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“Life Has Never Been Normal”
Sage advice for coping with a world gone mad.
As we ease into another pre-summer weekend, I offer for your consideration this statement by a sitting member of Congress:
Meanwhile, in the real world:
Trump's decision to back Michels is a blow to former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who is polling ahead of her primary rivals but failed to secure enough support at the state Republican convention last month to win the party's endorsement.
Happy Friday, and welcome to an unusually contemplative edition of Morning Shots.
Dispatches from the progressive bubble
ICYMI, we got quite a bit of reaction to my podcast conversation with the Wapo’s James Hohmann, in which he (1) critiqued proposals to cancel student debt, and (2) suggested that Kamala Harris might not be ready for primetime.
Some of the blowback was quite revealing. Keep in mind that this comes from Bulwark listeners, who presumably have the temerity to venture out of hyperpartisan information silos.
Listener Taila left a lengthy response and made several points which I will comment on briefly.
I call BS on most of this podcast, especially in the last third of it.
1) I regret to inform you, but the AOC and Cori Bush crowd doesn't represent the "far left" ; they represent the MAINSTREAM left. They are closer to the base of the party than the Joe Manchins and Krysten Sinemas of the world. If anything, Cori Bush shows how a Democrat can win in a red-state than a Republican-lite running in a Republican state.
Uhhhhh… not sure that I would describe AOC and Cori Bush either as “MAINSTREAM” or examples of Democrats who can win outside of hyper-blue districts. Nota Bene: Manchin and Sinema have actually won statewide elections… and it is (to put it mildly) highly doubtful Cori Bush could win any statewide contest in Missouri (or 40 other states).
2) "Moderate" Democrats (as defined by The Bulwark crowd) actually represent a minority of the party that has outsized power and influence within the party, and that has been the case since the Clinton years. Which is why a vast majority of people who are Democrats don't like them, and have been voting them out in these past few election cycles.
“Vast majority”? It’s true that progressives have claimed some scalps and that blue dogs are an endangered species. But I’m less sanguine that purging moderates bodes well for the party long term. (I’d advise reading a bit of Ruy Teixeira or David Shor on this.)
But here’s the real kicker:
4) Rural America has been a shrinking minority in the Democratic Party since the 1960s. I see absolutely NO need to integrate them into a party. So to suggest that we have to try to appeal to the whims of an embittered minority is absolutely ridiculous.
Bold plan, writing off rural America. Look at a map. Look at the U.S. Senate. Look at presidential numbers.
Look, I know that neither Twitter nor our comment section represent real life. But they do occasionally reflect real attitudes, and perhaps help explain why Democrats now find themselves an increasingly isolated, coastal party.
Taila and others were also upset at criticism of VP Harris, and provided a taste of what Democratic critics of the underperforming veep might expect.
Listener Mike agreed with Taila’s objections and expanded on them:
Nailed it, Taila!
The Kamala comments were comments steeped in racist misogyny. Nothing more, nothing less. I'm surprised he didn't bring up Kamala's dating history (or maybe he did, I couldn't listen after the "all she's ever done is fail up, barely won her last senate campaign").
Exit take: It’s going to be a long several decades.
We are always on the edge
Speaking of podcasts…
During yesterday’s conversation, Dr. Russell Moore referred to something C.S. Lewis wrote during WWII.
In “Learning in War-Time,” Lewis discussed how should we cope when the world around us is burning. Here’s a brief excerpt from his address to students at Oxford in 1939:
…I think it important to try to see the present calamity in a true perspective, The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it.
Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice.
Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself.
If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare war with "normal life".
Life has never been normal.
Even those periods which we think most tranquil, like the nineteenth century, turn out, on closer inspection, to be full of cries, alarms, difficulties, emergencies. Plausible reasons have never been lacking for putting off all merely cultural activities until some imminent danger has been averted or some crying injustice put right.
But humanity long ago chose to neglect those plausible reasons.
They wanted knowledge and beauty now, and would not wait for the suitable moment that never come. Periclean Athens leaves us not only the Parthenon but, significantly, the Funeral Oration.
The insects have chosen a different line: they have sought first the material welfare and security of the hive, and presumably they have their reward.
Men are different. They propound mathematical theorems in beleaguered cities, conduct metaphysical arguments in condemned cells, make jokes on the scaffold, discuss the last new poem while advancing to the walls of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae.
This is not panache; it is our nature.
At the very end of “Learning in War-Time,” Lewis says:
If we had foolish un-Christian hopes about human culture, they are now shattered. If we thought we were building up a heaven on earth, if we look for something that would turn the present world from a place of pilgrimage into a permanent city satisfying the soul of man, we are disillusioned and not a moment too soon. But if we thought that for some souls and at some times the life of learning humbly offered to God was in its own small way one of the appointed approaches to the divine reality and the divine beauty, which we hope to enjoy hereafter, we think so still.
1. My Friend, Donald Trump
My favorite read of the day comes from my friend, Bill Lueders: What it’s like being so special to the former president that he constantly reaches out to you for help.
Donald Trump writes to me often, usually several times a day. The president, as he calls himself—none of that “former” business—wants me to know how much he values me as a “trusted ally.” He is forever offering me exciting opportunities, like the chance for my name to be “permanently engraved” on the “Official 2022 Trump Donor Wall” in his office. All I need to do for this to happen is contribute $45 by midnight.
“Space is extremely limited,” the president warned. “This could be your only chance.”
President Trump is always looking out for me that way. He has told me countless times that I must act quickly because time is running out. He’s been saying that about the Donor Wall since he first brought it up, weeks ago. Since then, he’s given me a generous number of only chances.
2. Biden’s Bad Luck and Bad Choices
Tim Miller’ latest Not My Party looks at why Joe’s poll numbers have tanked—and what he can still do about it.
Well, this is unfortunate.
This might be a problem.