Discover more from The Bulwark
Who Won Last Night’s Elections? Trump.
Trump is the only Republican capable of navigating the post-Dobbs world.
It’s a big news day: The death of the Youngkin 2024 campaign; the continuing influence of Dobbs; a five-candidate Republican debate.
Also, last night Tim Miller and Bill Kristol did an election recap on YouTube and Thursday night I’ll be on our TNB livestream at 8 p.m. in the East.
But I want you to be sure you read all the way to the end today, because the essay I highlight in #3 is one of the best pieces I’ve read this year. It’s a thing of beauty and it will bring you joy.
Normally, this newsletter is locked for members of Bulwark+ but we’re opening it all up today. If you want to join us in the fight for democracy, we’d love to have you.
Welcome . . . to Overinterpretation Island!
My big takeaway from last night is that Donald Trump emerges in a stronger position.
First, he watched another potential Republican challenger implode. Glenn Youngkin was the last, best hope for Republican donors wishing that someone could parachute into the race at double-digits and take on Trump. Floppy-hair Glenn McVest is now cooked. He staked his national viability on Republican control of the Virginia legislature and that bet didn’t come home. His consolation prize will be a 2026 Senate run against Mark Warner.
But the bigger win for Trump was the continued salience of abortion as an issue. I think Democrats have a real blind spot here because they see Trump as the guy who overturned Roe with his SCOTUS appointments. But I don’t know that voters are going to see him that way—especially since Trump is the only Republican with the freedom to sound vague on abortion.
Look at this question from the weekend’s NYT/Sienna poll:
That’s a pretty sweet spot to be in.
Trump has already begun distancing himself from the Republican consensus on abortion. He called the abortion ban Ron DeSantis passed a “terrible mistake.” He has said that all abortion laws should have exceptions for rape / incest / health of mother because “Other than certain parts of the country, you can’t—you’re not going to win on this issue.”
A handful of people from Pro-Life Inc. don’t like what Trump is doing. “Are pro-lifers going to allow themselves to be a cheap date?” Patrick Brown, a fellow with the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Life and Family Initiative, told Politico. “Are they going to sit back and take it when candidates are denigrating the cause they dedicated their life to?”
The answer to your questions, Patrick, are Yes and Yes. Pro-lifers are going to be cheap dates and they will just sit back and take it.
Trump’s “position” on abortion is that he’ll make all the best deals. Here is what he says:
I would sit down with both sides and I’d negotiate something and we’ll end up with peace on that issue for the first time in 52 years.
I see no reason why he won’t be able to carry this line all the way through the election. After all, that was the entirety of his 2016 plans for (1) building the wall, (2) fixing the trade deficit, and (3) balancing the federal budget. There were never any details or plans. Just “I alone can fix it.” And people bought it.
At the very least, Trump’s “I’ll do a great deal on abortion” will make it hard for Biden to hang abortion around Trump’s neck in a national race. It might even allow Trump to have it both ways with low-information swing voters.
Trump is better positioned on abortion than any other Republican. Unlike Nikki Haley, he will get credit from pro-lifers for Dobbs, but unlike DeSantis, he will reassure voters who didn’t like Dobbs.
Nota bene: I’m not saying any of this because I want it to be true. I don’t think voters should accept Trump’s “I will make a beautiful deal on abortion and everyone will be so happy that they’ll have tears in their eyes, saying ‘Thank you, Mr. Trump. Please, will you serve a third term?’”
I’m just saying that, as an analytical matter, Trump is uniquely positioned to be Nixon going to China on abortion, and he’s already showing us how he’s going to do it.
The Pundit Fallacy is the belief that “The things I prefer will be popular and successful.”
But we don’t do that here at The Bulwark. We take the world as it is, analyze it, and try to help you see around corners. Because if we’re going to preserve democracy, we have to be clear-eyed.
Come and join us. Most of what we do is free—with no ads. Just sign up and you’ll get it sent to your inbox every day. And if you’re inclined to become a member in order to support our mission, then today is a good day to do it.
Either way, we want you to roll with us.
2. Democrats and the Radical Left
One of the ongoing debates we have around here is about the extent to which the Democratic party is either captured by, or hostage to, the more radical elements of the left. My view is that the more radical elements are an unreliable part of the Democratic coalition and that Biden has marginalized them to some meaningful degree. Bidenism is a real thing and it has managed to co-opt well-meaning democratic socialists such as AOC, Bernie Sanders, and John Fetterman, while diminishing people like Rashida Tlaib.
Yesterday the House censured Tlaib and 22 Democrats joined Republicans in the motion.1 That seems pretty impressive. (For comparison’s sake, only 11 Republicans crossed the aisle in 2021 and voted to remove Marjorie Taylor Greene’s committee assignments.)
Democratic leadership condemned Tlaib, too. Here’s Hakeem Jeffries: “Echoing slogans that are widely understood as calling for the complete destruction of Israel — such as ‘from the river to the sea’ — does not advance progress toward a two-state solution. Instead, it unacceptably risks further polarization, division and incitement to violence.”
I said that Biden’s leadership had moved parts of the Democratic left toward the center.
Here’s Bernie Sanders on the idea of a “ceasefire”:
I don’t know how you can have a ceasefire, [a] permanent ceasefire, with an organization like Hamas, which is dedicated to turmoil and chaos and destroying the state of Israel.
And here’s my boy John Fetterman:
Not for nothing: But if not for his stroke, right now Fetterman would be the guy everyone wanted to replace Biden next November. He is a powerfully good politician.
If you enjoy this newsletter and would like to see more of it, here’s a 30-day FREE trial offer for Bulwark+ that gets you unlimited access to this newsletter and everything else we publish. Cancel before the end of the trial and owe nothing or stick around and join us here each weekday. We’ve got a great community built on good faith. Join us!
3. Sara Lippincott, RIP
I had never heard of Sara Lippincott until this week, but I had read books that she had edited. She passed away recently and left behind a final essay and it as as charming as anything you will ever read.
I got out of Wellesley in 1959, shortly after Lolita got out of Paris. Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. (Na-bwak-awf: a trip down the stairs with a loud bump and a glorious sprawl at the bottom.) I fell in love with it.
I had majored in English, with a minor in Moby Dick, and now planned to become a full-time poet. So I looked for and found a garret in Cambridge, in a seedy gabled house on Kirkland Street. The third floor—two tiny bedrooms and a hall bath—was shared by me and a young woman of about my own age but not my aspirations who was drinking herself to death.
To support myself while writing poems, I took the first job the Harvard personnel office suggested—as secretary to Dr. Frank Carpenter, a paleoentomologist and recent chairman of Harvard’s Biology Department. The department was quartered in the Bio Labs on Divinity Avenue, an impressive pile whose front entrance was guarded by a pair of giant bronze rhinoceroses. Dr. Carpenter published a bug quarterly called Psyche. Now that he was through with his chairmanship, he wanted to turn more attention to it, and he needed someone who could spell and knew where the commas should go. I’d do fine.
One year of extremely introductory biology was the extent of my exposure to science at Wellesley. It was taught by Mrs. Houck, a sweet, hopeful woman who had us cut up frogs (I wouldn’t) and one day took us on a field trip to Paramecium Pond, a reedy puddle in mid-campus next to a magnificent pine tree with come-hither branches. Up this I went, quickly and quietly, with a like-minded pal, and we hid there until Mrs. Houck and the crowd of giggling future biologists marched off. Then we climbed down and went back to the dorm for lunch.
C+ from Mrs. Houck. The "plus" was nice of her.
Read the whole thing. What a treasure.
The censure was in response to Tlaib equating terrorism with “resistance” and using the phrase “from the river to the sea.”