers, that in itself is an attack on the foundations of democracy in my opinion.”

  • We’ve had a lot of good news on the vaccine front, but we need to take a wait-and-see approach on the efficacy of a third vaccine candidate, from Oxford and AstraZeneca. Kieran Allsop, James Capretta, and Scott Ganz explain the issues with the vaccine’s Phase III trial, in which some participants received an incorrect dosage. 

  • On the podcasts: On The Remnant, Jonah talks urban planning with his old friend Reihan Salam, president of the Manhattan Institute. David and Sarah talked all things Kraken and Texas v. Pennsylvania on Advisory Opinions. And Ilya Shapiro drops by The Dispatch Podcast to talk to Steve and Sarah about the House members who filed briefs in support of Texas’ Supreme Court case.