Our Weekend Mailbag

Bulwark readers sound off

Happy Sunday and welcome to our special weekend newsletter featuring select emails from Bulwark community members.

Have thoughts, feedbacks, laurels, darts? Feel free to write me at cjaysykes@gmail.com.

As you can see, the Bulwark community is diverse, thoughtful, engaged, passionate, and often eloquent. My inbox is overflowing — with opinions on everything from racism to voter IDs.

Please consider joining us.

Join now

Before we get to the mail, make sure you watch this weekend palate-cleanser:

We Get Mail

Mr. Sykes,

I really enjoy your podcasts and whenever Tim Miller is on...it gets amped up quite a bit.  You shared something on today's podcast about racism that really resonated with me.  You described that in the 1980's you thought racism was in the rearview mirror in our country.  I'm 100% with you on that!  I've often said that one of the things that Trump did was make me realize that racism wasn't dead....it was just hiding and waiting for when it was going to be safe again to come out.

My psuedo-anecdote that I use when trying to convince my friends that it still exists...is to mention the movie "Hidden Figures" where the black ladies helped us get to the moon but couldn't use the bathroom in the same building.  That was in the 1960's when WE (me and my friends) were ALIVE.  That was RACISM!   OK...so let's assume that only 3% of the NASA employees were actually proactive racists....what does that say about the 97% who were "OK" with the blacks having to use a different restroom?  Weren't they essentially supporting racism?  Finally...do you think that changing the rules eliminated racism or just suppressed it on that particular issue about restrooms?

Why is it SO HARD for some of the folks in our country to admit that racism is still a thing and that not acknowledging it....contributes to it still being an issue?  

Keep up the good work and let me know when we're starting a centrist party....  ex-GOP guy


Historical negationism, also called denialism, is falsification or distortion of the historical record. It should not be conflated with historical revisionism, a broader term that extends to newly evidenced, fairly reasoned academic reinterpretations of history.  

Best, Jo

Dear Charlie and the Bulwark Staff,


Charlie, thank you for speaking about the shift in your perception of time today. That meant a lot to me, not just because I'm Black but also because I'm an American. 


I think we all should start paying closer attention to Biden's emphasis on holding onto our democracy and the efficacy of democracy in today's modern world. I've noticed many media outlets starting to draw serious comparisons between Biden and Roosevelt. As a Liberal, I find his economic populism refreshing -- happy days are here again, indeed. But, we cannot forget the dangerous and violent times FDR governed our country through. We cannot forget the rise of White nationalism and Nazism at home. Nor can we forget the growth of autocracy and fascism around the world during his days as president. 

I don't think it's a coincidence that Biden has started shifting his rhetoric towards a focus on democracy's survival in the 21st century. I don't think it's the usual political pablum. This is real. The threat to our democratic way of life is real. I believe that, like FDR, Biden will be judged on whether or not he can keep our democracy alive. I've attached a link to the 1937 speech Quarantine by FDR -- start at 9:08. I'm not sure how to explain it. When I listen to this speech, when I watch how the right is transforming into a Blood and Soil party, and when I think about China's exportation of autocracy worldwide, I feel we have some turbulent days ahead of us as a nation. What do you think? Is this something we need to worry about?

October 5, 1937: Quarantine Speech | Miller Center

Yours truly,
Alvieno James Stinson

Like many whites in the past few years, I've been revisiting US history, and my attitudes, about discrimination. And I really appreciate your grappling, publicly, with unthinking stuff you'd said or written in the past. 

Something I've thought about a lot lately is, it's true enough that my Irish ancestors did face discrimination and difficult conditions awhile back. But by 1970, one of my grandfathers was an executive at a large US corporation; and my other grandfather was postmaster in a rural town. Those were not positions available to any but the 0.01% most fortunate and talented nonwhites. And it meant that once I showed up, I could take for granted that I could, for example, go to college if I wanted. 

(And your point about how close in time 1965 is to today is important; I do think the pervasiveness of the discrimination that we know about that persisted after that time is essential to bear in mind as well).  


Join now

Hi Charlie,

Regarding Biden's first 100 days: It's nice to have a president with a work ethic. It's nice to have a president who wakes in the morning and goes to work. It's nice to have a president who attends church on Sundays. What a contrast to the former guy, who started his day by sitting in front of the TV, fixing his hair, putting on orange makeup, and sending mean tweets. "Executive time," he called it. And Sundays he headed to the golf course. What a lazy bastard he was. I say good riddance.

All the best to you and everyone at the Bulwark. You are a beacon, guiding us through the fog.

-Tim Peterson, Albuquerque NM


 With regards to Biden's speech last night, I think what a lot of people are missing is that it's a wish list and a negotiation start point.  Listing these lofty goals/ideas and introducing legislation with a lot of those items in it does two things:

1- Gives him the ability to tell his left flank "See, I tried to get this done".  Case in point, we're already hearing some on the left say positive things about what Biden is introducing. That protects him and some of the current democrats from challenges from their left.  

2- Gives him enough in the bill that he can scale back or delete in order to give Republicans a talking point on their end during negotiations. Example Republican talking point: "As a result of our hard work we protected America from x or y radial liberal socialist policy and it was removed.  We won!"  He's been in government long enough to know you need to give everyone a win in order for things to pass. I think it also lights a little fire under the Republicans to actually negotiate since there is the threat of breaking the filibuster.   If they don't come to the table to drive down some of these policy goals then maybe the dems will get rid of the filibuster and pass the entire package.

Long story short, I don't think many of these ideas in their current state will pass, but it provides a good negotiation starting point. I just find it refreshing to hear policies.  AND policies that will lift up Americans instead of policies that demonize a specific segment of our population. 


Join now

We Got Lots of Mail About Voter IDs


Although I theoretically agree that photo ID is sensible, there are so many barriers and given all that happened under the Trump Administration, I am now uncomfortable with the requirement - unless it was very easy to obtain.

Here are some personal examples:

1. As a native New Yorker, I do not know how to drive.  I have a passport, passport card and work photo ID. In fall 2020, I needed to renew my passport - but that meant I would have been without government photo ID for 2 + months. So I felt I had to get a non-driver State ID. That meant making an appointment (waiting for weeks), a trip to the DMV (during Covid) and a fee. Suppose I was not ambulatory or did not have an extra $75 for the non-driver's ID? Or had not realized how much time the process would take?

2. My father-in-law has health issues and is only able to walk a few steps. His photo ID is a driver's license. It was due to expire just before the 2020 election and luckily we realized and were able to renew. But suppose we had not? In some places, an expired driver's license would be unacceptable.

3. A friend moved to Georgia in July 2020. He planned to change his voter registration - but came down with Covid. Fortunately he recovered but by the time he was well it was too late to change his registration.

4. Looking at the requirements in Georgia, it seems to me that if you lack transportation, computer access, time to schlep to an appointment or if you are ill/disabled/home-bound, it would be impossible to obtain a State voter ID. 

We are lucky to be able to vote in the lobby of our building in NYC

At minimum, there needs to be 2 - 3 weeks early voting, easy to get to drop-off boxes, and on election day, sufficient polling places and close by.

In addition, mail-in ballot instructions need to be easy to understand!

Thank you.

Lisa Larson

One thing about voter ID is that I voted for years in TX without a photo ID and no one ever thought there was a problem.  You showed your voter registration card, they checked your name on the role for the precinct, you signed their book and voted.  No problem.  

Now they allow certain ID cards that only the "right" people will have, concealed gun permits, and not IDs that the "wrong" people will have, university IDs.  In addition they make it difficult for people whose names have changed, married or divorced women, or whose names have been misspelled, Gonzales and Gonsalez.  And people whose names aren't spelled in the Latin alphabet have it worse, Asians, Eastern Europeans, Middle Easterners. 

The whole bit about "proving" who you are is coldly calculated to exclude people who aren't likely to vote republican.

Dan Miller

I’m not troubled by requiring IDs, so long as:

·         States that require IDs have enough poll workers and open polling places to prevent lines from getting out of control (as the need to show ID slows the line—particularly if this is a change in procedure).

·         ID can be established by showing a student ID, Medicare card, or utility bill – or, in the alternative, that states making getting a state ID for non-drivers a straightforward and free process, and there is sufficient time for all voters to obtain one before the next election.


I wonder what Jonathan Haidt was referring to when he wrote "If any state is changing rules to make it HARDER for some people to vote, and if those people are an identifiable group (Black, young, urban, or whatever), then that will strike most people as a violation of procedural fairness?"

Could it be the US 4th circuit court that struck down NC's 2013 voter ID legislation that explicitly targeted Blacks and the IDs they used most often in prior elections? And just because the Repubs got caught in this instance with a smoking gun, what makes you think that other Red states aren't doing the same thing now. It's not like there was any evidence of widespread voter ID fraud prior to that demonstrated the need for picture IDs, right?

So just cut the BS. Republicans are cheating. The hundreds of new voting bills, whether it's voter IDs, mail-in voting, or reducing days used by many black voters, is proof enough.

Edson Schaus

Charlie, I agree voter ID is not the hill to die on.

But we do need some resolution to IDs in general. In my state, you can have an ID card (photo) from Motor Vehicles, if you don't drive (so no dr license). But it costs you. It works as a picture idea but there are citizens who can't afford it, or who can't drive and so can't go get one. Don't they deserve to vote?

Of course.

Also in my state, you can use a piece of mail to prove you're a resident. But a utility bill with your name/address on it does not show you're a citizen. So why would you be able to vote on it? hmmm.

Most of us do have some kind of ID, driver's license or military or passport. But not everyone has a photo ID and we shouldn't penalize them for that.

So perhaps a federal law saying if you can prove you can't afford it (as you must do theoretically at least to apply for food stamps or WIC etc), then you can get the fee waived. My state does something like that in other areas.

Bottom line: Nothing wrong with requiring photo IDs. Something wrong with using it as a tool to suppress voting. Or marginalize citizens. And maybe regulate noncitizens.


Join now

We Get More Mail

Good morning, Charlie!

First of all … LOVE The Bulwark! So grateful to find a source that holds to conservative principles yet recognizes the insanity of the major party which is allegedly conservative. Finding The Bulwark was like finding a cool spring in a desert. Thank you – I am cheering you on!

I wanted to encourage you to lean-in to dialogue about police reform. I am a former peace officer in Orange County, California, and I retired in 2013 after 30 years of service. Being a police officer was the only thing I ever wanted to do, and the profession was very good to me over the years. It breaks my heart to watch stories about modern policing, yet I fully support the idea of taking a hard look at how our society protects itself, and then making meaningful changes. Changes that lead to people being safe and protected, the law being acknowledged and followed, and peace officers earning the respect that comes with the authority bestowed on them by the society they serve. All sides will need to listen more and practice one of Covey’s “7 Habits”; “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Yes, I am idealistic enough to believe we can make the changes necessary to recreate how the police and the public interact. Yet even if we cannot – I am responsible for doing my part within my small sphere of influence.

If you are ever in Orange County, California, the coffee is on me. In the meantime, keep up the outstanding work! Now I must go find out more about The Bulwark Plus!

All the best!


I listened to your great pod with Amanda yesterday, and I found it ironic that you are a former supporter of RonJohn and her former superiors include both Ted Cruz and Jim DeMint.

Republican party and elected officials do not care one whit for anything except the judges, tax cuts, defense spending and deregulation. Democracy and the Constitution are completely beside the point. They are kept in a gilded cage and regularly beaten to a pulp. But when they drive the BMW to the Mar-a-lago spa, all is forgotten.

Donors as well as rank-and-file GOP voters (regardless of whether they self-identify as Republicans) basically operate in the same fashion. In fact, the party and elected officials are doing exactly what democracy demands: they are following in the footsteps of their donors and voters. Their donors and voters also do not care one whit for democracy or the Constitution.

If you have the time, I suggest you consider reading this short
snippet from an essay that I wrote in Sept of 2017:

Trump may be an "idiot savant" of politics (to quote Mark Salter), but
whatever his mental processes may be, he is 100% on board with the
pulse of your (former?) party.


Hi Charlie, 

On yesterday's Bulwark Online podcast, you raised a question about why there is no response to President Biden's $6T spending spree.  You ask where is the Tea Party now?  Amanda notes that two thirds of Americans agree with his proposals.

I think I have the answer.

Because there has been no one promoting true capitalism since the 1960s. For true capitalism, you need a level playing field.  You need to break up monopolies and foster competition from startups. Instead, you had the Uber-wealthy blocking campaign finance reform and pouring massive amounts of money into campaigns in order to dictate policies that skew the playing field their way.

When you have real wages sinking at the same time that the income of the top billionaires is going up $1 trillion during a pandemic, then OF COURSE people are going to turn against the party who stacked the deck. When you have Amazon paying $0 in corporate income taxes while startups drown, then OF COURSE people will turn against conservatism.

And, as you point out, Republicans are SCARED to stand up to those in power, which in this case are corporations and wealthy individuals.  

The one thing I agree with Biden on is that trickle down economics did not work.

I'd be curious if you agree.


Elliot Vermes -

Mr. Sykes,

I love your podcast.  In the past week you have been talking about how the Republican party still embraces conspiracy theories and other craziness even without the influence of former President Trump.  I see a clear reason for this.  When he was running for president, Sen Romney was condemned for saying aloud that it's hard to get a majority of voters interested in income tax cuts when half the voters don't pay significant income tax

It seems to me that Trump found a way to energize these voters using his weird mixture of antics, vague resentment about being treated very badly, and racism. That formula has the Republicans close enough to a majority that they think they can still win by jerrymandering, the Electoral College, and working the rules to make it harder to vote for people opposed to them.  That's not a great state of affairs for them, but they're afraid if they go to an old formula of limited government and moderately conservative social values, they'll lose.  So they feel they have no choice but to go along with clown show.  That's how it looks to me as a casual outside observer of politics.

Thanks for your great show.

Charles J Gervasi

Madison, WI