Our Best Stuff From a Week of Spirited Debate
Time for a third party? Plus, why the Nordic model wouldn’t work here, where the missing workers are, and why we’re out of time on Iran.
Happy Saturday! Some weeks, the news cycle forces us to focus most of our attention on one big story: the Afghanistan withdrawal, the Democratic infighting over spending, January 6. And some weeks, one big topic just kind of happens. This was one of those weeks. And I want to highlight it because it represents an important part of our mission at The Dispatch.
You probably heard our spiel a few times during our two-year anniversary celebration a week ago, so I won’t belabor the point. But too often our national discourse emphasizes heat over light. Everything is binary, we’re all polarized, and it’s easier to insult people from behind a keyboard than to their faces. We want to change that. Healthy debate is a vital part of our political process, and we’ve all seen what happens when it’s not. But we got one very important healthy debate this week.
Jonah wrote a column about how there are few good options for principled conservatives. Donald Trump’s lingering hold on the GOP is intolerable, yet it’s not exactly easy to support a Democratic president who campaigned as a centrist but has put forth an aggressively progressive agenda (not to mention the Iran appeasement or the Afghanistan debacle). His (somewhat qualified) solution? It’s time for a third party. He got a fair amount of pushback from friends and former colleagues, including several writers at National Review. Charlie Cooke argued that those who left for the third party would get all the blame if it were to give Democrats more power, and Dan McLaughlin wrote, “The battles that Jonah wants to fight are very much worth fighting. But the place to fight them is in Republican primaries.” Meanwhile Michael Brendan Doughtery expressed concern that, while Jonah’s pitch was for a short-term party that would cause some short-term pain to the Trumpified GOP, it would suffer from “mission creep.”
Those pieces addressed Jonah’s column thoughtfully, and he responded in kind. In his midweek G-File, he addressed each argument, conceded the points he agreed with, and elaborated further. “I know where all three of my friends are coming from and I have nothing but respect for them,” he writes. “But I will just say broadly that I think the rush to defend the GOP from threats to its electability is a symptom of the problems facing conservatism.”
And then on Thursday, David weighed in in his own French Press (🔐) newsletter, headlined “Jonah Is Right.” He focused on the problems facing the GOP that go well beyond Trump’s hold on the party, and he enumerates the many reasons he distrusts the GOP. And then, while acknowledging that there is room to work with Democrats on some issues, he lists the reasons they are also problematic. “It’s time to stop thinking about binaries,” he writes. “Readers, parties have to earn your support, and if they don’t share the disposition or ideology that you think is best for the nation you love, then it’s time to find (or create) the party that will.”
Continuing in the vein of productive discourse, Jonah invited Michael Brendan Doughtery on to The Remnant, where they discussed their differences. (And also many things they agree on.)
As much as I send this newsletter each week to remind you of the good work we’re doing and flag pieces you might have missed, and as much as I know your time is valuable, I encourage you to read all the pieces that contributed to this debate. It’s the kind of thing we need more of if we’re going to make progress on the big problems we’re facing in politics and governance today.
But please also check out these great pieces below, and have a great weekend.
We hear it all the time from the left: Scandinavian countries have such great welfare states, with generous family leave policies and universal health care and more. Why can’t we do that here? Won’t it be easy if we just make the wealthy pay their fair share? Take it from a Swede: That’s not how this works. It’s not how any of this works. John Gustavsson explains that Sweden was able to build its welfare state during the economic boom that followed World War II, when wages were rising so quickly that people didn’t feel the pain of tax increases. And--news flash--Sweden pays for its programs by taxing the middle class and the poor. “The kind of taxes that the poor are forced to pay in the Nordic countries would be completely unacceptable to the majority of the American public,” he writes.
A few weeks ago I promised our youngest a Frappuccino (or maybe it was a bribe; I can’t remember). But when I opened the Starbucks app to place our order, it showed that the store closest to our home was closed, late on a Sunday morning. Surely you’ve noticed something similar: Restaurants are closing early or on random days, 24-hour convenience stores are closing overnight. Help wanted signs are everywhere, and yet 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs last month. What gives? Brent Orrell, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, writes that a number of factors are at work, including people quitting to look for better jobs, people retiring early, and generally lower workforce participation. He writes that it “adds up to economic friction, delays, and inflation that we just aren’t accustomed to. Turns out we have a lot more ‘essential workers’ than we imagined. In fact, it looks like all workers are essential.”
We’ve written a lot about the Biden administration’s push to restore the Iran nuclear deal, and why it’s a bad idea. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that the administration has (thus far!) ignored our admonitions, but they are also ignoring all the warning signs that cause us to beat this particular drum so hard. This week, Richard Goldberg and Jacob Nagel detail some of those warning signs and note that time is running out. “Biden allowed Iran to flip the script in a matter of months—from an increasingly contained regime on the verge of financial collapse to an increasingly confident regime inches away from a nuclear breakout capability. The regime could even pursue something even more dangerous: a nuclear ‘sneakout’ wherein Iran uses clandestine facilities and advanced centrifuges to prepare a detonation,” they write.
Don’t miss the best of the rest:
Columbus Day has fallen out of favor because of its namesake’s problematic legacy. But as Chris Stirewalt points out in a fascinating piece, the origins of the holiday have less to do with the man himself and more to do with prevailing prejudice against Italian Americans in the late 19th century.
Speaking of Stirewalt, he also took to The Sweep this week to explain Biden’s bad poll numbers, looking at who is unhappy with the president and why.
If you scratched your head over the GOP-led “audit” of the Maricopa County election results, wait until you get a load of what’s going on in Wisconsin. Christian Schneider reports.
China has been acting even more aggressively toward Taiwan recently. In Vital Interests (🔐), Tom Joscelyn calls attention to a speech in which Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen pushed back against the CCP and Xi Jinping.
On the pods: On Friday’s Dispatch Podcast, Sarah and Steve welcome former Reps. Dan Lipinski and Reid Ribble. One’s a Democrat and a Bears fan, one is a Republican and a Packers fan, but despite these seemingly insurmountable differences, they agree on one important issue: Congress is a mess. On Advisory Opinions, Sarah and David delve into the question of whether former President Trump can cite executive privilege in his push to keep the select committee investigating the events of January 6 from accessing records related to the events of that day. And on The Remnant, Jonah and economic policy wonk Brian Reidl talk about spending, taxes, budgets, and more.