Happy Leap Day, readers! Personally, we’re not sure why February of all months gets an extra day every four years (why not June, when we can cook out and enjoy the extra daylight?), but we might as well make the most of it.
It was a long and frustrating week on many fronts: Coronavirus is spreading to more countries, and the uncertainty both for public health and the global economy led to a very bad week on Wall Street. The Democrats staged what was probably the worst debate yet of the primary season, with the moderators rehashing many of the same questions that were asked in other debates and struggling to keep the candidates on track.
We take all that news very seriously and we don’t want to be the ones pointing to rainbows in the middle of a hurricane, but it was a good week for The Dispatch. If you are reading this email, you’ve no doubt received others that explained we were making much of our content available only to paying members and inviting readers to join us. The response has been fantastic. If you’re one of our “freelisters,” we thank you for your time and we encourage you to keep reading. There will be plenty of work from The Dispatch that will be available to non-payers—both on the web and in newsletters. (This newsletter, for instance, will always be free!) For those of you who became members, we thank you for your investment. Now, please enjoy the best of what we published this week.
Rep. Will Hurd should be a poster child for the future of the GOP: A youngish black conservative with a background at the CIA who can win a swing district in Texas. And yet, he’s retiring after this term is up. In an engaging profile, Declan Garvey explains that Hurd has been a voice of moderation in the Trump era, speaking out against the president when he disagreed with him but also voting for measures that aligned with his priorities. And yet, Hurd says he’s not retiring because he’s weary of the drama or fearful that he’d lose, but because he has grander plans.
If you’ve listened to The Remnant podcast or checked out the G-file enough, you know that Jonah has an incredibly deep interest in and knowledge of history, including arcane events that shaped our politics. With nationalism being a hot trend among conservatives, he decided to take a look at Looking Backward, a novel that has been somewhat lost to time (or at least forgotten by all the kids writing book-length hot takes these days) but inspired not only a 19th-century nationalist statist movement when it was published, but later influenced the New Deal.
We try not to give in to righteous anger too often, but sometimes it’s necessary. For years the West sat by idly as the Assad regime made rubble of Aleppo and slaughtered its own people. Now, something similar is happening in Idlib. Danielle Pletka shares a heartbreaking story that is told in the documentary For Sama and then clears her throat to propose a way to help that might not be popular but could be our best shot to help the Syrian opposition: We’re going to have to work with Turkey.
David leads off his Thursday French Press (available to members only) with an anecdote about how readers sometimes push back when he writes about a problem that is getting better, because they have lost something to be outraged about. Well, here’s some good news: The nuclear family is on the rebound. Divorce is on the decline, and the number of children living in intact married families is up. Unmarried births are down, but not because women are having abortions. In fact, they are having fewer. David (wisely, if I may say so) credits those in Generation X for learning from their childhoods: “It’s as if millions of members of my generation (though not all, certainly) said to themselves, ‘Nope. Not me. Nope, not my kids.’ Latchkey kids became helicopter parents. The children of divorce vowed to stay married.”
Other highlights from The Dispatch:
*Maybe because it was Friday, or because people sometimes just need to believe a bit of nonsense, a study claiming that 38 percent of Americans won’t drink Corona because of coronavirus went viral. Declan did some reporting, looking carefully at the claim and the survey that led to it. His conclusion: The survey was flawed, and the articles about it, misleading.
*We used the full version of The Morning Dispatch (members only), to look carefully at the coronavirus. On Thursday we hit on the virus’s impact on our politics and economy, and on Friday we interviewed virologist Anthony Fehr on the medical aspects.
*Jonah sent out a special Wednesday G-file (members only) in which he mostly skipped commenting on the previous night’s debate (“the market is so glutted with debate takes that homeless people aren’t even putting them in their shopping cart”) but he did hone in on Bernie Sanders’ comments praising Cuba’s literacy rate and how, honestly, it’s a little hypocritical for mainstream Democrats to suddenly attack him for those views.
*On the pods this week: On their first Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah talked about a big, big, big religious liberty case that the Supreme Court will hear, and the second featured Liz Murrill, Louisiana's solicitor general. On The Remnant, Jonah talked to Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng about their new book, Sinking in the Swamp; and then he talked to Princeton prof Keith Whittington about his book, Repugnant Laws. Finally, the whole gang discussed the Democratic field and also Harvey Weinstein’s conviction on The Dispatch Podcast.