Georgia, Gaetz, and Infrastructure

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Happy Easter! This is our special weekend newsletter with reader emails — your laurels, darts, and deep thoughts. You can write to me at cjaysykes@gmail.com

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ICYMI: Here’s my piece on why we should treat Stephen Miller like a pariah…

Anjali Nair / MSNBC; Getty Images

And just in case you overlooked yesterday’s newsletter on PizzaGaetz: Lordy, There Were Hula Hoops

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Somehow I managed to make everyone mad by making the point that, while Georgia’s new election law may be deplorable, it’s important to get the facts right.

Here are the two fact checks I mentioned on TV yesterday:

Wapo: Biden falsely claims the new Georgia law ‘ends voting hours

The Dispatch: Understanding Georgia’s New Elections Law

You also check out this NYT deep-dive: “What Georgia’s Voting Law Really Does”

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And here is our weekend podcast:

David Frum on the GOP's Strange New Doctrine

On today’s Bulwark podcast, David Frum joined me to discuss his recent column on the GOP’s strange new doctrine, the Matt Gaetz controversy, and how secularization has caused race to replace religion as an organizing principle.

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Dear Charlie,

I'm usually a fan, but I've gotten a little riled up by some of the recent Bulwark content. First, your complaint yesterday about the Left's denunciation of the new Georgia voting law as "Jim Crow in a suit". Give me a break. Obviously, as this phrase implies, the law is not really Jim Crow, but rather is reminiscent of those laws of old with the sole purpose of making it harder for Blacks to vote. Or do you not even agree with that statement? More generally, with all the insane hyperbole on the right about the Dems, why are you making such a big deal about this specific form of hyperbole, which at least has some level of truth to it? The argument that the right can now scream that the left is playing the "race card" - they would've done that anyway, given that the law is so obviously motivated towards suppressing the Black vote. How would you describe the law in five words or less, while still getting this fundamental point across?

My second beef is with the focus group that Sarah Longwell conducted. The fact that voters who voted for MTG AND Biden appear to have no coherent worldview and are seemingly batshit crazy. Why should anyone be surprised by this? What fraction of voters fall into this category? My guess is that the amount is so small that there is no meaningful takeaway, other than that such voters are indeed loathsome creatures to be mocked, but not feared, given their rarity. 

Finally, I was disappointed in your interview with Denver today, where you failed to call out the congressman's whining of how Biden won't reach out to the Right, while at the same time complaining that it is basically impossible for the Right to reach across the aisle, for fear of getting primaried. I'd say the Dems and everyone else knows this, so why should the Dem's waste time pretending that bipartisanship is even possible, only to look foolish and ineffective for trying and "failing"?

Well, those are my three darts. 

Thanks for reading, 

Stefan


Hello!

I have finally joined Bulwark+ after listening to the podcast religiously for the past year. 

Thank you all at the Bulwark for holding the line of truth, decency, reason and plain humanity. Times are crazy and your podcast is a little slice of sanity (and chuckles) in our world. I can hear you saying "No! I agree..." in my sleep. 

I hope you will start to devote as much fervor and consideration to what can be done to promote racial healing in our country as you do to:

a) the Orange Monster's latest outrage (or his minions')

b) what the Democrats should do to get/maintain power (tired of hearing how Dems should shut down AOC and Bernie)

I write this because I agree with 99.9% of what I hear on your podcast. But I become so frustrated when what seems to be mere lip service is given about how awful systemic racism and police brutality against people of color is. Really? Do you really believe that the oppression of a subset of Americans is awful? Then will you please devote more time, energy and thought to brainstorming and proposing creative solutions based on conservative ideals? 

You've done a fantastic job highlighting the dangers of white supremacist extremists in our country. It's time to put the abundant brain power of the Bulwark to use - considering, debating and persuading on the topic of racial justice and healing. Our country will forever be held back if we don't address our racial problems.

It's not only the right and moral thing to do, it is the smart thing to do if we want to attract a broader audience to conservative ideas. 

Warmly,

Sue

P.S. Go dogs.


Charlie,

Yes, the GOP is a Big Tent Party. Just not that kind of big tent. So, let me enumerate the 'Big Tent' which the GOP has welcomed with unusual zeal.

--The Militias. These patriotic Americans distinguish themselves with names such as Proud Boys (emphasis on boys); Patriot Prayer (emphasis on either or); Three Percenters (emphasis on historical inaccuracy);Boogaloo Bois (emphasis again on bright print shirts) and various state-specific groups such as the Wolverine Watchmen, unknown until their plot to kidnap and kill Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Someone coined the term ammo-sexuals to describe militiamen who fetishize and lovingly display their long guns, since to expose their real genitilia is against the law.

--The Antis. These groups include vaxers, lockdowns, maskers, and all those who insist on their individual right to infect and potentially kill fellow Americans, in order to prove that a pandemic is no occasion to be a wussie.

--The I-can't-be-a racist white folk who, well, just can't be!  They do not belong to neo-Confederate groups or the KKK, BUT they are doing everything in their power to assert election integrity back to the American voting system, because, you know, the wide spread 'irregularities' of the 2020 election, particularly in Philly, Pittsbugh, Detroit, Milwaukee and Atlanta. And, yes, there is a crisis at the Southern border, because, well because we don't share a border with Canada down there.

---The Truth Seekers. These are people who follow the abiding foresight and wisdom of Q. They can no longer call themselves QAnon or conspiracy theorists for fear of being de-platformed.

--The new Russian admirers. The tv series 'The Americans' is most likely not in favor with this group nor is Dr. Fiona Hill nor Lt. Alexander Vindman. Somehow this group has come in thrall of Vladimir Putin (who is definitely not a killer) and speaks his 'truth' to American power. He also has a manly physique, especially without a shirt.

Well, I could go on, but I think I've made my point, just not as convincingly as Tucker...

Wayne Isbell

Detroit, Michigan


Really tiresome take on the 2 trillion bill. As a former Republican voter whose last attendance at a Republican function was when someone went into a rant about “those people.”

It would be nice if Republicans were willing to work with Democrats but that ship sailed in 2009 so why do you folks pretend that Republicans would do anything with Democrats?

Some of the comments show that your crowd know far more about politics than how the real world works. Let’s look at the foolish comment about how few miles of road will be built. But a lot of bridges will be built. Well… bridges are the expensive repair - takes a year of more. Road repair - if purely repair, so not the roadway for a bridge - is comparatively cheap and can take just days - presumably communities will take federal money for the bridges (which usually includes the interchange) and use local gas taxes for the road.

Then we have the broadband comment. Also misinformed. The key is your reference year of 2009. As an office worker, I can guarantee that our infrastructure has changed tremendously in 12 years. In 2009 office work was still centralized and relied on older tech - even paper. But in 2021 it is not. Do rural towns want to host business at all? If so they need reliable broadband. And yes, governments don’t lay the cable etc - but since most of the work is just construction, they could (it would be contracted out). There is no incentive now to reach those not served but with money, that could be overridden.

The bulk of the session was fine but really, Republicans have lost the Democrats - period. So it is very reasonable for Biden to try to appease Democrats. They are the ones who voted for him in the primaries and are the reason he is president.

Terry


Dear Charlie,

I just listened to your Mar 23 pod w/ David French (who is a very smart guy, and an extremely good lawyer).

That said: both of you are approaching this in an entirely ineffective manner. Yes, you're both right about the stupidity of the "guns = patriotism/God" nonsense.

Most gun deaths do not occur as a result of mass shootings - in fact these are largely suicides and accidents.

When Australia started buying back guns, there was a substantial reduction in gun deaths overall (including suicides, accidents AND mass shootings).

It also matters what variety of guns are bought back. How many folks are murdered by hunting rifles? (A few every year, but these are generally hunting accidents.)

Just buy the most dangerous guns back. I am happy to see my tax dollars used for it. Gun buy-backs are a net benefit to society. Australia has not eliminated mass shootings. But she has reduced gun deaths in a way that should make her the envy of the US.

(Yeah, I get that some regulatory framework is nec'y to be sure that the gov't doesn't get ripped off, but if the Aussies can do it, then we can as well. We saved them from the Japanese Empire in WWII. Are they more capable than we are??)

--Raj

P.S.: I have lived in both the S. side of Chicago and some of the most dangerous parts of Manhattan. I look like an African American. I have knocked more doors (yes, for Democrats) here in the state of Indiana.
If I had a penny for every idiot who threatened me with a gun, I'd be a richer man. Those of us who live by our wits are a lot safer than folks who peg their chances for survival on their personal protection firearms. My brain is my best self-defense weapon.


Dear Charlie:

I enjoyed the Thursday night discussion. I have a few comments regarding the discussion last night about the infrastructure bill. 

I was not surprised that McConnell said that no Republican will support this bill. I believe that McConnell will do to Biden what he did to Obama - deprive him of any Republican support for anything coming out of the administration. Biden, like Obama, would like "bipartisanship" and it is the one thing that McConnell can always prevent.

When the Republicans passed their most recent tax cut under the former guy's administration, the Republicans didn't even include Democrats in the drafting of the legislation let alone seek their votes. So the hypocrisy never ends.

There are no moderate Republicans or at least moderate Republicans with a spine. It would be nice to see some Republicans step forward and say that they want to work with and negotiate with the Democrats to fashion an infrastructure bill that they can support. This would mean compromise - both sides willing to give something to the other side. But no Republican will step forward. 

With no Republican stepping forward and with McConnell projecting that he intends to provide no Republican vote for anything proposed by the Democrats, we should expect the Democrats to move forward with their agenda. (At least Democrats have a platform and policies that they believe in; the Republicans want to engage in culture wars and claim that they are for the working class while not actually doing anything to improve the lives of the working class - you said it better last night.)

"We shall be judged by what we do, not by how we felt while we were doing it." - Kenneth Tynan. We also can add that we shall be judged by what we failed to do, not by how we felt while not doing it.

Regards,

Alan S. Acker
Fountain Hills, AZ

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Dear Charlie,

I’ve become a fan of your podcast, even though I believe I’m way to your left.  It’s comforting and even uplifting to learn that some Republicans actually did believe in the values and principles they espoused right up until Trump won the 2016 nomination.  (Like the dangers of unchecked centralized power -- remember that one?)

I have a question for you. 

Why is no one calling for Democrats – either in the Biden administration or Congress – to treat the Big Lie as a challenge to be confronted rather than an annoyance to be ignored until it hopefully goes away? 

JVL said it very well on 1/13: The root of the entire conflict we are seeing is a single lie: That Donald Trump won the election.

That’s it. That’s everything.

And until this lie has been repudiated, there can be no progress, no healing, no unity.  

            …

What the Republican party has done over the last two months is akin to having dropped polonium into America’s political groundwater.

And the radiation from their lie has poisoned everything.

I thought he was right and still do.  I also thought lots of people agree that he’s right, but I’m not so sure about that anymore. 

Everyone seems to act as if not that many Americans really even believe the Big Lie, or that it’s not so harmful if they do, or that the Republicans are the only ones who can do anything to improve the informational situation, or that the Democrats' best strategy is to ignore it, ‘lower the temperature’, and hope the patient recovers. 

These seem to me delusions stemming from cowardice, wishful thinking, and lack of imagination.

Tens of millions of people really do believe it.  They are not marginalized and powerless but politically engaged and potentially highly influential.  We already see the harm in their blithe acceptance, if not fervent support, of Republican voter suppression measures.  And the Democrats can and should do a lot more about it. 

At very least they can make it an issue.  They can try to educate the public, inviting experts to testify or, better yet, make highly publicized presentations in which the facts are laid out in a careful, digestible way.  They could announce, well in advance, a 2 day seminar on “The 2020 Election: Defending America’s System” (or whatever – I’m no public relations expert).  Republicans can and should be invited to present as well, and there should be responses to their presentations.  As much as possible it should be a good-faith effort to explore what really happened in the 2020 election, to confront head-on, and as publicly as possible, the accusations that constitute the Big Lie. 

To be clear, the aim would not primarily be to persuade people by the presentation of facts.  Most people who can be persuaded in that way don’t need persuading.  Rather, it would have three main benefits:   

First, it would convey and bolster confidence in the 2020 results and in our system moving forward.

Second, it would wake (some) people from their slumbers and get them to think about, and realize, just how f***ing important this issue is. 

Third, it would put Big Liars on the defensive.  They’ll know people take the issue very seriously and see the Big Lie as an attack on the country.  They’ll know that at least some of their audience is armed with facts.  And everyone will know they didn’t even watch the presentations.

The Big Lie is a serious threat to our country.  I don’t know how it compares to other threats – like climate change, the national debt, terrorism, or pandemics – but it surely must be counted as among the major challenges of our time.  The Republican Party obviously isn’t going to do anything about it, since they’re its creators and (short-term) beneficiaries.  So it falls to the Democrats to lead the national response, if there’s going to be one.  Surely, sooner or later, we’ll achieve a national consensus that the Big Lie was exactly that -- that Biden won fair and square.  But if Democrats keep whistling past the graveyard, we’ll be lucky to reach that consensus by 2050, by which time it will have caused untold harm.

Or am I wrong?  What do you think?

Yours,

Jon Tresan

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Hello Charlie,
I want to thank you. You have been a rudder in stormy political seas. From the election and the big lie to the insurrection at the capitol building and beyond —I have turned to you and your podcast and relaxed a little. You are not beholden to hyperbole of the left, and you reject the downright misinformation of the right. You are honest about your process, admitting when you are still formulating an opinion about something. In short, you are redefining right of center politics in a forthright and sometimes funny way.


Surprisingly, I have found that I agree with you more than I disagree. It’s a surprise because I’m solidly left of center. And yet, what does right and left really mean anymore? We care about democracy, which is far more important than stale labels.
I’m enclosing an essay I wrote before the election, which I do not expect you to read since you are busy and sought-after by the news media. Just in case, though, I’m sending it. I believe our country may still be in trouble. I aim to write essays about what’s going on as events happen. Even if you don’t read it, know that you were one of the main inspirations behind my efforts —both past and future.


Good luck, and great job. I enjoy Tim Miller and Bill Kristol as well, by the way.
Cats are not domesticated. They are just too small to do damage. And with love, they can actually be dog-like —in a kind of insular way.


I’m an animal person to the point of not eating meat because of factory farm cruelty. I think animals in general are more likable than people.

Sincerely,
Laurel Owen


Good morning Charlie,

I want to give you a hypothetical scenario on gun violence and ask you if it sounds more crazy or possible. If the latter, I worry:

I think that based on the nation’s track record since the AWB expired in ‘04, it is safe to assume we will see more mass-shootings this year. What we haven’t seen yet, is physical retaliation from the family members of the victims. How long before we see one of the family members of a mass-shooting victim exact revenge on the shooter’s family after he is taken into custody by police? I ask this because I’m well aware of the human inclination for vengeance, especially when one’s loved ones are taken from them so violently and suddenly. If we were to see a mass-shooting motivated by political ideology--let’s say similar to what we saw happen at the congressional baseball game but with much greater effect, does this initiate a tit-for-tat violence cycle that we can’t walk away from similar to the murder of the Graci brothers or Saturninus in ancient Rome? I don’t know if anyone is looking at the gun debate through this lens yet, but perhaps we should? I had front row seats to the Iraq Civil War that raged from ’05-’08, and let me tell you, armed militias full of religious fervor who didn’t like strong central governments—not all too different than the ones we have here--were a problem. When the government fell to the Sunni militias (read: ISIS) around 2013 it was because a whole swath of non-violent Sunnis gave them political backing over their fears of what Shia-led government would do to them—and yes, the Sunni elites whipped up these fears in the populace in the lead up to their actions of violence at scale. In other words, their “Flight 93” election turned violent because political, religious, and militia figures all told them that a Shia-dominated democracy would end their culture and way of life. Sound familiar?

Kind regards,

Travis Meyer