Charles Kesler Sees the Light
Plus, a special guest Overtime column
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LAURA K. FIELD: Charles Kesler Sees the Light.
It only took 1 year, 6 months, and 18 days, but Charles R. Kesler, the intellectual impresario of the Claremont Institute, has finally gone on the record declaring that he does not agree with his colleague John C. Eastman’s discredited legal theories or with Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election.
Kesler is the founding editor of the conservative institute’s flagship publication, the Claremont Review of Books, and he is, as Elisabeth Zerofsky put it in a New York Times Magazine article about Claremont from earlier this month, “widely regarded, at 65, as the institute’s éminence grise.” (He is also a professor at Claremont McKenna College, which has no formal affiliation with the Claremont Institute.)
It is in Zerofsky’s article, and in a Washington Post article by Marc Fisher and Isaac Stanley-Becker, that Kesler at last concedes, after eighteen months of evasion and coyness, that Eastman and Trump were wrong. Here’s what he told the Post reporters about Eastman:
I’m persuaded that John was wrong in the advice he gave Trump. . . . Whether his actions will hurt us or not, I’m not sure. It’s awkward and it raises some questions.
Four years after AOC’s surprise win, the pendulum is swinging back to moderates, turnout in the midterms may be historic, and both sides underestimated the effect of overturning Roe. Plus, Biden’s cave on student loans. James Hohmann joins Charlie Sykes today.
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Our friend, longtime Bulwark reader and op-ed writer for Saint Louis Post-Dispatch Lynn Schmidt has this dispatch from her time trying to keep Liz Cheney in the House of Representatives.
A Principled Journey
This is the story of my physical travels to Wyoming, my intellectual, and emotional journey with the Republican Party, and what being principled really means. I had the honor of being one of twenty volunteers with Principles First who made their way to Wyoming, investing their own time and treasure, to canvass for Rep. Liz Cheney. By the time I got home on Tuesday evening, I had come a long way and finally accepted that being principled no longer has a place in the Republican Party.
I left St. Louis, Missouri and made the 883-mile trek on Friday, August 12 to Cheyenne. First thing Saturday morning, Principles First met up at a combo donut and sushi shop to organize and head out in pairs. My partner and I walked several miles and knocked on well over a hundred doors. We had a pretty good open-door rate — about 50%. Except for the few people which I could count on one hand, the Wyomingites we talked to were pleasant and respectful, and apparently felt free to lie to us. We knocked on the doors of every registered voter in our designated area, whatever their party affiliation, Republican, Democrat, Independent, or Libertarian. There were a few deeply patriotic Democrats who said they had changed their party affiliation to Republican and had voted early for Cheney or who were planning to do so on Primary Day. It was meaningful for me to share, particularly with Republican voters, why our elected officials need to honor their oaths to the Constitution and value the rule of law. By the end of the day, my feet were tired, but had hope that I was making a difference. What I would learn in just a few days, I probably persuaded no Republican voters, but that doing what is right and noble brings its own reward.
The best part of the whole experience was the camaraderie that I felt with my fellow virtuous canvassers. The majority of Principles First members consider or had considered themselves principled conservatives. We enjoyed deep discussions of what the word conservatism means anymore (here’s a hint: nothing other than being a Republican) and where do we go from here? Honestly, I came away from the weekend hopeful. It wouldn’t be until Tuesday night that I realized just how naive I was.
I officially left the Republican Party in 2016. As a parent of a child with a disability, I was deeply offended after Trump mocked New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski for Kovaleski’s arthrogryposis. The fact that the GOP elites allowed Trump to win the nomination process astounded me. Obviously, I was slow to read the room and understand that the transformation of the Republican Party that I had been actively involved with was already on a path to that change. Although I had made the personal decision to leave in 2016, I held out hope that there were still good ones and they would eventually win out. Oh, how wrong I was.
Perhaps the change in the GOP is most exemplified by Harriet Hageman herself. Back in 2016 Hageman (Cheney’s opponent and eventual Republican primary winner of Wyoming’s at-large Congressional seat) described Trump as “somebody who is racist and xenophobic.” On the Friday before the primary, while I was traveling to Cheyenne, a video was posted of Trump backed Hageman telling a “news” channel "Joe Biden is the largest or the most destructive human trafficker in our history."
Spokesman and advisor to Trump, Taylor Budowich, recently told the New York Times “She (Cheney) may have been fighting for principles, but they are not the principles of the Republican party.” It is a lot to wrap your head around that one of the two major political parties in America no longer considers the Constitution a principle that they want to stand up for. But maybe it shouldn’t be that difficult, as they have been exhibiting this to the American people for the last six to seven years.
Being principled means being honest. It also requires acknowledging that truth and fighting back against cognitive dissonance. The Republican Party is what their base voters want it to be. Tuesday’s election results do not allow us to think any other way. I refuse to read or listen to another pundit who suggests that Trump is losing his grip on the party. It is completely his. And for the time being, this makes me an independent voter and who knows where my principles will take me next.
The student loan forgiveness freakout… Sure seems to have a lot of people who had PPP loans forgiven.
Context, with Ron Filipkowski… Featuring special guest Tim Miller!
Why does Congress keep trading? Despite the STOCK Act?
Movie Pass is back… And Sonny Bunch is here to tell you what that’s a dumb idea.
Matt Labash… On Christian Furries and the people who hate them.
The sounds of nostalgia… A blast from the past.
Crime doesn’t pay… For the people who stole Ashley Biden’s diary, a thread. Project Veritas probably needs better lawyers!
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