Bulwark Readers Sound-Off

Our special weekend newsletter is back

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 police violence and wokeness to showering after gym class.

Please consider joining us.

We Get Mail

Hi Charlie;

Your discussion last night regarding high school showering brought back a curious memory of Menasha High School. Not only did phy-ed classes shower together, at Menasha all classes swam naked together.

No, I'm not exaggerating this.

Menasha was one of those school buildings built by the WPA during the 30's and had a large swimming pool under the main gymnasium. All boys and I believe all girls (they'd never let us guys peek in although we sure tried) swam naked in the pool. This went all the way back from the time it was constructed and was still in practice when I graduated in 1970. It is not the case now and I don't know when it was discontinued. Why it was done I have no idea. We guys took it as normal even though we knew that Neenah had no such practice. Keep up your great work,

Thanks, Jim Beson   


I'm listening to today's Bulwark episode and had to stop and write after hearing the segment where you played stuff from Tucker Carlson's show. Though Tucker's creepy maniacal laughter is, shall we say, remarkable, it was Candace Owen who really struck me.

Her assertion that there was mob justice led by the media in this case (despite a two week trial)  made me think of a quote from George Orwell's 1984, one you are probably familiar with and may have even used:

“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

All the Best

Christopher Clukey

Welcome back from your vacation! 

Regarding the discussion Tuesday morning with Olivier Knox on how John Boehner could support Tr*mp, I think the answer is obvious. 

Boehner says it in every interview I’ve seen during his book tour: “A leader without followers is just a guy taking a walk.” As you well know, the current iteration of the GOP is in thrall to Tr*mp - Boehner is just going with the crowd so even though he’s not leading anymore, he’s afraid to go for a walk on his own. 

And his philosophy explains a lot about his Speakership. Boehner wasn’t willing to lead the House Republicans away from the “Hastert Rule,” and always let himself be held hostage by the “knuckleheads” in the extreme right of his party rather than work seriously with President Obama and the Democrats. Among other things, he could have had an immigration deal and he could have reached the budgetary “Grand Bargain.” But he failed to lead. 

As the oft-repeated saying goes, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them."

Ken Kiyama 


A minor comment about the Chauvin verdict denialism you cite above. I think there's an important distinction here between two very different questions:

1) Is Chauvin guilty?

2) Did Chauvin murder Floyd because he is a racist?

The denialism of question question 1 is one thing - and something a whole bunch of people on the right have engaged in. They say Chauvin would have been innocent but not for 'the mob'. I agree that this is a morally bankrupt argument and I'm glad you're calling it out. But to include K'mele Foster's quote alongside these other ones seems to be out of line. He is addressing the second question I cite above. And there, I think, we have a lot more legitimate space to disagree. There are cases of white arrestees being similarly smothered by police. And the Chauvin case was not about racism - it was about proper use of force. I hope you see where I'm going with this. It may be about race. But it may not be. We don't have definitive evidence one way or another. 



Hi Charlie - I’m still enjoying listening to former Republican voters be amazingly reasonable and supportive of real people. However, on your Monday, April 5/21 podcast you only told half the story of the Trump fundraiser super scam. As I’m sure you know because you *always* read the entire story, many if not most of the people duped into making recurring donations they could not afford and did not intend to give, asked for and got refunds.

But... the refunds were made after Trump lost the election Nov. 3/20. That is when he started his “Stop the Steal” campaign, asking people for money to try to overturn the election result.

Trump used those Stop the Steal donations to refund the people duped into making recurring donations.

In effect, Trump got an interest-free loan to finance the end of his campaign when he ran out of money.

The kicker is that WinRed kept the handling fees and made $5 million.

It’s a scam of a scammed scam. Actually dizzying in its bloated Byzantine brilliance.

I think the second half of the story is more disgusting than the first and would have enhanced you podcast.

Yes, I used to be a CBC News producer.

Please keep them coming. What you do and say is important to democracy.

Mary McKim
Newfoundland, Canada

Dear Mr Sykes,

I’ve been following the Bulwark writers for most of a year now, and would like to offer an observation.

There’s nothing new in further discussing Trumpism. Those of us who were never-Trumpers from the beginning recognized the essential grift from the start. Yes, the general Republican decision to go with the crazy is shocking, but we know this now, and yes, fleecing the supporters is disrespectful, but all political machines are disrespectful.

If the goal of the Bulwark leadership is simply political analysis, ie what are the parties doing, who is positioning themselves for elections and how, who said and did what, and the associated speculations and predictions, then carry on.

However . . .

I’ve been behind in my podcasts and finally had the opportunity to listen to your conversation with Joshua Tait. At the end of the conversation he made three suggestions for reclaiming conservatism: be an activist, develop a coherent narrative of an alternative path, and don’t give up. You are doing the first, and you mentioned on the cast being inspired by the third, but you ignored the ideation element, the most important.

What is conservatism according to the Bulwark masthead? I’ve heard Ms Charen recycle tired tropes of how govt payouts reduce the incentive to work (in a healthy wage environment, they don’t, and work requirements to aid may actually decrease wages because they increase the cost of job loss) and how minimum wages reduce jobs (no minimum wage study has shown an extensive decrease in jobs). I’ve heard Ms Chavez claim she couldn’t vote for Biden because he didn’t support Israel (thus putting another nation’s well-being over our own). I believe it was Mr Miller who suggested any future coordination between center right and center left will likely founder on the rocks of legal abortion, but I could be misremembering.

Jolly’s Serve America Movement does not provide a platform per se, rather a set of operating guideline. I can’t imagine that approach will fare well at the polls, and there will always be a viable set of solutions to address any issue, out of which one will be selected according to a set of guiding principles and values. What are those principles and values?

Best wishes,
J M Applegate


We Get More Mail

Dear Mr Sykes,

"But I hope that if you have gone full Charlie Sykes on me I hope your listeners haven’t particularly appreciated it."

That set me to thinking.  I have lived all my life in the Milwaukee area and have always held Liberal views.  I heard you on the radio frequently, but couldn't stand listening too long because I didn't agree with what you were saying.

Have you changed?  Have I changed?

I'm not positive (maybe I'm just being charitable to both of us), but I think the world has changed and we are in agreement on this new world's greatest problems.

You have recordings/transcripts of your old radio shows.  I don't have any such record of what my views were on specific issues in the past and memory is such a poor record for these things.  We always think about ourselves in the most favorable light.  So I have a question for you.

Have you ever checked back to your old radio show and compared your current opinion on a topic with your current opinion on the same or similar topic?  Something like Floyd/Chauvin/police-brutality should be easy to locate in those archives.

Just wondering,

Greg Leisner

Hi Charlie, I’m a fact-based liberal who loves your podcast. Listen every night for the insightful analysis and even-handed coverage of important issues of the day. Tho I’m a lifelong Democrat, you have changed my mind on certain issues and helped me see flaws & excesses on the Left more clearly. I’m grateful for that.

So my comment here is not a knee jerk reaction to criticism of my tribe so to speak. In the 4/23 podcast with BK, you likened the mainstream media’s rush to judgment over the police shooting of a young black woman in Columbus to the Right’s failure to condemn Derek Chauvin. While I totally agree with the larger point you make about getting facts & absorbing them before rushing to judgment, I don’t think the responses of the left and right are even close to equivalent. The rhetoric about Columbus was instantaneous but then it quickly died down in days when more information came out. It was impulsive, and maybe a barrier to the larger cause of justice, but it did not last. By contrast, some influencers on the Right are still failing to condemn Chauvin’s behavior 9 months later, even after a widely reported fact-finding trial. Popping off impulsively is not great and folks should do better, but standing up for unjustified state violence after protracted fact-finding is magnitudes more frightening and ominous. I’ve listened long enough to expect that you would have made this point because you are so phenomenal at framing issues in a logical way.

Keep up the amazing work! It’s essential and much appreciated.



I recently re-read the classic of political fiction “Advise and Consent” by Allen Drury, published in 1959.  Sure, it’s dated, but not as much as you might think.  Given the Bulwark’s recent focus on the threats to democracy, I thought you might find interesting a brief note, or preface that Drury included, which he had written while still in college:

“Democracy is the most fragile thing on earth, for what does it rest upon?  You and me, and the fact that we agree to maintain it.  The moment either of us says we will not, that’s the end of it.  It doesn’t rest on anything but us; it doesn’t rest on armed force, the moment it does it isn’t democracy.  It isn’t something to kick around or experiment with.”  — Allen Drury, Stanford University (age 19)

That would have been written in 1937 or ’38.  What about those years might have inspired Drury to consider the fragility of democracy?  It’s scary to think there are some analogies to our current political situation.

Please keep going “full Charlie Sykes” on Ron Johnson et al.


Don in Seal Beach

We Get Even More Mail

Reading the Morning Shots today, I had to comment on the American Greatness piece. Because, it's easy to see (and many readers likely will) this as the gum flapping of cranks on the far right doing their usual "mmm...violence" leerBut there is something really sinister there, and it's not just confined to the fringes.

My wife and I are parents of two sons, one of whom is transgender. So when I hear talk of dudes needing to become monsters to "slay the monsters that prey upon the vulnerable", that's not idle talk to us. Because all you have to do is look at Arkansas and Texas to know that, for a significant portion of the right, my wife and I are definitely seen as monsters, simply for trying to do good by our transgender kid.

By seeking out the appropriate--and almost universally accepted--medical care for him, there are Republican legislators out there who want us and our doctors labeled as child abusers. And I'm pretty sure the violence fetishists writing for and reading American Greatness will be happy to accept that labelling. And while most of them probably don't have the guts to do anything other than self abuse while imagining their violent heroism, it only takes one to act rather than whack and try and slay some "monsters"...namely, us and our kid. Am I "overreacting" or being "hysterical"? I certainly hope so. But I'm not confident. 

Dave Pausch

Madison WI

Dear Charlie, when I was a student at U. Chi. folks used to call me. Because I knew how to dig out cars that were stuck in snow. As it happens my parents are from the Indian Institute of Science. Me personally ... I get that Midwestern winters are rather cold. 

Can you PLEASE get your party back to life?

I am fully vaxxed and I live in  a red state. That said, my role is to serve democracy. I am signing up to work for my church. 


Hi Charlie,

I listen to your podcast and read your newsletter from Australia and always enjoy it. We are seeing the current craziness on our own right wing coming as a cultural export from America right now and I hope that it will be arrested at the source soon. 

With regard to what you wrote about today with Maxine Waters and Hakeem Jeffries,I fully agree that the Republicans have been unpardonably hypocritical. Nevertheless, what Hakeem Jeffries said seems to be pure whataboutism. The fact that it comes from the more reasonable party doesn’t make it excusable. Shouldn’t we call our hypocrisy wherever we see it, even amongst allies?

I tremendously admire all of you at The Bulwark for standing up for principles, even when it was tremendously unpopular. I think in many ways the current moment is even harder. When you have begun to see success by supporting those you would normally oppose, it is doubly difficult to hold them to account if they stray from your (and their) ideals. I’m really looking forward to continuing to see your important work in this area and hope for an improvement in the overall situation of politics in the Western World. 

With much admiration,


Rabbi Alexander Tsykin

Hi Charlie,

Thanks to the Bulwark for publishing Joshua Tait's article on April 2.

This paragraph really crystallized some ideas which had been rattling around in my brain for a few years:

A key idea of the New Conservatism was a simplified notion of original sin. This theological concept of mankind’s fallenness and frailty found a new audience in the early Cold War years, particularly in the work of Reinhold Niebuhr. The New Conservatives thought that original sin, understood more metaphorically than spiritually, spoke to a universal fact of human life—in fact, in a 1952 American Scholar article Raymond English, citing Viereck, offered “the political secularization of the doctrine of original sin” as a working definition of conservatism.

Coupled with Jonathan Haidt's work on the "Five Channels of Morality", plus knowing people who are more conservative than I, I have a working theory for why people fall where they do on the liberal-conservative spectrum.

Liberals tend to focus on the inherent goodness of people, tend to trust people to do the right thing. Conservatives recognize that people are flawed, tend to assume people will behave badly if given the chance. In this, the liberal-conservative spectrum might be better described as the idealist-realist spectrum. This might also explain why people tend to become more conservative as they grow older, when they have had more experience with people behaving badly.

It really depends on a person's temperate -- tendency to trust vs tendency to distrust. This perspective is helping me better understand people whose political views differ from mine. Also, it emphasizes how important it is for liberal and conservative viewpoints to balance and mediate each other.

Thanks as always to the Bulwark. You all make me think!

Carol VanZoeren

Wilmington DE


In retrospect I think the GOP cracked when Barack Obama was elected president. The idea a Black man could ascend to the highest office triggered them.

Until then, the GOP could pretend there was no racism in the party. They could maintain the delicate veneer of inclusion. But with Obama's election, the veneer shattered.

And with Trump they embraced the most vile parts of themselves. They exposed their hate for people of color. They exposed their disdain for other religions. And rather than come together when a virus threatened our existence, they rejected science and safeguards. The party of life became the party of death.

The Right has made Black and brown people the Jews of 1934 Nazi Germany. Many of the police have become the Gestapo. George Floyd was murdered. Watch the video as his life seeps away under Chauvin's knee. 

And yet the Right demonizes Mr. Floyd. They do it because he is a Black man. Tucker Carlson's virulent hatred of the other is on display every night. He calls them dirty. He denigrates people of color. And attacks anyone who disagrees. Racism runs through his blood. He feeds on it. And his audience embraces the hate.

My husband and I finally watched the PBS three part series The Rise of Hitler.

The parallels between Trump and Hitler are astonishing. We also have storm troopers in the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and rogue cops. We have the Gestapo wannabes in Stephen Miller. And the enablers in the GOP. 

These people hate democracy. They want to rule a white nation and have power over everyone else. The racism is no longer hidden. It's in full view. And it's stoked by despicable people like Ben Shapiro and Ben Domenech. The worst, however, is Carlson. 

That it is 2021 and we have a cable "news" host who is basically a Nazi and his network embraces him is terrifying. Worse, is that there is one political party that agrees with him and now each election will be a fight for democracy. 

We could be such an extraordinary country if we came together. I knew on January 6th as I watched armed seditionists, enabled by Trump, Cruz, Hawley, Brooks and others, try to overturn a democratic election that would never happen.

And now people on the Right are murdering Mr. Floyd again. These do nothing, know nothing people are no better than the Chauvin's of the world.

Rita Parker