We Get Mail

Special Saturday Newsletter

So, the other day, I mentioned that we’re bringing back our special weekend newsletter featuring select emails from Bulwark members.

I invited feedback: “Have thoughts, feedbacks, laurels, darts? Feel free to write me at cjaysykes@gmail.com.”

Well, you people are amazing. My inbox is overflowing and I wish I could publish every one of the replies.

The response reminded me just how remarkable the Bulwark community has become — diverse, thoughtful, engaged, passionate, and often eloquent.

Here’s just sample of the mail we got over the last few days: your comments ranged from Neanderthals to transgender politics to the fate of democracy. We got a lot of flattering fan mail (you make us blush), but some of you challenged us on important points and asked pointed questions.

Please keep it coming.

Dear Charlie:

Morning Shots are the topic of discussion between my husband and I during many dog walks. This morning we talked about your link to transgender rights as a potential political flashpoint. It matches something we have been saying in private to each other: If you're over 21 and want to change your gender, go right ahead. But there are biological differences which give transgender women an edge against biological women in sports. Our friends' son, a 6" male athlete in college, is now a transgender female weightlifter. There is something performative and gloating in this person's social media posts about competing against women as a weightlifter. It's weird but you can't say anything. 

We were once firmly left of center, having lived in Brooklyn during the late Bush to late Clinton era. My husband is an academic and we socialize with other academics whose politics we no longer relate to.

For example, our skepticism of "Defund the Police" and destructive Black Lives Matter protests, concerned that both would incentivize votes for Trump in the presidential election, led to an academic friend calling us racists. PC culture on campus is alarming too (Smith?!)

The far right and the far left are morphing into unrecognizable entities. Perhaps society is changing too quickly.

best regards,

Pam


Hi Charlie —

This week’s Bulwark content has been on fire! From Bill’s “Facts of Life” response-piece, to your fascinating history-dive podcast with Mickey Edwards, to the Thursday night live stream, you and the Bulwark team have been crushing it.

For us politically homeless The Bulwark has been a welcomed find. I’m with you on wanting to avoid signing up for another team, but I am disillusioned and disgusted by the crackpot show going on at the GQP.

The last five years have been a hell of a journey, and while we haven’t reached our destination yet, I am glad to be riding along with Bulwark crew.

Onward, upward, and hopes for sanity prevailing! Cheers.

Best wishes,

Phil Walsh


Hey Charlie,
Generally I’m a fan even if our politics are very different but as I was listening to the Mickey Edwards I was disappointed to hear you once again strawman the argument about the Republican Party, Race and how it led to Trump.  I’m sure there are some unnuanced lefties who make the case poorly and shame on them for discrediting an argument that has merit. 
I’m not saying Reagan was a secret Klansmen but what was he doing OTHER than playing with and stoking racial animus when he made that speech on behalf of States Rights at the Neshoba County fair in Mississippi in 1980?  He was a smart enough person to know what happened in Philadelphia MS. Combine that with attacks on “welfare queens” and what are we supposed to think?

Reagan may not have wanted to create the ethno-nationalist party that is the GOP in 2020 but he was comfortable dog whistling to ppl with those predilections.  Does that make him as bad as Trump, certainly not but he doesn’t get to get off scot free.  Your commentary is usually more nuanced than this and it was a disappointing miss in a cool interview.  Imagine how much someone like Mickey Edwards could have had to say about Reagan and race!

In general keep it up, but don’t let the slings from the left keep you from introspection about the sainted Reagan.

Ben Moser


Dear Editor,

I am the Chair of a small Democratic Town Committee in deep blue Massachusetts and a proud Bulwark+ member. I love Bulwark’s podcasts and articles and the community they have formed. I admire Kristol, Sykes, Longwell, Charen, Last and others for their courageous work against Trump and Trumpism. I share their articles with other Democrats and it’s important for me to get a perspective outside of the NYT/WAPO liberal press. Bulwark’s mission is more important than ever to protect democracy.

Sincerely,

Ruth Suyenaga/ Chair, Royalston Democratic Town Committee


Hi Charlie, I just had to say thank you for all your hard work everyday on the podcast. I so enjoy listening, your selection of topics and guests is impeccable, and fortunately for me, it gets me to and through my workout. So I’m eternally grateful!

Please stay healthy, glad you’re ok after your Moderna “jab” (thanks, Mona), and congratulations on your newest family member. So happy to be part of the Bulwark+ Community.

Julie Richardson
Prescott, AZ


Charlie,

You and your cohorts at the Bulwark have been a voice of reason and sanity to my ears. You asked for letters, comments etc, here's my comment.

What in the world is Wisconsin putting in their water? Your senator Ron Anon is absolutely nuts! I can't say anything good either about the Republican legislatures here in Arizona. Something foul must be in our water too. Unfortunately I live in Andy Biggs district and he surely does not represent me or my beliefs of a fully functioning democracy for all constituents in the least. What I don't understand, instead of doing some self reflecting as to why the Republicans lost the House, Senate and presidency, they continue with the sore loser routine and there was some irregularities with the election. They are now hell bent on introducing bills to make voting harder instead of easier. Yet there are the rubes out there cheering this on because they have to "own the libs".

Do those same people not understand that if these kinds of dangerous voter suppression bills somehow get passed, that their voting rights will also be curtailed? On the other hand if they are that effing stupid, they shouldn't be allowed to vote. And to the idiots who live in my neighborhood that still have their Trump/Pence 2020 and Make America Great Again signs on their houses and in their yards, your guy lost, like four months ago. Just stop it, take your MAGA crap down, you look pathetic. Just my two cents.

Carol in AZ


We Get Even More Mail…

Charlie,

I’m 64 and identify as a Libertarian, socially liberal about choices, but believe in general conservative economic and ideological principles.  Generally I vote for the least worst candidate.

This belief system doesn’t help me with the big questions of whose right is more important:  The business owner’s right to refuse service based on their belief system, or the person being discriminated against.  But I persevere.

I really enjoy the Bulwark+ and will re-up my subscription.

You write on this topic today.  Bulwark was created by conservatives to rally against the crazy of Trumpism.  I’m completely there with you.

But, the publication’s current answer is to move to the Democrats.  I don’t believe that is a long term answer.  I completely disagree with the progressives wing and government coddling.  I’m a “give a hand-up, not a handout”.

I’m hoping that you come to the conclusion that a third party from the centralist sides of both parties, to put up their own candidates where it could win and will work to swing their block of votes to the most appropriate candidate in other elections.

Over the past few years, we’ve proven that “life long party affiliation” is no longer a thing.  Who would have thought white strong union backers would move from the democrats to the republicans in my lifetime!!?

So my point is, maybe it is time for Bulwark to start talking about moving towards something rather than just away from Trumpism.

Keep up the good work.

Best regards,

Steve Keener


Dear Charlie Sykes,

Politically 25 years ago I would have described myself as a center-left independent. The kind of person the Bulwark is hoping to attract.  While I appreciate your efforts, I think you are underestimating the scope of the problem we face with the current state of the Republican party.

The last ten years have convinced me that three things are true for a sizable portion of humanity, maybe not a majority but more than 25%:

  1. identity is more important than ideology

  2. narrative is more important than facts

  3. sense of status position is based more on referencing others below rather than those above

I think this is why class based programs favored by politicians as distinct as Obama and Sanders face such strong opposition. I also think this contributes a lot to anti-democratic/xenophobic tendencies. This problem is not just in the US. It seems to be true in such different places as the UK, Hungary, Myanmar, Poland, India, Germany, Turkey. Russian active measures can exploit this challenge but are not the source of it. Social media may amplify this but is not the cause. I heard Ta-Nehisi Coates say in an interview that he had left journalism for fiction writing because he was trying to communicate facts to people who were responding with myths. So he decided to create new myths.

This has real implications for the future of liberal nation-states that are not ethnically/religiously/culturally homogeneous (commitment to rule of law, equality of citizenship, representative democracy; and non-zero sum political competition and legitimacy). It also casts further doubt on the world’s ability to deal with climate refugees in the next 20-40 years. 

Is an inclusive nationalist identity in a multicultural country still sufficiently compelling? If not, are there enough engaged citizens who will push back against authoritarian/herrenvolk tendencies? Probably 20-30% of people will always be low information citizens. On what basis do you appeal to energize those people? Are new narratives needed to do this? If yes, who/where should we look for such narratives?

Regards

(Name withheld)


Charlie,

I’ve been a faithful supporter since you started - any email from Bulwark goes to the top of my reading list.

Jonathan Last is correct: Conservatives need a voice of reason, and so do centrist Democrats! Bulwark is the perfect vehicle to expose the silliness/hypocrisy/authoritarianism on both sides of the political spectrum. And to provide balanced views on policy issues.

Keep up the good work!

Howard Bergman


Hi Charlie:
What has happened to Ron Johnson?  He seems to have become unhinged, with each passing day getting more and more bizarre.  Is it the press he's getting (as a result of his bizarreness) which is fueling him at this time?  Being Trump's lap dog was one thing, but . . . .

Great blog!  Thank you!

Scott Leedom


It Keeps Coming…

Hello Charlie:

Well, let's get the trivial stuff out of the way first:  comparing Texas Gov. Abbot Mississippi Gov. Reeves to Neanderthals is, indeed, an insult to Neanderthals everywhere!

 On a more serious note: thanks to you and Bulwark I do listen to compos mentis Republicans' critiques of legislation---at the moment HR1.  Here is my underlying problem:  Rep. Peter Meijer strikes me as a person of integrity.  The problem with his protestations about HR1 is that his objection to having the federal government set fair voting guidelines ignores the underlying reality:  THAT is precisely what has always been done---and we see where that is heading.  Or to paraphrase Mickey Edwards:  we have been mugged by reality.

 If, indeed, HR1 is unconstitutional so be it. I am not a constitutional scholar.  I simply can't imagine that legislation cajoling/encouraging states to stop engaging in voter suppression and gerrymandering could have any meaningful impact absent force of law.

 I had the same reaction to Sarah on last night's livestream about the Democrats trying to get 60 votes in the Senate.  While I see Sarah as bright and sincere, in the current political reality I see that as an inconceivable pipe dream.

As a Center-Left Dem (voted for Hogan---but will never do so again after he endorsed Q-Anon Kelly and Insider-Trading Perdue in Georgia),  I WOULD like to see more focused legislation.

But I believe that given the chance, the GOP will do to Biden precisely what they did to Obama---obstruct in the belief that this will let them take back the House and/or the Senate.

We MAY see some agreement on infrastructure.  And as abhorrent as Amanda may find it, I believe bringing back earmarks, aka Ye Olde Porkbarrel----would help create bipartisan support even if it results in some boondoggles.

Rome burns---I am willing to overpay for the fire extinguishers.

Enough said.

Richard B. Karel/ Baltimore, Maryland


I’ve voted for the Democrat my entire life and that won’t change.  Bulwark+ is the first, and probably only, conservative-ish organization I will ever give to and that probably won’t change either.

Thank you for making me feel better about the capacity for people to think independently and without fear.  Thank you for making me laugh!   Never thought it’d be easier for me to miss an episode of Pod Save America than the Bulwark. 

Keep up the good work.  Good luck getting rid of RonAnon and thank you for voting for Democrats!

Regards and (glad you’re feeling better post-shot),

Wynn Senning


Dear Charlie,

I read with interest The Washingtonian’s take on the future of publications that emerged to oppose Trump and Trumpism and JVL’s contention that The Bulwark has a future even with Trump out of the White House.  I believe The Bulwark not only can survive, but it must survive.  Your newsletter is the first email I open every morning and I read most of The Bulwark’s articles. 

Now this would not be surprising were I an anti-Trump Republican seeking an intellectual home.  But I am a flaming liberal who left the Republican Party in 1964 when it nominated Goldwater.  I cast my first vote for LBJ and can say that I have never voted for a Republican presidential candidate since.  (I have occasionally voted for a GOP candidate in gubernatorial and congressional elections.)

Why then do I read The Bulwark so faithfully?  Because here, for the first time, I regularly find sensible discussions from a more conservative position which make me think about the issues the country faces.  I will always be more liberal than most of your writers, but I value the perspectives even when I disagree with them.  (Which I do much less than I would have thought!)

Now, having had my Bulwark fix, I will head off to Balloon Juice, my home on the web.  I happily support your efforts and wish you well.  The country needs the perspective you bring to cacophony of voices which a vying for the soul of American.

Thank you for your work.

Jean Hunter


Mr. Sykes

I have a few questions, and concerns which I would like to share with you.

1. Of the 75 million people who voted for Mr. Trump have you seen the data regarding the breakdown? How many did hoping not to hurt their retirement funds? How many are white supremacists? How many were just against Biden? How many truly believed in the Trump Agenda?

2. A family of four lives at the poverty level if they make $13.25 an hour working a 40 hour week. I would think most at the minimum wage level do not receive benefits such as retirement, health, and vacations.  Yet we provide three meals a day for children who live in this segment of our society. This includes when school is not in session.  It is similar to not providing health care but no one can be refused at an emergency room door. Where is the efficiency?

3. Senator Johnson forced an aid to read the 600 page stimulus bill. Not willing to do it himself. Not willing to clean his own toilet but willing to toss a few nickels to someone in need to clean it for him. We now live in the great divide.

4. Finally, I spent most of the past year in isolation, but I did not waste my time. I read about non-gender identity, and the history of the whites over other groups in the United states. I am very much  for  many things I would not have just a year ago. But I am concerned that removing Dr. Seuss from the book shelves will only make more join the 1000 white supremacist groups that the FBI has identified. 

5. And why are 40% of the adults in our country not willing to receive the vaccine? Do we not remember: do it for the team, the good of the order?

Again I thank you for your newsletter and appearing on MSMBC. 

Bruce Burk / age 73/ Married 53 years /Both my wife and I are retired school teachers/ white male / Episcopalian /Stopped voting republican 4 years ago and don't expect to go back


The Politics of Fake Outrage

Hey Charles,

Something occurred to me today, about how your mind has to be completely eaten by right wing brainworms in order to understand the logic behind their actions anymore. If you're not familiar with the deep lore of the right wing echo chamber, then everything sounds insane. 

Take, for example, Dinesh claiming that people buying so many Dr. Seuss books was 'karma' for the left. Now, a sane person might go 'wait, why is enriching the people who decided not to publish a book with racist images in it karma for the left?' 

But then you remember that to people like Dinesh, the logic goes like this: 

The 'left' tried to 'cancel' Dr. Seuss, and thus the 'patriots' fought them off by buying lots of books so they could 'own' the 'libs.' 

Which brings us back to places like Fox News, which have spent days claiming that Biden and the Democrats are cancelling Dr. Seuss. They're cancelling Mr. Potato Head. They're doing x and y and even z! 

Nevermind that neither Democrats nor Biden are actually doing anything. Biden is not the owner of the Suess properties, nor are Democrats the people in charge of Hasbro. But in the mind of the right, everything that happens is the left's fault. And so the decision to stop publishing racist images by the Seuss estate is recast as fighting back against the left who are the ones stopping it, even though they are not stopping it or causing it at all. 

Which means that any and all changes to the culture, something that happens naturally and they even claim should happen given how much they rail against RINOs, is recast as a dramatic battle for the soul of our nation, as though not publishing images of chinese people as racist caricatures was somehow the bridge that leads to communism. 

There has been a lot of this in the past; I remember when they changed the land of the lakes packaging and suddenly people decided it was 'owning the libs' to buy lots of butter they didn't need. Or when they changed the Aunt Jemima packaging. Or when they decided to delist Gone With the Wind. Everything, everything is now about fighting the libs, even if the libs aren't actually the ones behind it, and might actually benefit the people they hate. 

Essentially, feelings don't care about your facts. 

But what this does mean, is that Democrats can essentially do whatever they want, with no opposition, because the right is spending all its time and energy fighting imaginary dragons like they're Don Quixote chasing windmills that they think cause cancer for some reason. The Democrats are currently passing a giant stimulus, and what are the senators talking about? Children's books and plastic potato toys. 

Hell, even Biden's Neanderthal comment caused them to spend their time trying to suddenly claim that saying bad things about neanderthals is actually racist, because the people buying racist images out of fear they might disappear is now really worried about anti-neanderthal racism. 

What this means is that Democrats can basically do whatever they want, so long as they can keep their own caucus together. The thing about performative outrage is that it doesn't actually mean anything to those who don't care about the issue. There's a reason why student protests over really niche issues on college campuses never actually go anywhere, because they're about image more than substance. The right is essentially that idea, taken to an extreme and amplified towards lots of people. 

So honestly, this isn't going to stop until the right wakes up and realizes that all their outrage has given them nothing, and has instead allowed Democrats to do everything they've wanted to do for years without any kind of real resistance. If they were smart, they might even try to come up with new fake outrages just to keep the Fox News machine spinning along and distracting them. Have the Squad say something every few days that drives conservatives wild, while Democrats are doing the hard work of actually legislating, made much easier now that the GOP would rather be made up of tv pundits

Shawn Conway


Charlie--

It may have been an offhand reference in today's newsletter, but your mention of Senator Wayne Morse shows why I like your newsletter and The Bulwark so much. As someone who has worked in the DC policy world for a quarter of a century now, I went down a rabbit hole to find out more about Senator Morse and came away trying to find a book on the man. I mean, look at the resume:

  • Born in Madison, Wis., (a fact I can't believe you failed to mention) he was a Republican in the Robert LaFollette mold.

  • He left the party in 1952 over disagreements with the platform and Richard Nixon's selection as VP.

  • After being left out in the cold in the Senate as an independent for several years, he became a Democrat in 1955, giving them a one vote majority (and getting some plum committee assignments from LBJ).

  • He was one of two senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution.

  • He eventually lost 1968, due to his opposition to Vietnam, to Bob Packwood.

He's someone who certainly set his own course through his career and seemed to have a preternatural ability to come out on the right side of history (barring his filibuster of whatever the tidelands oil bill was).

Best regards,

Justin Darisse

Gaithersburg, MD


I call myself a person of the Left, but I am a paid subscriber to the Bulwark. I find myself agreeing with almost all of the articles, and especially appreciate the down to earth approach of the writers.

Mike Flood 

Former WI resident who now lives in New Mexico.


Tough Questions and Deep Thoughts

Hi Mr. Sykes,

I am a devoted listener of your podcast and Bulwark reader/subscriber.  I agree with you all on basically everything and the things I don’t I am happy to listen to because you are reasonable people. 

That being said, as a fellow Wisconsinite I need to know what you saw in people like Ron Johnson and Scott Walker.  Don’t mistake me for a standard liberal, I voted for Romney in 2012 and don’t regret it.  I helped an outsider Republican in my state Senate district, SD-14 if you’re wondering, run against the establishment candidate just last year.  His name was Ken Van Dyke and he was running against Joan Ballweg a former state assemblywoman from Markesan.  I met with Luther Olsen roughly a year ago, two weeks before he announced his retirement, at a coffee shop called Mugs in Ripon.  I tell you all this so you don’t dismiss me as a troll.  All of that being said I saw Walker and Johnson for what they were.  I liked Russ Feingold, I thought he was a good senator.  I liked Tommy Thompson and I voted for him in 2012 along with Romney.  That being said I need to know how you didn’t see through people like Johnson and Walker? I am not trying to insult you, I just want to know what you saw to see if there might have been something I missed in my assessment at the time.

 I have now devoted myself to ending gerrymandering in our state and also trying to pass final five voting.  Please don’t mistake me for a something I’m not.  I’m a fellow Wisconsinite, fair maps devotee, Bulwark listener/subscriber, and just genuinely curious about your perspective on Johnson.

If you want to know more about me I grew up on a farm near the Dane/Iowa county line.  I live in Poynette and work in Middleton.  I went to college at UW-Baraboo/Sauk County and transferred to UW-LaCrosse and graduated in 2010 from that university.  I want the world to be a better place and I want to go back/forward to an era of politics where we didn’t have to worry so much.

Cheers,

David


I love all of the information I get from you all. It continues to be relevant to those of us who recently dumped the Republican/Trumplican Party in favor of not being a piece of shit. I keep learning more and more about how I have been misled my whole life by family, friends and the media about who these people really are. Your information helps me continue my journey toward truth.

Thank you!

Sherry


Charlie - I have to comment on why I  am a plus member, being a somewhat liberal Democrat, mid 60s, female living in Missouri. 

I needed MSNBC to get through the Trump years and The Lincoln Project, in the past year...to keep from getting too dispirited. Sensible Republicans with such insight who were as frustrated as myself? That was and is comforting because I live in a red state (about a mile from Claire McCaskill btw). Very middle class,  but the rise of Trump motivated weak minded Republicans is scary. Rural Missouri is a hotbed for this, of course.

You crack me up talking about Hawley. Think about this...when he was first elected, was elusive in the state - rumored to be at the gym all the time & not very impressive with lack of “personality”. Ugh, a complete embarrassment in so many ways!

I enjoy the extra podcasts as well as your wit; you have to have humor to deal with the craziness of it all, right. The swearing is a bonus

I especially enjoy Tim Miller and Sarah Longwell. Quirky him and serious her...so smart and entertaining. Sarah and JVL talking about kid show music made me laugh. So many parents and grandparents can identify. 

Keep up the good work!! I am a fan.

Barbara Killoren


Can’t Move On Quite Yet

Hello Charlie,

Last week, I heard Sarah mention a reader comment from the live stream that asked why we're still talking about Trump now that he is out of office. I would like to have a chance to respond to that comment, and state why we still need to talk about the small-d democratic calamity that was the Trump presidency.

1) The Damage Done

While it is true that most former presidents do not receive the amount of press coverage that the former guy has, it is also true that Trump is no normal former president. If Barack Obama's mishandling of an international pandemic had led to the deaths of half a million Americans or if George W. Bush had incited an attack against his own government on the way out the door, I'm sure we would have been talking about them long past the end of their stay at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

In addition to those catastrophes, we are still grappling with the political and humanitarian consequences of Trump's tenure. While we have managed to reunite many immigrant children with their parents after they were so cruelly ripped apart at the border, hundreds more remain separated and in need of our help. We also are dealing with a decline in our international prestige. Many of our friends and allies no longer see us as an international beacon of freedom, and our enemies abroad feel emboldened as a result of isolationist policies that failed to hold international bad actors accountable for anti-democratic actions. 

Perhaps most troubling of all, however, is the unprecedented erosion of our democratic institutions over the past four years. At the moment, our election systems are under assault by conservative lawmakers around the country; the fundamental tenets of our constitutional order--the concepts of free speech, a peaceful transfer of power, and equal justice under the law--have found no purchase in the modern Republican party; and the previous administration frequently flirted with the idea of locking up political opponents.

While these trends may have started prior to the rise of DJT, they certainly accelerated under his presidency. More worrying still is that the recent CPAC convention showed that anti-democratic ideals are now the norm in the Republican party.

2) The Crisis of the Moment

It has been stated many times before, but needs to be repeated here: our political infrastructure empowers minority coalitions to obtain majorities in both houses of Congress, and allows them to also claim the presidency despite being rejected by a majority of the national electorate. Such a system incentivizes ambitious demagogues to cultivate a coalition of geographically important voters by espousing radical populist policies that are politically toxic to the greater electorate. 

If this sounds familiar, it's because it is. Despite being rejected by the majority of the American people in 2016, Trump was able to win the presidency by garnering just enough votes in a few key swing stated to win the electoral college. His electoral college victory--delivered to him by an outdated political institution that works to undermine majority rule--resulted in four years of increasingly damaging policies and anti-democratic actions. 

However, Trump's political assault on our democratic institutions could not have been done without the help of key allies in the United States Congress. The House--gerrymandered by states to give Republicans an electoral advantage--and the Senate--gerrymandered by the Constitution to empower states instead of people--were complicit in many of his most abhorrent actions. Under Republican rule, the Congress acquiesced to Trump when he declared an emergency to unconstitutionally appropriate defense funds for his border wall; they failed to hold him to account--twice--when he committed high crimes and misdemeanors; and the Senate in 2020 chose to confirm Amy Coney Barret to the Supreme Court just months prior to the November election. This last event was particularly disturbing, as a president who was rejected by the majority of the electorate in 2016 was able to successfully appoint a third justice to the high Court after she was confirmed by a Senate "majority" who represented a minority of the population.

This electoral status quo cannot stand, and it is our responsibility to learn from these events and reduce the power of electoral minorities going forward. While a constitutional amendment that eliminates the electoral college or provides more balanced representation in the Senate is highly unlikely, there are more rudimentary measures that can be taken to promote majority rule. For instance, by passing H.R. 1 we could end state gerrymandering of congressional districts by outsourcing the process to independent committees, which would ensure more equal representation within the House. We could also give statehood to Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, which would help balance out the Republican-tilt of the Senate by allowing for four new senators from more progressive areas. Finally, we could make it harder for conservatives to pass voter ID laws by putting in place national standards that govern all federal elections.

While Trump's presidency was a national catastrophe, it should serve as an incentive for these small-d democratic reforms--and others like them--that reduce the power of electoral minorities.

3) The Fight for the Future

Just as we are fighting a biological pandemic, we are struggling against a political one as well. An authoritarian virus has begun to infect our body politic with surprising speed, and shows no sign of slowing down. While the Democratic party has enough political antibodies to fight it off, the Republican party is succumbing more and more to the contagion. 

Given this, we are likely to see increasingly radical conservative candidates at the local, state, and federal levels. The vast majority of these candidates will adopt Trump's strategy for winning elections: throw red meat to the base, own the libs, and engage in fetish patriotism. This strategy may be good for winning a GOP primary, but it is not conducive to a healthy, functioning republic.

How do I know this? Because Trump has a vice grip on the Republican party and recognizes that it is a valuable asset for him and his family. As the head of the Republican party, he has a huge influence over the direction it will take going forward, and it is becoming increasingly clear that his vision of the Republican party is one that is based on hate, lies, and conspiracies. CPAC was only the latest demonstration of his political hold over the GOP, and more loyalty tests are yet to come. 

As a result, those of us who believe in democracy must unite as part of a diverse coalition that recognizes the threat that the Republican party represents in its current form. So long as the GOP remains a proxy for authoritarian ideals that are wrapped in the cloak of patriotism, they must be denied power at all costs. 

In conclusion, the reason that we must talk about Trump is that he and his legacy still pose a significant threat to our republic. His time in office still haunts us and the stain of Trumpism will take many years to fully wipe away. By recognizing the damage he did, how we can prevent it going forward, and by understanding that this will be a generational fight for the soul of America, we have begun the first step on the path towards repairing our Republic.

He and his party have attempted to claim the mantle of patriotism for themselves while extolling anti-democratic ideals that they masquerade as fundamental liberties. They adopt the guise of revolutionary patriots fighting against socialism, even though their policies would be more at home in the British court of 1776 than in the colonies at the beginning of the American Revolution. By embracing the policies of a government we rebelled against, the GOP has forfeited the right to hold power in the short term.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon all of us who believe in the cause of democracy to carry forward the ideals of our founding, to stand on the shoulders of those true patriots who bought our freedom at the cost of their lives, and to once again claim our place as an international wellspring of democratic ideals and values. We are the shining city on the hill, now let us remind the world why.

-Michael Alexander


Common Ground?

Dear Bulwark but mostly Charlie Sykes,

I have been listening to the podcast for a while and I have noticed a pattern with you and your guests. While I think that you have a clear view about the threats to democracy and our institutions, there is this silly thing that happens when you dip into policy. Every time you and your guests talk about compromise and common ground, it is invariably followed by some criticism of either something that the Democrats have done, or talk about concessions that they should make.

That’s fine. It’s not like you don’t have criticisms for Republicans, especially when it comes to being partisan or talking in bad faith.

The problem is that does not help me one bit. If there is plenty of common ground, tell me where it is! What is the conservative answer to police violence? What is the conservative answer to voting rights? What 10 Republican senators can you imagine voting for any priority in that common ground that you speak of?

No, I’m not talking about what issue could possibly peel off Sen. Romney and Sen. Murkowski. I’m counting to ten. Past Sen. Toomey, Collins, and… what… Sen. Graham? What Democratic priority is Sen. Graham going to find common cause with?

I like your optimism. As a midwesterner, I’m afflicted by it to, but I think you are describing hypotheticals that could never exist in anywhere but your Earth 2.0.

-- Cary Benjamin Weisgram


Broken Clock?

It’s a well-worn metaphor I know, but it’s true; a broken clock get’s it right twice a day. 

Could the metaphor apply to Liz Cheney? Could she too secure success by simply standing still? 

Readers may remember that Tim Miller did some scary math in a recent article. He confronted us with the frightening reality that a return of the Orange Menace was, at the very least, an above random statistical possibility.

Now, in the interest of balance, let me posit some further non-random statistics.

Surely there is at least a thirty percent chance that the gloss of Trump’s golden idolatry might not last the distance. Is there not at least something like a one in three possibility that Cyrus Vance Jr, the Georgia justice system, a mid-term rout of the Republicans in 2022, a coronary collapse on the 18th Green, the truth leaking out from Russia, or a diminishing appetite for reality TV, disrupts the gravitational pull of Trump’s black hole?

After all, we have three years or so for some or all of the above to play out.

And let’s further imagine that, as we learn more and more of the horrors of the Trump years, his star doesn’t just flicker and die, but instead, goes out with a bang, as black holes are inclined to do. After all, love and hate are not opposites, and indifference is not something anyone feels towards Trump. If the tide turns, it may do so in a rush - or is that one too many metaphors to comprehend?

Anyway, while we’re playing with metaphors, let’s say there’s a thirty percent chance that the Trump bubble doesn’t just shrink, but bursts.

Now, under those circumstances, how does it feel if you’re one of the people who declined a ticket on to the Trump Tower Roller Coaster Ride, but didn’t leave the Republican Carnival entirely? Maybe not so bad after all? 

In fact, the person who stood firm on solid ground as the out-of-control riders screamed their delight with each passing revolution might begin to feel particularly good. And it would be even better if “she who remained stable” was able to say she held true to the central causes of the carnival throughout and even pointed out with clarity and precision exactly where, when, and why the ride ran completely off the rails. Could such a person earn the chance of inheriting the thirty percent possibility on offer? I think she could. 

By standing firm, Liz may be very well placed to secure a thirty percent stake in a thirty percent possibility. Tim, check my figures please, but might that equate to about a ten percent chance of Liz emerging the winner?

If so, those are much better odds than I’d give Ted, Marco, Lindsay, Nikki, Kevin, or the many others who thought that spinning round and round erratically was a better way to get the timing right. 

Perhaps, just perhaps, there’s a ten percent place for the parable of the broken clock to play out in a yet to be written chapter of the Trump testament? Let’s hope so!

Cheers

Noel Thomas