We Get (Lots of) Mail

The Bulwark community sounds off

Happy Sunday It’s been a busy week, so ICYMI:

Kevin McCarthy’s 1/6 Problem

The Steal Next Time

The GOP’s ‘Breaking Bad’ Vibe

A “Not Crazy” Party

Masks Off! Now Bring On The Vaccine Passports.

And if you’re in a mood to binge on podcasts you can catch up with my chats with Bill Kristol, Amanda Carpenter, Karen Tumulty, Barbara Comstock, and Tim Miller.

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This week (as usual) we got lots of mail.

Do you 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.

By the way…

At The Bulwark, we’re not afraid to say we’ve been wrong. We’re happy to learn and grow and—brace yourself—change our minds.

We only ask that you’re willing to go along in the process with us. You won’t always agree with us. We don’t always agree with each other. We don’t even always agree with ourselves over time.

And that’s liberating.

Join us. Be wrong sometimes. Be right in the long run. Be free.

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Let’s start with some palate cleansers:

Unhinged, unwell, and dangerous.

Small remix:

We Get Mail

Hey Charlie,

I am a liberal from Berkeley, CA, can it get any more liberal than that?  I keep hearing you say that the libs won’t give Liz Cheney the respect she is due.  I have been asking all my pals about this and we all have a vast amount of respect for her stand on the election.  We don’t love her politics, but we love her backbone and her position on this.  So, there are some of us who get it....

Ellen Franzolino

Hi Charlie:

Delighted to be a Bulwark Plus member. I was a young Republican and really bought the story of personal responsibility and personal achievement being essential to the social fabric. I looked at my own family, and saw each generation moving ahead through hard work and education. The anti-intellectual and celebrity driven Tea Party movement was when I started to have doubts, and by the time the GOP nominated the Former Guy, I switched my voter registration to Independent. It feels good to have the Bulwark as a community of people with different beliefs trying to do what is right.

I'm writing because I had an insight about the Big Lie. Facts at hand:
1. TFG received 10 million more votes in 2020 than in 2016, despite killing half a million Americans, spewing nonsense at every opportunity, and alienating suburban, educated voters.
2. TFG makes a habit of accusing others of the things he does himself.

Is it possible he genuinely believes the election was stolen because he had already cooked the books to the tune of 10 million bogus votes and was stunned that he didn't cheat enough?

I feel like my tin foil hat must be too tight, but at the same time, I do not believe there
is a bottom to the depravity of TFG and the people who surround him, and most  of the investigations took place in Biden majority counties. What if the claim that this was the "most rigged election in history" is in fact true because TFG did it himself and now thinks he got outflanked?

Thanks and keep up the good work,



"So what happens in 2024 if President Biden or Vice President Harris win the Electoral College, but local Republicans on county boards with majority Democratic votes refuse to certify the election?"  

It’s the end of American Democracy as we have known it. Does that lead to a potential civil war? A great deal of violence will break out.

Will the culture war escalate by the use of grievance politics? Seems that is what is happening now. In the 1850s no one knew exactly what the future would hold for the US. But it was clear to many that the sectional differences (SLAVERY) could not stand. The possible compromises had run out. War was inevitable. Tragedy. 

In the words of the great “JR Ewing”:  “When you give up integrity the rest is easy”. The Republican Party only cares about power. Integrity?  We can count the number of Republicans with integrity on one hand. 

It’s up to the American people to stand for liberal democracy or to succumb to the forces of tyranny (Trump et al)


Andrew Berland

“Naturally, any such requirement will spark fustian and outrage from the anti-vaxxer right. Proof of vaccination, they will insist, is the mark of the beast, or at least incipient tyranny.”

I’m currently spending several days with my sister. She’s been a vegan for over 30 years, rarely consumes alcohol, and gets regular exercise. She’s a walking example of clean living. You’d never know she’s 62.

For nearly as long as her veganism she’s eschewed Western medicine, with rare exceptions. As a lifelong gig economy worker (she’s a talented singer and musician in the NYC area), she’s never had health insurance. She and her husband opted to pay the penalty, when it was in effect, in the early years of Obamacare.

COVID, meet my sister. She’s spent the past year in her NE Poconos home, isolated from her primary NYC home and venturing out only to buy groceries. Given her belief system (which relies on lots of pseudo-science and spiritual practices), she will not get the vaccine unless she’s forced to. I’m not sure if that includes future gigs where those she’s performing with require that she show proof of vaccination or whether it will be a trip she can’t take, either within the US or internationally, because airlines will do the same.

She’s currently visiting me while I’m spending several weeks with my son and his family on the West coast. All of us are fully vaccinated except my 5-year old grandson, so I don’t feel she endangers us. This is a woman who cares deeply about people and the health of the planet, and gives generously to countless causes (including her own time). It boggles my mind that even the appeal that getting vaccinated protects others will not move her from her insistence that she can protect herself (and others) from this novel virus.

All of us hope she’s right.

Barbara Didrichsen

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We Get More Mail

Dear Charlie - I'm a life long democratic but politically closer to the right side of the party. I have really been enjoying listening to the Bulwark podcast and will join as a member after I finish this email. I wanted to tell you that I think you are spot on with Liz Cheney - my mother is a Holocaust survivor and on our refrigerator wall there was the famous Martin Niemöller poem "First they came" I won't requote the poem but this is why Liz deserves support across the political spectrum.

Keep up the good work your work is important!) 

Don Merino Ph.D


Democrat and Bulwark member

I admire you never Trump conservatives. To leave the (formerly) conservative party you've known, loved, worked for and with to advance policy and convince others of the wisdom of your philosophy must be gut wrenching. The thought of joining the opposing party must be unthinkable...a temporary alliance perhaps...but to build a conservative wing of the Democratic party is orders of magnitude harder than starting a new one.

I'm no longer interested in arguing policy. The threat to the Republic is real and right now that is all that matters. We need to fight against voting restrictions and institute some universal rules including - unbelievable that we have to put this in a law - the voters decide who gets elected - not state representatives or governors or the sergeant at arms.

I fear the Republican brand is irredeemably tarnished. The kooks did you a favor by kicking you out of their tin foil hat club. Starting a new party is daunting, but you have serious people with real policies that can make a positive difference. The more the sane people jump to the new party, the easier it becomes to draw more support and have it self sustain.

I'm a centrist who voted in the past mostly Republican until the GOP turned on Romney's Health plan that became the ACA for no other reason than a Democrat introduced it. I'd like my sensible conservatives to reappear so I can have a real choice and a real debate instead of being screamed at that I am a traitor to the party and a socialist fascist (which is an interesting but impossible combination) because I said I liked Romney's health plan.

In the future, when this all passes, I may not agree with some of the conservative policies, but I will never question that you have the best interests of the Republic at heart. That goes a long way to building a government we can trust and restores the common ground. 

I know it doesn't seem like it now, but it is you former Republicans who will be the heroes when history delivers it's judgement. Those who follow you will be the unifiers. Proven loyal to the Constitution and the rule of law because you sacrificed all you knew to stand up for our democracy. 

You have my vote...I just need you to appear on my ballot.

Best -

Eric Hansen

Lake in the Hills, IL

First off I want to say thank you for keeping me out of my own personal rabbit hole.
In my life I have traveled from the far right growing up evangelical. To the far left when I “backslid” in my twenties.

 Now I feel more center left as your podcast has inspired me to hear out  the conservative perspective.

I teach art in rural Wisconsin and during the pandemic I have also been teaching 4th and 5th grade general education online and many days I steal your line about “being back tomorrow and doing it all over again”.

The kids get a kick out of it.

I don’t always agree with your policy ideas, but respect the fact that your ideas give me pause to consider and reconsider my own at times.

So thanks!!


A few thoughts. 

1) Someone needs to find a better label for the MAGA adherents and adjacent. They’re as far from “conservative” as Maoist revolutionaries (at least the Maoists had a somewhat coherent philosophy). If I were a conservative, I wouldn’t want to be linked in any way to those people. 

2) When Kevin McCarthy claims “we are a big tent party,” he’s right. The Republicans will welcome any delusion or conspiracy theory onto the team. Stolen elections, climate change isn’t real, Darwin was wrong, the earth is flat, Judge Crater is still alive… 

3) Today’s Morning Shots reminds me that I disagree a bit with JVL. He’s said that if the GOP wins in 2024, it may be the last free election in the U.S. With all of the election tampering the GOP is putting in place right now, it’s entirely possible that 2020 was the last free election in the U.S.

4) John Barrasso said touching one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation ever (the 2017 tax cut) is a GOP red line in the Jobs Act negotiation. So Democrats can’t change anything passed by Republicans, but the GOP is free to attack relentlessly Democratic legislation like the ACA. (But they’re not going to vote for any bill, just like in 2009.) 

5) Remember when Bobby Jindal said Republicans need to “stop being the stupid party”? If only “stupid" were their only problem. (And whatever happened to him?) 

Ken Kiyama 

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And Even More…

It's been a long time coming really, but organized on the ground opposition to the Trumpians is needed pretty desperately. It is astonishing how the big lie has got so much traction; Trump just never gives up and people tire I guess of dismissing his antics. You can't afford to do that. 

It is a truism of Trump that he is easy to underestimate. When defeated in some way, he goes quiet. He's thinking - not, as his apologists at the time said after the election, getting used to losing. He never gets used to losing. He figures something and comes out with a roar in some way that is unexpected. He's done this often as I've written you in the past. The only way to deal with him, ultimately, is to imprison him, and even then he has pre-arranged it so that it will be difficult to do. Imagine a January 6 type mob tearing down the walls to liberate their hero. Unlike virtually any other felon in the country, the people responsible for prosecuting him for Capone-like financial crimes will be thinking hard about how it will look to arrest him. They are spending their time, right now, nailing down every excuse he might come up with, but even when they are finished with that, they will still be reluctant - an ex-president, with a huge following. . .how it will look, how he will squeal about being persecuted, this little toad with his $400 million plus tax evasion.

That kind of brinkmanship is normal for Trump. People keep shying away because of the risk involved in challenging him. That's what's happened over Jan 6, but Trump did that for the full term of his presidency, typically successfully. Every time he was outmaneuvered he had another slash, another tactic. His legal shenanigans are the stuff of legend. It took more than his entire term to spring his tax returns despite the clear intent of the law. In that time he may have been able to destroy incriminating evidence despite the attempts by investigators to prevent it. 

It is also true that he is clever when it comes to giving himself an out. Jan 6 he whipped up a storm, watched it with glee, but slid in a few words about nonviolence. He knows what he is doing in these moments; he's far more calculating than people acknowledge.

It is routine to poo-pooh any accusation that Trump is a fascist, partly because of the overuse of this term relating to others. Yet he is plainly very well up with the "rules" set out in Mein Kampf. Anyone wishing to follow this line of thinking need do no more than read Hitler but the theory of fascism as put forth by its actual inventor, Benito Mussolini, squares perfectly with Trump, who told the throngs on nomination that "only I" could solve the country's woes. Mussolini, who was a ranking socialist before communist parties existed, argued that class conflict could only be overcome by a judicious leader able to square this circle, the "duce" or as Hitler had it, "fuhrer" capable of leading the people out of the swamp to glory. Maga, yes? 

Trump has now created the potential for the overthrow of constitutional government in the United States, and he has done it purely out of self interest. That is part of what makes his career so remarkable. He doesn't care about his "base" but only wishes to use it for his narrow purposes. 

Yet the underlying issues Trump has used are real issues that have been simmering for decades and that became acute with the development of the next stage of the world economy that began with the end of the Soviet bloc and the rise of China as a global economic superpower. The adjustments involved for Americans in these developments have yet to work their way through. There have been major benefits to people elsewhere in the world - primarily but not only in Asia - that are part of these adjustments, but it's not a zero sum game: Americans don't have to suffer forever because people elsewhere do well. But there are changes and it takes time - in New Zealand, where I live, a major economic relocation took place in the 1980s and 1990s that moved the economy onto a far more stable and resilient platform, but it took ten years, well outside the usual electoral cycle. The United States has only partly gone through this transition, and in the meantime Trump has exploited the adjustments. In consequence not just the US but the world has gone backward.

He is that wrong headed.

So - good luck with a principled opposition. You're going to need it. There is the possibility that repeated puncturing of the big lie balloon will eventually do the trick, and American will wake up as if from a dream, like Bottom and his pals in Shakespeare's Midsummer night's dream. But it is going to take more than that, I think. Lock him up. That's the only final way to shut him up. He's a small time criminal somehow turned his lawbreaking into myth.


Steve Evans

Westport NZ

Dear Charlie,

Congratulations on 40 million downloads! I like listening everyday, but I also worry you don't take enough time off. The guest hosts did a great job, so please consider taking an even longer break this summer. We all deserve a break and need to catch our breath after 4 years of Trump, and going into 2 years of Covid.

We all deserve a break, and a recognition of how hard the Trump years were. When Trump was president, I thought you guys might already be past the point of no return. The executive branch was already functioning as a dictatorship, and it was clear for his last year he was trying to use his office to throw the election his way.

I think Liz Cheney matters alot, because no one has tried telling the truth about Trump from inside the Republican party. The difference between one person telling the truth and zero is huge. It's the difference between complete darkness and being able to find your keys on the ground. 

I think the Liz Cheney story is important, because I think she shows that truth and character are the Kryptonite of the current party. The fact that Kevin McCarthy doesn't want a commission on January 6, doesn't want to testify, wants Liz Cheney to shut up: these should all tell us how essential these things are. McCarthy thinks his party looks better to voters in the dark. I don't think Ms. Cheney will be able to take back the party on her own, but I'm very interested to hear what happens. And I'll be downloading your podcast to hear about it there.

Once again, my warmest congratulations to you and the Bulwark crew,

Patrick G.

Ottawa, Canada