This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit andrewsullivan.substack.comThe man himself. Taibbi is an investigative reporter in the Gonzo tradition who had a long career at Rolling Stone magazine, where he won the 2008 National Magazine Award for Columns and Commentary. He's written several bestselling books, including Griftopia and The Great Derangement, and now runs a wildly successful substack, TK News. Almost every less-talented hack hates him.For two clips of our convo — how the MSM condescends to its audience, and what the Twitter Files achieved — pop over to our YouTube page. Other topics: Matt's madcap stories reporting in Russia, him ditching a newspaper job to play pro basketball in Mongolia, the Substack refugees of 2020, being biased and balanced, woke-checking over fact-checking, reporting uncomfortable truths, the insularity of Ivy League journos, lauding Wayne Barrett and Mike Kinsley, dinging Jon Chait and Rachel Maddow, the misguided coverage of trans kids, the Atlanta spa shootings, the reckless overreactions to Trump, Russiagate, and taking psychedelics for a gay leather event. Good times. Peruse the Dishcast archives for another episode you might enjoy — 102 and counting. The podcast is part of The Weekly Dish on Substack. To subscribe and receive the weekly emails and full offerings, go here: https://andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Glenn is an academic and writer. At the age of 33, he became the first African-American professor of economics at Harvard to get tenure, and he's currently the Merton P. Stoltz Professor of Economics at Brown University, as well as a Paulson Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His longtime podcast, The Glenn Show, is now on Substack, where he regularly appears with John McWhorter. He's currently writing a memoir of his incredibly colorful life, The Enemy Within, which we talk about at length.You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player above (or on the right side of the player, click “Listen On” to add the Dishcast feed to your favorite podcast app). For two clips of our convo — how the insistence on the permanence of “white supremacy” hurts African-Americans, and how we are all hypocrites to some extent — pop over to our YouTube page.Other topics: Glenn's upbringing on the South Side, his forebears' migration from the segregated South, his parents dealing with him as a prodigy, dropping out of college with a newborn, rebounding to MIT and Harvard, being ostracized by the black cognoscenti, his drug addiction, his conversion to Christianity, his loss of faith, falling out with the neocon right, the racial wealth gap, and affirmative action.The Dishcast is part of The Weekly Dish on Substack. To subscribe and receive the weekly emails and full offerings, head here: https://andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Back for a second pod appearance, Nick is a reporter at the Washington Post covering immigration and DHS, and before that he was a foreign correspondent based in Mexico City and Havana. This time we discuss not just the unending border crisis but the spiraling fentanyl emergency, which Nick and his colleagues just covered in a must-read seven-part investigation. I know few people as honest and transparent as Nick on what's actually happening at the border.For two clips of our convo — on how the Biden administration is erasing the meaning of asylum, and how fentanyl should be seen foremost as a poison — pop over to our YouTube page. Other topics: the overwhelmed court system, Title 42, the polarized and paralyzed Congress, the thankless role of Mayorkas, Obama's record on immigration, Trump's damage, the ineptitude of Kamala Harris, the effect of social media on migrants, many mind-blowing facts about fentanyl, its contamination in other drugs, Big Pharma, and what parents should tell their children. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Stanley Tucci gave us some great couch as he talks with GMA about his upcoming role in I wanna dance With Somebody at Clive Davis! What are your holiday traditions? We talk with myTalkers about what makes their holidays so special!
Carl Trueman is a Christian theologian and ecclesiastical historian. He's currently a professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College, as well as an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He's the author of many books, but in this episode, we discuss The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self (a condensed version of which just came out: Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution). It's been a hit on the paleocon right.For two clips of our convo — on our disagreement over the nature of gayness, and whether gay marriages adversely affect straight marriages — pop over to our YouTube page. Other topics: Augustine, Aquinas, Martin Luther and the printing press, Pascal, Calvin, Rousseau, mimesis vs. poiesis, Darwin, Freud, the Frankfurt School, postmodernism, Charles Taylor, contraception, Reagan and no-fault divorce, reactionaries, and sodomy. Yeah, sodomy. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Alyssa writes about mass culture, parenting and gender for the Washington Post's “Opinions” section. Previously she was the culture editor at ThinkProgress, the TV columnist at Women and Hollywood, a columnist for the XX Factor at Slate, and a correspondent for The Atlantic. Check out her crowd-sourced collection of 99 children's books, which we discuss on the pod.For two clips of our convo — on whether social justice should be a centerpiece of children's books, and how to get kids hooked on books again — pop over to our YouTube page. Other topics: Dr. Seuss, Watership Down, The Famous Five, the Narnia books, Tolkien, Charlotte's Web, Animal Farm, the complexities of Cate Blanchett's Tár, the misfires of Billy Eichner's Bros, rewatching Game of Thrones, Alyssa's takedown of She Said, and the rise of homeschooling among black families. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Kyle Harper is an historian who focuses on how humanity has shaped nature, and vice versa. He's a Professor of Classics and Letters at the University of Oklahoma and the author of several books, including The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire, and his latest, Plagues Upon the Earth: Disease and the Course of Human History. His mastery of the science is only matched by the ease of his prose. If I were to nominate a book of the year, it would be this one (alongside Jamie Kirchick's Secret City).For two clips of our convo — on the zombie bloodsucking fleas of the Black Death, and on how Covid doomed the careers of Trump and Boris — pop over to our YouTube page. Other topics: the bubonic plague's role in the fall of the Roman Empire, the Black Death, flagellants and anti-Semitism, the plague in 17th century London, the Spanish flu, the AIDS crisis, Thucydides, Camus' La Peste, “The Roses of Eyam,” monkeypox, lab leak, and the uprising over China's ghastly Covid policy. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Robert is a writer-at-large for the New York Times Magazine and a contributing writer for National Geographic. He is the author of several books, including Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush, and his new one is Weapons of Mass Delusion: When the Republican Party Lost Its Mind. He's a friend and a prodigiously productive reporter who truly seems intent in finding out the truth — rather than spinning some ideological tale. And he was there on January 6.For two clips of our convo — on the MAGA supporters falling away from Trump, and on the rise of Majorie Taylor Greene — pop over to our YouTube page. Other topics: the midterms, Trump vs. DeSantis, the epistemological collapse within our media bubbles, Tea Party hatred of moderate Obama, the growing diversity of GOP voters, our disagreement over the impact of CRT in schools, George W. Bush and the One Percent Doctrine, and the sheer careerism of GOP politicians. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Damon is a political writer who recently launched his own Substack, “Eyes on the Right.” He's been the editor of First Things and a senior correspondent at The Week, and he's the author of The Theocons and The Religious Test. Back when we were both at Newsweek / Daily Beast, he edited my essays, so we've been friends for a while. We also both belong to the camp of conflicted moderates.For two clips of our convo — on the impossibility of predicting politics, and on the question of whether DeSantis can dethrone Trump — pop over to our YouTube page. Other topics: the mental illness of our mothers, Leo Strauss and his acolytes, Socrates, the state of liberal democracy, Robert Bork, Harvey Mansfield, the essential need for doubt, how we both misjudged the red wave, Kari Lake, Biden's shortcomings and which Democrat could replace him in 2024. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Fareed is the host of the CNN show “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” which has been on the air since 2008. He's also a columnist for the Washington Post and the author of several bestsellers, including In Defense of a Liberal Education, The Post-American World, and his latest, Ten Lessons For a Post-Pandemic World. He's also been a friend since 1983.For two clips of our convo — on the silver linings of British colonialism, and how the war in Ukraine could end — pop over to our YouTube page. Other topics: the remarkable immigrant story of Fareed's family, colonial racism in India, Churchill, David Cameron, the rise of Rishi Sunak, falling in love with America, Burke, the rapid pace of migration and free trade, the threat from China, the Cold War, and Fareed's mentor Sam Huntington and the “Clash of Civilizations.” Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Kathryn is a staff writer at The New Yorker, where she won a National Magazine Award and a Pulitzer Prize for “The Really Big One,” about a future earthquake that will wreak havoc on the Pacific Northwest. She's also the author of Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, and in this episode we discuss Lost & Found, a memoir about falling madly in love while her father lay dying.For two clips of our convo — on how modern society avoids suffering, and how weddings can be a metaphor for America — pop over to our YouTube page. Other topics: the familial impact of the Holocaust, immigrant resilience, love at first sight, how deep differences enhance a marriage, the assimilation of gays and lesbians, how Americans deal with trauma, and the pitfalls of writing a memoir. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Chris — an old friend and, in my view, one of the sharpest right-of-center writers in journalism — returns to the Dishcast. A senior fellow at the Claremont Institute and contributing editor to the Claremont Review of Books, his latest book, The Age of Entitlement, is a constitutional narrative of the last half-century that is indispensable — especially for liberals — in understanding the roots of our polarization. We discussed the book last year. This time on the pod, Chris has just returned from Europe and discusses the rapidly shifting politics there.For two clips of our convo — on how one-child families could be the downfall of Putin's war, and how Biden is co-opting Trump on border policy and China — pop over to our YouTube page. Other topics: Meloni and the US media meltdown, Truss, Remainers vs. Leavers, Boris, the energy crisis, possible off-ramps for the war, Russian dissenters, and the waning of American exceptionalism when it comes to religion. Good times. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Washington, D.C. has always been a city of secrets. Few have been more dramatic than the ones revealed in James Kirchick's Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington. James Kirchick is joined by fellow writer Andrew Sullivan to explore how the secret “too loathsome to mention”, since FDR has shaped each successive presidential administration, impacting everything from the creation of America's earliest civilian intelligence agency to the rise and fall of McCarthyism, the struggle for African American civil rights, and the conservative movement. “Scrupulously researched and novelistic in style, Secret City is an extraordinary achievement... Not since Robert Caro's Years of Lyndon Johnson have I been so riveted by a work of history. Secret City is not gay history. It is American history.” —George Stephanopoulos James Kirchick is an award-winning journalist and author of The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age. A visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, he has reported from over 40 countries and is a columnist for Tablet magazine. Kirchick has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, the New York Review of Books, and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung among many other publications, and lives in Washington, D.C. Andrew Sullivan is one of today's most provocative social and political commentators. A former editor of The New Republic, he was the founding editor of The Daily Dish, and has been a regular writer for The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Time, Newsweek, New York magazine, The Sunday Times (London), and now The Weekly Dish. He lives in Washington, DC, and Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Yoram Hazony is a philosopher, Bible scholar, and political theorist. He founded the Shalem Center, a research institute in Israel, and he's currently president of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem and serves as chairman of the Edmund Burke Foundation in DC. The author of many books, including The Virtue of Nationalism, his most recent is Conservatism: A Rediscovery. He is one of the most compelling writers in the “post-liberalism” camp on the right. I think you'll find I challenged him on everything. For two clips of our convo — on how wokeness is a threat to civic religion, and how Trump can be a tool to reclaim Christianity — pop over to our YouTube page. Other topics: woke neo-Marxism, the creative tension of the Constitution, Reaganism, Netanyahu, and thinkers including Burke, Hume and Jefferson. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Frank is a longtime writer at the NYT — ranging from White House correspondent to chief restaurant critic to op-ed columnist, and now also a journalism professor at Duke. In his early days at the Detroit Free Press, he was a war correspondent, chief movie critic, and religion writer. We've known each other for many years, gay writers of the same generation. His latest book is the bestselling memoir The Beauty of Dusk: On Vision Lost and Found, about aging and optimism after Frank began to go blind.For two clips of our convo — on the opportunities that can be found in suffering, and on the wisdom found in cringey cliches — pop over to our YouTube page. Other topics we touch on include: the AIDS crisis, losing my best friend to the disease, the marriage movement, the alphabet people, psychedelics, Frank's dog, and the marvelous adaptations of blind people. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Richard Reeves is a senior fellow at Brookings, where he directs the Boys and Men Project. He's also been the director of Demos — the London-based political think-tank — an adviser to Nick Clegg in David Cameron's coalition government, and a Guardian journalist. His latest book is Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It. (For more, follow his new substack.)I'm fascinated by the challenges of modernity for the weaker sex (men), and Richard has grappled with the questions more calmly than most. For two clips of our convo — on how boys are less resilient than girls, and on the racialized sexism against African-American men — pop over to our YouTube page. Other topics we touch on: the cartoonish masculinity of MAGA, the need for male teachers, the huge gains of black women, the gender pay gap(s), the class gaps of marriage, deaths of despair, sex-segregated sports, and the pathologizing of male sexuality. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
As you'll tell from my brief new intro to this 2006 conversation, my voice right now is so eviscerated I can't speak at all. Silenced at last! So here is a very early experiment I did with kinda-podcasting, when I took a microphone to Hitch's place and let the tape roll. A blast from the grave in some ways.We mainly debated the nature of religion and the global war on terrorism. For two clips — on the divinity of Jesus, and whether the Golden Rule is actually “cruel and stupid,” as Hitch put it — pop over to our YouTube page. The audio quality is a little rough, but a transcript of the two-hour conversation is available here. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Louise Perry is a writer and campaigner against sexual violence. This year she co-founded a non-partisan feminist think tank called The Other Half, where she serves as Research Director. Her debut book is The Case Against the Sexual Revolution: A New Guide to Sex in the 21st Century, where she takes on casual sex, porn, BDSM, dating apps and prostitution, all from a post-liberal perspective. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Matthew Rose is a scholar of religion. He's currently Senior Fellow and Director of the Barry Center on the University and Intellectual Life — a project of the Morningside Institute — and he previously taught at Villanova. He's written for magazines such as First Things and The Weekly Standard, and his newest book is A World After Liberalism. It's an examination of five far-right thinkers, from Julius Evola to Sam Francis, who are proving increasingly influential in post-liberal conservatism in America.It's the first of several episodes in which I hope to explore more deeply the radical alternatives to liberal democracy being touted on the right. Think of it as a balance to my focus this past year on the illiberal alternatives being touted on the woke left. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
How to think about DeSantis? We decided to ask Dexter Filkins, who recently wrote this super-smart profile of the man for The New Yorker, which the Dish discussed here. Dexter is an award-winning journalist best known for covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the New York Times. His book, The Forever War, won the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award. He’s the best in the business, a native of Florida, and a longtime friend of the Dish. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
-- On the Show: -- Andrew Sullivan, author, editor, and blogger at the Weekly Dish, joins David to discuss the current state of Trumpism and the conservative movement --The FBI raids failed former President Donald Trump's house at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, and Trump absolutely loses it -- MAGA-world flips out in reaction to the FBI raid of Donald Trump's house, including Mark Levin, Bernie Kerik, Lauren Boebert, Alex Jones, Roger Stone, Sean Hannity, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Dan Bongino, and more -- Eric Trump, Donald Trump's son, appears on Fox News in reaction to the FBI raiding Trump's home, and makes a complete fool of himself -- Could the 2022 midterm elections be the worst ever for Republicans? -- Republican Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker is still unable to explain if and under what circumstances he will debate his opponent, incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock -- Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' text messages have reportedly been turned over to the House January 6 committee investigating the Trump riots -- Republican Alaska congressional candidate Sarah Palin is visibly confused when asked to explain what her priorities would be if she were elected -- Voicemail caller wonders whether the FBI raid on Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home will inspire more Republicans to turn out and vote in the upcoming 2022 November midterm elections -- On the Bonus Show: Reconciliation bill includes nearly $80 billion for IRS, town dissolves police department after racist text messages, Florida prosecutor vows to fight Ron DeSantis' suspension, much more...
Sohrab is a founder and editor of Compact: A Radical American Journal, and he’s a contributing editor at The American Conservative. He spent nearly a decade at News Corp. — as the op-ed editor of the New York Post and as a columnist and editor with the WSJ opinion pages in New York and London. His books include From Fire, by Water: My Journey to the Catholic Faith and The Unbroken Thread: Discovering the Wisdom of Tradition in an Age of Chaos. A new voice for a new conservatism, I tried to talk him through how he got to this place — politically and spiritually.You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player above (or on the right side of the player, click “Listen On” to add the Dishcast feed to your favorite podcast app). For two clips of our convo — on whether the free market is actually a tyranny, and how many liberals actually reject democracy, e.g. Brexit — pop over to our YouTube page.Sohrab’s appearance this week is a good excuse to publish a transcript from David French, his great nemesis in conservative circles. Here’s a clip from David’s Dishcast:A reader wrote last week:I know the Sohrab episode isn’t out yet, but judging by his Twitter presence, it’s going to be a real barnburner of sophistry. His latest quips regarding foreign policy are ones that I find to be ignorant, especially his quips at Yascha Mounk. I know you’ve already shot the episode, but I’d suggest you check out the book, The End of the World Is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization. I think it really puts into perspective what American military might has brought to the world (absent, obviously, some of the more glaring blunders), and it might give context, rather than rhetoric, to Sohrab’s arguments.We clashed a little, but I also gave him space and time to explain his own strange journey to this brand of neo-reactionism. In my view, his biography tells you a lot about his need for moral and political “absolutes.” In my book, that makes him close to the opposite of a conservative.If you’re sympathetic to Sohrab’s arguments, send us a comment for next week’s edition: email@example.com. On last week’s episode of the Dishcast, a listener writes:Terrific interview with Larry Summers. Though my politics are thisclose to Summers’, he floated two whoppers in his talk with you.1) His suggestion that the United States and other liberal democracies can “build their ways” out of right-wing authoritarianism with more housing, infrastructure and health care is simply not true. Not even close. The evidence is very clear that the driving force behind right-wing illiberalism is demographics and left-wing illiberalism is culture. Under investment in macro-economic indicators is a problem, to be sure, but it has nothing to do with illiberalism.2) The United States is decidedly not an exporter of inflation. The US dollar is at historic highs, which means foreigners are investing in America and in dollar denominated assets, because Joe Biden’s America represents the “nicest house in a bad neighborhood,” when measured by jobs growth, business investment, private consumption and personal savings.Summers is right that the America Rescue Plan was too generous. But he seems reluctant to consider the historic relevance of the post-WWII era when American inflation was 14% in 1947, 8% in 1948 and -1% in 1949. As in the post-pandemic era, aggregate demand in the late 1940s rebounded a lot faster than supply, and consumers worldwide bid up the prices of scarce goods, services and raw materials.Summers responds:On the reader’s first point, it’s an interesting hypothesis, but my guess is if there were more and better blue-collar jobs, more affordable housing, and more prosperity, there would be less raging populism.On the second point, I don’t agree. The demand from the US has contributed to global bottlenecks. The strong dollar means weak other currencies which adds to their inflation. I have thought much about the post-WWII period, and I doubt it is a good parallel. There was the effect of removing price controls. There were very different expectations under the gold standard and given the recent depression.I agree with my reader on the core cultural question of left over-reach. I suspect Larry does too — but it’s not a subject he’s comfortable with, especially since his Harvard cancellation. Another reader looks to the deepening tribalism on the right:Perhaps you missed it, but I haven’t seen the Dish comment on the Texas GOP platform yet. This surprises me, since the Dish is, in my view, the most important defender of classical liberalism on the web. The platform of the largest state Republican Party in the country can be found here. From the AP’s summary:Approved by 5,000-plus party delegates last weekend in Houston during the party’s biennial convention, the new platform brands President Joe Biden an “acting” commander-in-chief who was never “legitimately elected.” It may not matter who the president is, though, since the platform takes previous language about secession much farther — urging the Republican-controlled legislature to put the question of leaving the United States to voters next year. The platform also says homosexuality is “an abnormal lifestyle choice” …The platform is the guiding document of a political party that has controlled every executive office in Texas since 2002, a state of almost 40 million people. To put this number in perspective: that’s more than twice as many of our fellow citizens who attend college this year and 25 times as many of our fellow Americans who identify as transgender. Texas and Florida lie at the heart of today’s Republican Party, demographically and financially. To ignore what those Republicans stand for is as near-sighted as ignoring how California and New York stand in the vanguard of what the national Democratic Party will stand for a few years out.The platform is an affront to liberalism and an example of the “movement after Trump” that you’ve speculated about. In my view, the movement preceded Trump and will proceed in his aftermath.The extremism was on full display this week in Dallas, as CPAC cheered Viktor Orbàn’s denunciation of marriage equality (which has 71 percent support nationally). I agree it’s creepy and deranged. But so is the postmodern, pro-criminal madness of the CRT/CQT/CGT Democrats — and they run California.On the growing affection for the Hungarian president on the American right, here’s “a Hungarian living under the Orbán regime”:In my mind, he has become popular among Republicans for two reasons:The fundamental problems of Hungarian society (and most of post-communist Europe’s) are not dissimilar to those of the US — at least on the surface. The cultural cleavages between the “globalist elite” and the “deplorables” are similarly wide. Multiculturalism and the markets’ winner-takes-all logic hit these post-communist societies harder than most, because local communities had been extremely weak to begin with: the communists had been suspicious of any organic communities therefore had worked very hard to suppress and eliminate them as much as they could. Capitalism, financialization, globalization and the wholesale urbanization of culture all happened at once when these societies were completely atomized. No wonder many felt that nobody cared about their problems and all they received from the elite was some lecturing on the inevitability of these phenomena. The American society has gotten to a similar stage through a different path, nicely documented by Robert Putnam. Therefore, the US lower-middle class resonates well to the messages developed from a Hungarian experience.Viktor Orbán and his team have made conscious and expensive efforts to reach out to Trump Republicans (word in Budapest is that Arthur Finkelstein and Benjamin Netanyahu were instrumental in this effort). The regime has not spared any money to welcome, wine, and dine second- and third-tear MAGA influencers. They came, got impressed, and spread the word at home. It definitely helped that these tours have been all-inclusive: who would not like to spend a few days in cool and beautiful Budapest — for free? Moreover, they received and continue to receive official respect. This is all the more attractive now that they are far from the halls of power in the US. It should not be surprising that they were all too happy to believe the propaganda that the regime fed them.I am sure I don’t see the full picture on the American side, but these factors seem to be quite important in explaining Orbán’s popularity in the US.One of those American conservatives courted by Orbán is Rod Dreher. A reader defends Rod:I’ve generally agreed with most of your recent output and was pleasantly surprised to read your more-than-lukewarm enthusiasm for a DeSantis administration. However, I think you’re being rather unfair on Twitter to Rod Dreher regarding Orbán and Hungary. First of all, you and Rod clearly agree that the current level of immigration to the US (and the West more generally) is unsustainably high, and that continuing to bring ever larger numbers of culturally, racially, and religiously diverse groups of primarily economic migrants into any country is bound to increase social tension and strain social safety nets. You also agree that this is especially reckless under a regnant elite ideology that constantly denigrates Western cultural traditions, antagonizing the native-born white population while simultaneously promoting the importance of group identity and solidarity for non-whites. It’s a recipe for civilizational suicide.I get that Rod is enamored with Orbán and wants an American president somewhat in that vein, but it’s ridiculous to say that he thinks everything that Orbán does for Hungary will translate well for the US or that he would support every analogous policy here. Rod explicitly denies thinking that in almost every post he writes about Orbán. In addition, Rod is right that racial issues are completely different in the US and Hungary. An ethnically homogeneous country like Hungary that seeks to restrict immigration levels in order to preserve its national character will necessarily exclude most foreign-born members of other racial groups from citizenship. White European countries that do this (and are explicit about their motivations for doing this) should not be held to a different standard than non-white, non-European countries such as Japan that do this (and are also explicit about their motivations for doing this). It is perfectly reasonable for Hungarians to look at the recent experience of Western Europe and decide that they don’t want to establish another Molenbeek in suburban Budapest. Excluding prospective immigrants for any reason is in no way comparable to committing atrocities against long-resident minority populations like the ongoing Uyghur genocide in China.Furthermore, the meat of the argument Orbán makes surrounding his objectionable Camp of the Saints reference reads to me as in the same vein as Douglas Murray’s thesis in his masterful anti-Merkelian philippic The Strange Death of Europe, the main difference being that Murray’s perspective is that of the tragic observer, while Orbán obviously has the ability to devise government policies in line with his views. And Murray was on your podcast recently.In this speech, Orbán, like Murray, is not primarily attacking the migrants themselves, but rather the European political class that constantly ignores its constituents’ wishes on the matter of immigration levels and sources, and that will not be satisfied until every EU country “diversifies” itself by accepting large numbers of Third World migrants. The same could almost be said about Raspail’s book, The Camp of the Saints, which, despite its disgustingness, provides a useful indictment of a decadent and self-loathing Western elite that is unwilling to fight to preserve its cultural heritage. Indeed, Murray, Orbán, and Raspail would essentially all endorse the same policy outcome (complete moratorium, or at least severe restriction, of non-European immigration) for essentially the same reason (desire to preserve historic character and culture of their societies). They only really differ in their level of empathy for the non-European migrants, with Murray capable of recognizing their individual humanity, Orbán treating them more as an impersonal force of nature to be repelled, and Raspail viewing them with racist contempt as a demonic horde who the last “heroes” of the West will die fighting against. None of them view chronic Third World immiseration as the West’s problem to solve, least of all by allowing the impoverished masses to indefinitely relocate to Europe.The Covid era showed that Western countries do indeed have the means to control their borders when necessary. But their ruling classes do not think that voters’ preferences for less immigration — tainted as they must be by ignorance, “xenophobia” and “racism” — are a good enough reason to actually enforce their laws. And even restrictionist-leaning administrations have trouble following through with policies that inevitably appear heartless towards those who seek shelter in the West, because each individual migrant often has a generally sympathetic story and by himself wouldn’t pose a great burden on the receiving society. Yet unfortunately the annual influx of millions of these individuals does strain Western countries, and sometimes tough choices must be made. It seems like an unfortunate reality that it takes someone who is otherwise unpalatable like Orbán to actually enforce immigration restrictions these days. I know I’d vastly prefer someone clear-eyed (even cold-hearted) and competent like him in charge of our southern border over Biden or even Trump.Lastly, it’s one thing to criticize Orbán for the specific comments he made in the speech, but your continuing guilt-by-association smears of Rod are just lazy. I could analogously indict you on the same topic — not for anything you’ve specifically said or written, but that, say, “I heard Andrew Sullivan did a friendly podcast with Ann Coulter where he largely agreed with her about our current immigration issues… In a recent article she wrote ‘(insert egregiously inflammatory sentence stripped of any context)’… Coulter also endorsed articles that were published on the website of an SPLC-certified hate group… Ergo Andrew Sullivan endorses white nationalism.” On his blog, Rod clearly and repeatedly says he disagrees with the anti-“race-mixing” language, especially as applied to America and other multiracial societies, and admits that The Camp of the Saints is a racist novel that shouldn’t be praised the way Orbán did. But those demerits don’t invalidate Orbán’s main argument. He can be “racist” by American standards and still right about the overall immigration strategy that is best for Hungary.I know you despise Orbán, and Rod rankles you with some of his posts that deploy a knee-jerk “think of the children” outrage regarding gay and trans news. But you’re better than stooping to insinuations of racism against him personally, especially when you’re pretty much on the same page regarding the challenges that mass immigration poses for the West. Not sure if it’s something you could hash out with him on a podcast or if tensions are too high, but it could be productive for both of you. Thanks for these comments, which I don’t disagree with much. I haven’t called Rod a racist, and don’t think he is. The trouble for me lies less in his defense of Orbanism than of Orbán himself — to the point of becoming a near p.r. spokesman for this authoritarian. The only moment I have actually called Rod out was when he insinuated without evidence that a gay man with monkeypox may have raped a toddler to explain why the kid came down with the disease. Rod withdrew the remark. It’s also perplexing that he shares my disgust at Camp of the Saints but finds nothing significant in Orbán’s belief that the book is “outstanding.” At some point, the rationalization has to stop. Another reader wants me to be less productive with Rod:Please, please, Andrew! Do an old-fashioned fisking already! Dreher is totally unhinged! For example: I’m not saying gays are Nazis, but …Or pick any of his recent articles. Twenty bullet points for defending the “race mixing” comment! Gays didn’t exist forever before Diaghilev! Libraries are groomers! They are so so far beyond. And if you try to comment, you are deleted or told you are doing “whataboutism.”Best not to use the term “fisking” around Rod. From a reader who loves pluralism and cultural diversity:I have trouble understanding why people in the US have trouble with newcomers. Maybe because my dad and maternal grandparents were immigrants, I have a closer view. In my 76 years, I can’t even begin to tell you what I have learned from folks who are NOT like me: black people, immigrants from a whole lot of places in the world, plus their children. I think people who are afraid of being “replaced” have to have some deep-seated insecurity that I don’t understand. For Tucker Carlson to spout the garbage that he does to get ratings is just scary to me, because it seems to help unleash the worst in people. And believe me, it’s not just a color divide. My Polish dad and Italian mom were subject to all kinds of discrimination and harassment, but it was much easier for them to assimilate because they were white and certainly much easier for their children. My life is so much fuller because not everyone I know and care about looks, acts, or thinks the same. Including you!I’ve long lived in highly diverse places and love it. But I’m not a typical human being, and the desire to live among “people like you” is so deeply ingrained in human nature it deserves respect in public policy. I’m pro-immigrant, but the pace and scale of migration right now is far beyond what a country needs to retain a sense of itself, its history and identity. We’re at a century-high peak of immigration; and we could do with a respite for cultural and social cohesion. “A long-time subscriber, first-time correspondent” has some guest recommendations for the Dishcast: One theme I’ve particularly enjoyed on your podcast is faith and secularism in the contemporary world. I’m writing to suggest several thinkers who could bring a lot to that discussion.First is the eminent philosopher Charles Taylor, the most important living Canadian intellectual. While he’s contributed to many branches of thought, his book A Secular Age transformed the study of religious faith in the modern world. He’s also interested in the concept of multiculturalism and has stood up against efforts in Quebec to stop Muslim women from wearing the hijab. His political stance is more communitarian than liberal, though, and he’s had fascinating dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and other thinkers.Another suggestion is the Anglican theologian and philosopher John Milbank. As a founder of the Radical Orthodoxy movement, he’s taken on liberalism more directly, but I think the two of you could have a very constructive conversation about it. He would also have really interesting — and maybe provocative — things to say about continental philosophy (he has coauthored books with Slavoj Žižek!), Brexit, and the future of Western political systems.Finally, I’d recommend the Protestant theologian James (Jamie) K. A. Smith, a philosophy professor at Calvin University. He’s written many books on Christianity in the contemporary world, drawing especially on postmodern philosophy. He is particularly interested in how Christian intellectuals can engage with contemporary art and literature, and is editor-in-chief of the journal Image.I actually read A Secular Age in its entirety a couple of years ago. It’s magisterial but bloated: two words I’m not sure work on a podcast. But thanks for the other suggestions. Next up, a reader with some personal advice:I wanted to tell you something based upon a comment you made discussing your testosterone shots. Get Biote pellets. I did, and I don’t have the ups and downs. You get them put in every 4-6 months, depending on how active you are with exercise and sex. I work out every day, so I get them replaced at the 4-month mark. It’s also referred to as hormone replacement therapy. I used to use the cream daily, but I felt like s**t every morning until I put the cream on again. I have no ups and downs now, and my levels stay around 1,200. You can do less if you want, but man, I feel great for months at a time and it’s not that expensive. One more reader:You linked to an interesting piece by Lisa Selin Davis with the teaser, “What if ‘life-saving care’ for trans kids is really more about cosmetic passing?” Yes, it does seem like transitioning is mostly cosmetic. I wonder if trans advocates would support men who want to take testosterone for bodybuilding. What about professional sports, to get a competitive edge? What about Olympic sports? Any thoughts?I’m not against adult men using steroids to get bigger and hotter. Au contraire. I’m not against trans adults using any safe, pharmaceutical methods to “pass” more easily. I’m against using these very powerful substance on children without extremely careful vetting and an expansive mental health assessment. Yes, transing them before puberty could make them more likely to pass as adults — but I don’t believe most are mature enough to make that kind of decision at that age, especially when it may guarantee them sterility and, in some cases, an inability to experience orgasm ever. Keep the dissents and other comments coming: firstname.lastname@example.org. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
He’s in the news again this week — after persuading Joe Manchin that the climate and healthcare bill he’s pushing isn’t inflationary. Larry Summers has had a storied career, as the chief economist of the World Bank, the treasury secretary under Clinton, and the director of the National Economic Council under Obama. He also was the president of Harvard University from 2001 to 2006 and remains there as the Charles W. Eliot University Professor. You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player above (or on the right side of the player, click “Listen On” to add the Dishcast feed to your favorite podcast app). For two clips of our convo — on how the US government spent way too little during the Great Recession and way too much during the pandemic, and how we can help the working class cope — pop over to our YouTube page.The episode has a lot of thematic overlap with our recent discussion with David Goodhart, author of Head, Hand, Heart: Why Intelligence Is Over-Rewarded, Manual Workers Matter, and Caregivers Deserve More Respect. Here’s a new transcript. And below is a clip from that episode on how our economy overvalues white-collar brain power:Back to inflation talk, here’s a dissent:I’ve been reading your blog for a little over a year now, and listening to Dishcast, which is great. I’ve noticed a few things, however, that I would like you to perhaps respond to, or at least consider. First, what you refer to as “wokeness” on the left is, I agree, an obnoxious problem that has been exacerbated by social media. But I think your recent guest Francis Fukuyama has it mostly correct in his new book, Liberalism and Its Discontents, when he identifies illiberal trends on the political left as being more of an annoyance, or at the very least, far less of a threat to the republic than illiberal trends on the right. Second, I completely disagree with this rather lazy salvo from you: “Biden’s legacy — an abandonment of his mandate for moderation, soaring inflation, an imminent recession, yet another new war, and woker-than-woke extremism — has only deepened it.” It simply is not the case that Biden has not, especially when forced to, hewed towards moderation. Yes, he is attempting to respond to a leftward shift in the Democratic Party by trying to govern more from the left, but this is simply a reflection of political reality. In addition, much of his agenda has been batted down, but more on that in a moment. Next, inflation and an imminent recession have a lot more to do with what the Fed has done over the last four decades — and definitely since the financial crisis of 2008 — than with Joe Biden. On this theme of a highly financialized economy nearing the end of the neoliberal era, I recommend Rana Foroohar on Ezra Klein’s latest podcast, where she talks about the popping of the “Everything Bubble.” Asset-value inflation, deindustrialization, a perverse focus on shareholder value rather than investing in Main Street or even R&D, and an utter lack of policy solutions, have caused this. In addition, as Foroohar herself says, the changes we need to make in our economy are going to be, in the short-to-medium term, inflationary. This means policymakers have to start making policy that actually helps both people and infrastructure, which means spending money. Unfortunately, the garden has gone untended for so long that we’re teetering on the brink of becoming a really shitty country if we don’t take more aggressive action. In addition, with regard to an upcoming recession, Noah Smith wrote on his Substack recently that Keynesian economics would suggest that a quick recession now in order to stomp out inflation would be better in the long run than milquetoast attempts to curb it by raising interest rates too slowly. The idea is that recessions — especially fast and somewhat shallow ones — can be weathered, but inflation that goes on for too long leaves lasting scars on the economy. (Smith identifies the Volker recessions as probably permanently damaging the Rust Belt.) Personally, what I worry about more on the left is not “woke-ism,” but the trendy socialist/ironic/weird outlets like Jacobin or Chapo Trap House, which seem to be doing their damndest to convince younger, more impressionable and less educated people that the whole country is fucked; it’s designed to be fucked because capitalism is fucked; and only its imminent collapse will allow for problems to be solved through revolution/redistribution. Believe me, that sentiment is becoming a real problem, and the people who buy into it are every bit as ideologically rigid, illiberal, and closed to inquiry as those on the rabid right.Next up, listeners sound off on last week’s episode with Fraser Nelson, the British journalist who sized up the prime minister race. The first comment comes from “a long-time libertarian in Massachusetts”:I’ve been reading the Dish for about a year and finally subscribed thanks to your fascinating interview with Fraser Nelson. I was particularly glad to be alerted to Kemi Badenoch.It’s taken awhile to pull the trigger on subscribing to the Dish because of your Trump bashing, since you sound more like Hillary Clinton than William Buckley. I’m perfectly fine with bashing Trump, but I prefer to see it paired with an acknowledgment of the forces that created him, i.e. the abandonment of the middle class by the two major parties, particularly the Democrats. I do think half the country would lose its mind if Trump runs again, so in that sense I sympathize with your sentiments. But the larger context is essential.Some episodes our listener might appreciate — ones sympathetic to the concerns of middle-class Trump voters — include Michael Anton, Mickey Kaus, Ann Coulter and David French. More on the Fraser Nelson pod:Thank you for an outstanding episode. Nelson has almost persuaded me to take out a Spectator subscription! I thought he summed up eloquently and fairly the state of the Conservative Party, Johnson, Sunak and Truss, and the challenges that lie ahead.Like many Brexiteers — and Nelson half-acknowledges this — the Tories have not grappled with the realities of Brexit. The most obvious lacuna in your discussion was the economy. You cannot leave the EU and not increase the size of the state. You have to have more customs arrangements (as we have recently seen at Dover), more vets, more checks and so on, ad nauseam. It’s all very well for conservatives to argue for a smaller state, but they haven’t defined what that will look like and how the services people use now (education, transport, local government, the legal system etc) will be improved, i.e. funded to a better extent than now. Underfunding is obvious and no amount of arguing “we can do it more efficiently” will cut it — the Tories have had 12 years to fix this.Moreover, picking fights with the EU has meant less investment, reduced business confidence and increased uncertainty — except of course in Northern Ireland, which has access to the single market and where business is booming. Listen to NFU President Minette Batters talk about the issues surrounding Truss’s free trade deals with Australia and New Zealand, or fishermen now dealing with the consequences of Brexit. They were once fans. Not so much now.James Carville once said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Promising tax cuts now when much of the Western world is likely to enter a recession is ridiculously irresponsible, but hey ho, it’s a political campaign and reality will bite once we have a new prime minister, whoever she is.Also, I look forward to hearing Marina Hyde on the Dishcast!This next listener takes issue with some of my phrasing:I enjoyed the Nelson episode overall! But I have to take issue with a rare faux pas from you, where you said that Rishi Sunak is “himself obviously a globalist, just by his very career and nature.” I can’t really understand how you came to this conclusion. Is anyone who worked overseas for some time a “globalist”? Are you a “globalist” because your moved to America? What about Sunak’s “nature” makes him so?Back in 2016, Sunak supported Brexit, which was seen as the losing bet, despite much pressure from David Cameron. And he has set out very clearly in his leadership campaign that he thinks, for example, we need to be tougher on border control. Neither of these things strike me as globalist, nor a return to the Cameron era.On the other hand, I agree with your characterisation of Truss — who voted Remain before undergoing a miraculous and instantaneous change of heart the day after her side lost — as a “dime-store Thatcher.”Speaking of border control, here’s David Goodhart — also from a British perspective — on why elites favor open borders:One more listener on Fraser pod:As a Spectator subscriber (and Glasgow Uni man), I very much enjoyed Fraser Nelson. Mishearing (I think) at around the 37 minute mark when he seemed to refer to Boris getting a first at Oxford, I was reminded of this fine b****y exchange with David Cameron in the Sunday Times back in the day:Surely Boris has been the man Cameron had to beat, ever since they were at school together. 'This is one of the great myths of politics', says the PM [Cameron]. 'These things grow up and it's so long ago no one challenges them, but I don't think we really knew each other at school, he was a couple of years ahead of me. He was very clever.'Then Cameron explodes into a beaming grin. 'But', he says exultantly. 'Boris didn't get a First! I only discovered that on the Panorama programme the other night... I didn't know that'. He is suddenly lit up, almost punching the air with joy.And in that outburst of public-schoolboy competitiveness — Cameron, of course, did get a First — he reveals everything we've always thought about him.Also, when Boris was described as believing the untrue things he said at the time he said them, I’m reminded of George Costanza’s credo that “it’s not a lie if you believe it!” (which, for a fairly left liberal Tory, you’d perhaps take over a Trump analogy).Lastly, a listener looks to a potential guest:If you wish to continue to mine the vein of the global power landscape, its recent evolution this century, and its implications: Condoleezza Rice. She has an interesting perspective from one whose expertise is Russia and is a past practitioner of American statecraft with Russia and China.Thanks, as always, for the suggestion. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Fraser is a Scottish Catholic highlander who now edits (brilliantly) the Spectator in London. Deeply versed in Tory politics, and sympathetic to Boris, he seemed the ideal person to ask to explain what’s been going on in Westminster, what went so wrong under PM Johnson, and who is likely to replace him. It’s a one-stop guide to contemporary British politics in a mild Scottish accent.You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player above (or on the right side of the player, click “Listen On” to add the Dishcast feed to your favorite podcast app). For two clips of our convo — on how Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss compare to one another, and what Fraser calls the “absolutely electrifying” effect of Kemi Badenoch — pop over to our YouTube page.A good complement to this episode is the one I had last year with Dominic Cummings, the brilliant strategist behind Brexit and the rise of Boris. Here’s the transcript. Here’s a clip about Dominic’s break from Boris:To continue the debate over my recent column on Trump and Boris, a reader writes:Here’s a dissent: You are right about Trump. You are wrong about Johnson.Lying comes naturally to Johnson. It’s not just to get out of trouble. He lies about everything. Max Hastings knew this and presciently forecast it would all blow up. It has.Let’s turn to Brexit. First take the term “elites.” This glib, trash term is overused, over-hackneyed and should have no place in your lexicon. Unless very carefully defined, it is completely meaningless. I know as many lawyers and city types who voted for Brexit as did Remain, and likewise for gardeners, carpenters, plumbers etc. The British public was conned, lied to and persuaded there was a problem of the EU’s doing. To be fair, there were problems, some of which can be laid at the EU’s door, but for too many years, blame deflection was the name of the game. Most of the problems the country faced were homegrown. Now look at what has happened: we have a stuttering economy, low growth and haven’t yet introduced the checks at our borders we are supposed to, as it will cause even more chaos — Jacob Rees-Mogg has admitted as much. That’s what happens when you erect major trade barriers with your neighbours and largest market. We can debate immigration as much as you like, but the problem has got worse, and as you correctly pointed out, the numbers have increased.Now let’s look at the so-called Conservative Party. Under Johnson, one-nation conservatism died. He killed it. It was replaced, deliberately, by a populist, divisive style of rule, not dissimilar to Trump’s, quite happy to bend or break laws and conventions in order to further its agenda. Its leading persona was Boris Johnson, and to the eternal shame of the Conservative Party, precious few demurred. The problems the country now face stem directly from Brexit: a plethora of unfulfillable promises built on lies. There are still many who think Brexit was a good thing, but there is a growing and significant majority that now recognises it isn’t working and was a mistake. It’s happened, and Keir Starmer is right to say that the next step should be to improve relations with the EU and to see what can be made to work, starting with the Northern Ireland Protocol (putting a border down the Irish Sea was, you’ll remember, a promise Johnson swore he would never do. And then promptly did “to get Brexit done”). All the deceit involved drives me mad, but the Labour Party, by electing a no-hoper and no-brainer in Jeremy Corbyn, made winning a majority inevitable (and remember FPTP didn’t require a significantly higher number of votes to achieve this).It might be too early to write off the Conservative Party, much as I would like to, despite having voted for them most of my adult life. But they are tainted, out of ideas, and despite the diversity you applaud, not impressive. I fear the next few months may prove as entertaining as the last few years.One aspect that you haven’t touched on is the role of the media. It is staggering to see the degree of partisanship on display. The Telegraph, Mail and Express appear to be living in an alternative universe where truth and fantasy commingle without differentiation. And why did the Times, which I read along with the Guardian, pull the blow-job report? This, along with the Londongrad money saga, is for another day. By the way, I am pleased you quoted Marina Hyde. Her sassiness, razor-sharp intellect and acerbic wit are spot-on.We will have her on the Dishcast soon enough. Here’s a reader in London:Sure, there was mounting frustration about Boris Johnson’s lying — not just the lying, but the fact that he invariably had to follow with “oh yes, come to think of it …” But voters, as opposed to MPs, think politicians lie all the time anyway, so I don’t think the cut-through is as great as might be supposed. I think the great point lost in all this is that Boris got his landslide because of Brexit and the increasing frustration with his inability to grasp the potential benefits became a hugely increasing sore, exacerbated by the daily shots of illegal immigrants turning up on our shores in rubber dinghies, often helped by the lifeboat service. This and his inability to grasp until too late how badly the economy was going to hit Mr & Mrs Average was what cost him public support as much as, if not more so, than his economy of truth. Another point not made enough is that Boris seemed to be a prisoner of focus groups and vocal groups of MPs, which meant he was constantly veering from one view to another. He made a string of supposedly exciting announcements that remained just that, never getting anywhere. You can only do that for so long before the public wises up.Yes, it was the MPs who knifed him, but these were MPs getting it in the neck from their constituents for what was (or more often was not) going on. My neighbour tore up his Tory membership card in sheer frustration and told our MP about it. Boris could offer no clear guiding principles we could cling to that would help us bat aside the machinations of Cummings, the BBC et al, who were manifestly on a mission to defenestrate him. In the end, even those who fear for Brexit in the wake of his departure could see there was no other course.Looking back to last week’s episode with Peter Staley, here’s a key moment where he calls the federal incompetence over monkeypox “Covid 2.0”:The whole 20-minute segment on monkeypox is here. Another listener “enjoyed the episode”:I share Mr. Staley’s concerns about the government’s handling of the monkeypox outbreak. I agree with him that the US did a disturbingly poor job of handling the Covid pandemic at the start. However, I have two important qualifiers:The US was hardly the primary “bad actor” in Covid; stupidity and misconduct in other countries was more flagrant and more consequential.I don’t know the details of the bureaucratic mangling of the monkeypox vaccine, but everything Staley reports sounds sadly accurate. However, it seems to me that the core problem early in the AIDS pandemic, and in the past two months with monkeypox, was the unwillingness of many in the gay community to modify their behavior consistent with obvious public health concerns. I was struck that neither you nor Staley mention this, beyond your effort to provide some rational current health advice, which is however strongly tilted toward vaccination over behavior modification.We did urge gay men to “cool it” for a while. Maybe we should have been more adamant. It’s also becoming clearer how this version of monkeypox is spread: primarily through sexual contact. If mere skin-touching were spreading it, then it seems to me the epidemic would be much, much larger, given the crowds during Pride. That means, of course, that we have the ability to help stop it, by not having sex until vaccinated. That’s not sex-phobic or homophobic. It’s just sensible health advice.Another dissenter expands on the reader’s second point:Your discussion of monkeypox really bugged me, for a reason I hope you take to heart. The vast majority of it was focused on the failures of the FDA and CDC, which I don’t take issue with. But the assumptions of the world you live in, particularly when in Provincetown, were alarmingly similar to the assumptions you make (rightfully) about the progressive left — that it takes for granted people not having agency in their own lives.The US government has (probably) failed with monkeypox, as it has with other diseases. Given that, what should people do? You and Staley both took it for granted that you seemed to have a right — almost an obligation — to party hard in P-Town, which the government’s failure was interfering with. It wasn’t until more than halfway through this part of the conversation that Staley and then you mentioned offhand that “some” people were suggesting people “cool it” for a month or so.But listen again to the rest of your conversation about monkeypox. Time and again, you blamed the government for its failures and never said anything about maybe the party boys could do something besides bemoan the inability to get vaccinated — maybe party less or (trigger warning) not go to Provincetown one summer. Self-restraint in the face of a still small but looming epidemic was only on the margins of your assumptions.At this early stage, restraint now among the mostly gay-male monkeypox spreaders would have exponential benefits going forward. Isn’t that a message about social good that is worth the telling?I’m older and was never much of a partier, so I guess it’s easier for me to say this. But the pretty confined groups of A-Gays ought to take some agency in their own lives at this critical time, and maybe give something up temporarily for the benefit of both themselves and a very real group of future A-Gays and B-Gays and whatever letter the rest of us get. Not to mention heterosexuals.As you can see, I take your point. Another listener moves to a different part of the discussion:Your interview with Peter Staley was fairly interesting regarding his participation during the critical years of AIDS. But the conversation became electric when the subject turned to critical queer theory, the indoctrination of children, and the discussion of sex identity in preschool. You kept asking Staley if he thought it was ok to teach children this curriculum and he kept nervously laughing and avoiding to answer and said that you’re confused and banging your little drum. I agree with you: critical theory has hijacked the gay community, gay rights, etc. and there very well could be an anti-gay backlash. Please continue to voice your side and fight for common sense. Your observations of critical theory’s dangerous impact are not anecdotal — they’re unfortunately everywhere.To decide for yourself, here’s a clip of that heated exchange:From a listener in San Francisco:I had never heard of Peter Staley before (I’m a 49-year-old gay man in SF). ACT-UP and Queer Nation had already fallen apart when I landed there in 1993 as a young punk rock guy. So I was interested in hearing his retelling of that period in the late ‘80s. But then the convo moved to gay activism today — and wow. I thought, “Well this is it. This is the denial that so many gay men have about the gender ideology cult.” They are f*****g terrified of speaking out against this. And of course it’s because they know it would mean expulsion from polite Democrat society.I was recently discussing the mass delusion period we’re living through around Gender ID extremism. Someone said we should get ready for a massive gaslighting from people who will tell us that they never believed in this cult.For what it’s worth, I keep hearing from gay men in Provincetown how alienated they are from this ideology, but also how scared they are to voice their concerns — especially about what this indoctrination is doing to gay children. Peter is emblematic of the majority, however, who prefer dismissing these concerns as overblown, and sticking to their own political tribe, which they have now internalized as “LGBTQIA+”. It’s maddening, but a function of real homophobes latching onto the “groomer” discourse, and tribal gays closing ranks in opposition. The real trouble is that the non-profit institutions allegedly representing us are packed with critical theory zealots who experience no pushback, and if they do, purge the dissenters. My view is that gay men should stop funding groups that are dedicated to the abolition of homosexuality. From a parent:It was so hard for me to listen to Peter Staley downplay the gender stuff for kids. My five-year-old stayed up an hour past her bedtime last night because she was worried she could suddenly become male, or that my breasts might disappear. She is extremely confused. At a time in her life when she is only beginning to understand what it will mean for her to grow up and become a physical woman, she thinks her “pronouns” might suddenly change and she might become genderless. Teenaged camp counselors with clear and obvious feminine features are telling her that they are neither male nor female. The worst part of that, is that my daughter is beginning to believe that her sex is determined by her interests and behavior. For example, she thinks that if I swear too much, I may become male. The result is her belief that womanhood is some sort of cartoonish stereotype of old-fashioned gender roles. It’s all so regressive. As a lifelong liberal, I am repulsed by the mainstream push to reinforce gender stereotypes and essentialism. What might be an even bigger crime for a writer like myself is that my daughter — who hasn’t even started kindergarten yet — thinks pronouns are a personal trait, not a part of speech. As horrified as I am at the regressive and sexist gender roles being pushed on my child, I am equally grimacing at the grammatical confusion this creating. Can’t the school teach my kid what a pronoun even is before scrambling her brain? Happy to air your personal experience. It’s horrifying. Another worried parent:I just had the most intriguing conversation with my 17-year-old daughter. She said that if she ever had a child who was trans, she would totally support that. Curious, I asked why. She said, “Because it’s all about who you love, and it’s ok to love different people.”I said, “Hold up, you’re talking about being gay. Trans doesn’t have anything do with who you love.”She insisted that it did. I said again, “No, you’re talking about being gay.” She said, “They're the same thing. Whenever a guy wants to be a girl, it’s because he wants to be able to date other guys. And when a girl wants to be a guy, it’s so that she can date other girls.”I said, “Now you're just confirming it — you are literally talking about being gay. There is no connection. Sometimes a guy transitions to being a woman, but still wants to date women — and will say that he has become a lesbian.”She just didn’t believe me! She shook her head and said something like, “It’s all over TikTok, and 99 percent of the time, when someone wants to be trans, it’s because they’re just trying to be gay.”We changed the subject, but even though this is just one data point (my daughter), I do wonder how prevalent her point of view is among other teenagers who watch TikTok.God only knows. But the attempt to conflate very different gay, lesbian and trans experiences is part of an ideological project, rooted in postmodernism. It is designed to destroy anyone’s coherent understanding of stable human nature. This next listener is on Staley’s side, not wanting to scapegoat queer theorists:I have to agree with Peter Staley that mass indoctrination of critical trans/queer/gender theory in school children is not the cause of any rise in gender confusion and trans identity. Something else is going on. My theory: the biological organism of homo sapiens is undergoing evolutionary reproductive change due to mounting environmental stresses.Let’s start with the simple observation that schools are only one small part of the cultural, political, environmental, familial and technological waters children swim in. One lesson from the story book How To Raise A Trans Inclusive Child is not going to make much of a sexual identity dent in the ocean of information, stress and confusion children are growing up in these days.There are so many other stresses that are going to have far greater biological impacts. Overpopulation is of course the big one that cannot be discussed. There are too many rats in the cage. Humans now live on a planet in which they are constantly bathed in low doses of industrial and agricultural chemicals of every kind. It is in our food, air and water. Developing embryos are all bathed in these chemicals to some degree.Throw in all the current economic and political chaos. Add in the bugaboo of social media and the cultural worship of money and fame. Body modification with tattoos, piercing and plastic surgery is a norm. You can create yourself to be anything.A big change, of course, is the rising equality of women. Economically, that is going to give women a better hand to play in reproductive choice. House husbands are becoming more and more common. Stereotypical gender expectations are pretty much kaput. Let’s not forget the #MeToo movement — that certainly threw a wrench into heterosexual relations.So what are these kids supposed to think about sex and gender? These are just some of the dots that Staley suggested may need a bit more connecting. So it’s a bit of a stretch to pin any rising gender confusion and dysphoria on indoctrination with critical gender/queer/trans theory in school children. That would be about as effective as conversion therapy for gay men. It’s not that simple to convert.But it’s very easy to confuse a third-grader. One more reader keeps another debate going:I wanted to respond to your response to the theory that another reader “wanted to float by you” about the nature/nurture debate over trans identity and sexual orientation. First, I think you dismiss this person’s idea a bit too readily. The possibility that sexual orientation isn’t inborn (even though I agree with you that it’s involuntary) is actually relevant to this discussion. Much of the modern trans movement incorrectly attempts to hitch its claims to the claims made by the gay rights movement, and “born this way” is no exception to this trend. If people are born trans, as this movement claims, then it’s theoretically possible to identify trans children with perfect accuracy and medicalize them before they go through puberty. But if instead, maturing into a trans adult is a stochastic process, then it’s impossible to predict perfectly which kids will persist in their trans identity after puberty. And in such a case, convincing the public to support youth medical transition is a much harder sell.Additionally, I disagree with you on whether trans people choose to be trans. Dysphoric individuals like Lauren Black, who choose to deal with their gender dysphoria without transitioning, complicate the claim that transitioning is the only possible outcome for someone with gender dysphoria. I think there are some people with dysphoria severe enough that medical transition is the best choice for them. But the decision of whether to transition or handle dysphoria in other ways is still ultimately a choice.As always, send your dissents, as well as other comments and personal stories, to email@example.com. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Peter is a political activist, most famously as a pioneering member of ACT UP — the grassroots AIDS group that challenged and changed the federal government. He founded both the Treatment Action Group (TAG) and the educational website AIDSmeds.com. An old friend and sparring partner, he also stars in the Oscar-nominated documentary “How to Survive a Plague.” Check out his memoir, Never Silent: ACT UP and My Life in Activism.You can listen to the episode — which gets fiery at times — in the audio player above (or click the dropdown menu to add the Dishcast to your podcast feed). For two short clips of my convo with Peter — on how he and other AIDS survivors turned to meth, and Peter pushing back on my views of critical queer theory in schools — pop over to our YouTube page. There’s also a long segment on just the monkeypox stuff. If that episode isn’t gay enough for you, we just posted a transcript of the episode last year with Katie Herzog and Jamie Kirchick. Both of these Alphabet apostates were on Real Time last month — here’s Jamie:Katie appeared alongside this clapped-out old bear:Come to think of it, two more Dishcast alums were on the same episode of Real Time last month — Michael Shellenberger and Douglas Murray:Oh wait, two more in June — Cornel West and Josh Barro:We now have 20 episodes of the Dishcast transcribed (check out the whole podcast archive here):Bob Woodward & Robert Costa on the ongoing peril of TrumpBuck Angel & Helena Kerschner on living as trans and detransKatie Herzog & Jamie Kirchick on Pride and the alphabet peopleDominic Cummings on Boris, Brexit and immigrationCaitlin Flanagan on cancer, abortion and other Christmas cheerGlenn Greenwald on Bolsonaro, woke journalists and animal tortureJonathan Haidt on social media’s havocYossi Klein Halevi on the origins of ZionismFiona Hill on Russia, Trump and the American DreamJamie Kirchick on the Lavender ScareJohn McWhorter on woke racismJohn Mearsheimer on handling Russia and ChinaRoosevelt Montás on saving the humanities Michael Moynihan on Afghanistan and free speechCharles Murray on human diversityJonathan Rauch on dangers to liberalismChristopher Rufo on critical race theory in schoolsMichael Shellenberger on homeless, addiction and crimeCornel West on God and the great thinkersWesley Yang on the Successor IdeologyA Dishcast listener looks to last week’s episode and strongly dissents:I enjoyed your interview with Matthew Continetti. Unfortunately, an exchange at the end reminded me of why I had to reluctantly tune you out for years: your hero worship of Obama. I respect and admire the way you call out the failures and excesses of both sides, including those of mine (the right), which I acknowledge were glaring even before Trump. During the Obama years, however, it was hard not to cringe when I watched you tear up on Chris Matthews’s show and compare him to a father figure. I also recall you yelling at SE Cupp and aggressively pointing a finger at her on Bill Maher’s show for daring to compare the foreign policies of Obama and W Bush:It’s hard to imagine anyone with that kind of emotional response being objective, and sadly, you never were during his presidency.You argued with Continetti that Obama was a middle-of-the-road pragmatist, when nothing could be further from the truth. He came into office with the economy reeling in a banking and housing crisis, and he took the Rahm Emmanuel approach of never letting a crisis go to waste. Even before his inauguration, he begin planning to rush through major legislation on healthcare, climate, and education. These may be worthy goals, but they are not the actions of a pragmatist who wants to govern by addressing the problems of the moment. He then outsourced the stimulus bill to Pelosi, which was a pork-filled bonanza with almost nothing even remotely stimulative. He refused to incorporate any Republican ideas into the healthcare legislation and arrogantly said to McCain that “the election’s over” when McCain voiced some opposition. Obama then lied in selling the bill to the American people by saying you would be able to keep your plan and your doctor in all cases.When Obama lost his congressional majority, he resorted to gross lawlessness, taking executive actions that exceeded his constitutional authority on everything from carbon emissions to insurance company appropriations to immigration, including on measures that were recently voted down by Congress or (as Continetti noted) he previously acknowledged he lacked the constitutional authority to do. He even flouted his ability to do this — knowing the media would cover for him — by saying he had “a pen and a phone.”Obama was one of the more divisive presidents in history. Every speech followed the same obnoxious shtick of chiding Republicans for playing politics and claiming that he alone was acting in the national interest. We saw this again, even post-presidency, during the funeral of John Lewis. For once, both sides came together, and even Republicans celebrated the achievements of a genuine American hero. But during Obama’s speech, he turned the event into a partisan tirade about voting rights, calling the filibuster a Jim Crow relic (never mind that he used as a Senator).Finally, you argued that Republicans never gave Obama a chance. Not true. When he was inaugurated, his approval ratings were among the highest on record and were even above 40 percent among Republicans. They plummeted among Republican voters because he refused to ever take their concerns seriously or acknowledge that they had any legitimate points. When he finally did something they had even slight agreement with, the Trans Pacific Partnership, most Republicans supported him, while much of his own party opposed him.I respect your objectivity and believe that you are largely back to it. But I’m hoping the next time someone you love comes along, you will remain able to see the forest from the trees. (And sorry about the War and Peace-length email. There isn’t another intellectual I’m aware of who would actually welcome a dissent like that, which is why I wish I became a subscriber sooner.)That’s a lot of political history to litigate, but if you think I was blindly supporting Obama, read “The Fierce Urgency of Whenever,” “Obama’s Marriage Cowardice,” “Obama’s New War: Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb,” “Obama’s Two New Illegal Wars,” “Is Obama A Phony On Torture?”, “Obama Is Now Covering Up Alleged Torture,” “Obama’s Gitmo Disgrace,” “Obama To The Next Generation: Screw You, Suckers,” my reaction to his townhall comments on cannabis, “Behind the Obama Implosion,” and my excoriation of his first debate against Romney, if you remember.Obama’s healthcare proposal originally came from the Heritage Foundation; it was the most conservative measure to move us to universal healthcare access available; he passed it; and it remains the law because Republicans realized it was too popular to repeal. If that’s what you call extremism, you have a different definition of the word than I do.His stimulus was — yes — insufficient to the moment. But that’s because it veered toward a fiscal prudence long abandoned by the GOP. And he put it before any other priority. The GOP still refused to give this new president in an economic crisis any support at all, and acted as if the Bush debacle had never happened.Another listener defends the former president’s record — to a point:Obama had one chance to pass health care reform — something presidents had been trying and failing to do for several decades. In reality he had a razor-thin margin, especially in the Senate. He spent months letting moderates like Max Baucus take the lead in Congress. He gave moderate Republicans like Olympia Snowe endless time to pretend to be willing to vote for a centrist bill. Remember: this was largely RomneyCare, an already moderate Republican policy idea and one which had originally come out of a conservative think tank.In the end, no matter how much Big Pharma and other healthcare lobbies had to be bribed and how much Obama compromised — no public option; no federal negotiation via Medicare to lower drug prices — the moderate Republicans had strung him along. He had to give Ben Nelson goodies to get his vote. And, overall, as much as the bill was a corporate sellout, it still — and 12 years on it’s so easy to forget this — still made massively important reforms the public was desperate for: it expanded family access for kids up to 26; it ended the rampant abuse of preexisting conditions to deny coverage; it ended retroactive rescissions in which insurance employees were tasked to comb through patient records and fine print to find pretexts for dumping patients when they needed care the most; it ended lifetime caps on coverage for things like major early childhood diseases and illnesses and catastrophic illnesses in adults; and of course it expanded access to Medicaid (most people don’t realize how stunningly low one’s income has to be to qualify). ObamaCare, flaws and all, was necessary — and a major step forward. There was no Republican compromise to be had in 2010 or ever. Remember what Mitch McConnell said his #1 priority was? Ensuring Obama was a one-term president with no major successes to campaign on. They simply wanted the legislation to crash and burn, similar to how it did in 1994. DACA and DAPA and the rest? Very very different story. And I agree with Continetti: Obama did not have that authority and he knew he didn’t. And after the Gang of Eight fell apart, his second term was all about caving to radical, often openly ethnically chauvinistic, identitarian, open borders advocates. And that’s where the Democratic Party has been stuck ever since. Executive decisions like DACA were a big part of why I soured on the Obama administration. ObamaCare, flawed as it was, was a big reason I volunteered so heavily for Obama in 2012. We’re still not close to the kind of publicly guaranteed, universal health care virtually all peer countries and allies enjoy. But we’re closer due to ObamaCare. And that’s a clear example of what Democrats can accomplish when they’re focused on passing the best bill they can pass (by the barest of margins) for the common good. For the record (see the Daily Dish links above), I also opposed the Libya war, the Iraq surge, and the DACA executive overreach. This next reader is more sympathetic to Obama on DACA:Deporting kids who have never known another country has a 19 percent approval rating. Obama begged Congress for years to do something to correct this. So is the Continetti position that Obama needed to do something that more than 80 percent of Americans don’t want because far-right extremists are holding Boehner hostage? If that is your position, then it’s fundamentally undemocratic.Another clip from last week:Yet another take on the Continetti convo:I’m a moderately liberal person, and I listen to conservative voices to hear good arguments that make me consider more deeply my innate biases. But the conservatism described by Continetti is just uninteresting. Describing the 1964 Civil Rights Act as too large an overreach? Talking about constitutionalism in the same way that Alito does — as frozen, depending upon the section, in either 1789 or 1868? Dissing Obamacare?Obamacare is a big improvement on pre-ACA insurance, and I’m glad Obama persevered after Ted Kennedy's death. Healthcare has a lot of moving parts, but finally we have an individual insurance market with plans as good as those in the employer group market. My kids have used it at various times switching between jobs and school, or even instead of a law school's highly mediocre plan. One of my biggest problems with Biden is that he hasn’t even managed to get the subsidy income limit, which was lifted by the pandemic relief bill, made permanent. My biggest problem with Biden is that I expected that he’d be able to negotiate with someone like Manchin, who’s dim but probably willing to support something. Cranking up the ACA subsidies and funding some solar panel research and LWTR reactor prototypes, with the work being done in part in West Virginia? It can’t be that hard to cut some deal. Instead, we seem to have nothing.So, until the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, I figured the Dems would get wiped out in '22 and '24. I figured the combination of trans-positive teaching in lower schools and race essentialism everywhere would lead to races like the Virginia governor election, where someone with a sane approach to schools would dominate. Dobbs may change all that. From a small sample of Republican suburban voters I know, a lot of people are furious at the Court’s decision. They rightly view it as an ignorant decision that makes even pregnancy for wealthy women in red states far more dangerous than it was, since a partial miscarriage with lots of bleeding — not a rare event by any means — will now require sign-off from a hospital’s legal staff before a lifesaving D&C can be performed, by which time a pregnant woman may well be dead. And while Republicans typically don’t mind making life miserable for poor people (fun fact: a family of four has to have an income below $4,700 per year to get Medicaid in Mississippi), f*****g over the upper middle class will not go over nearly as well.Keeping with the abortion theme, another reader:This caught my eye in your most recent podcast email: “[T]he question of when human life becomes a human person is a highly debatable one.”First, thank you for stating the issue correctly! The issue is NOT when HUMAN LIFE begins. Science has answered that question definitively: at conception. It’s not a “theory,” religious or philosophical doctrine or anyone’s “opinion,” and it’s not debatable. We may not know everything that happens during conception, but no embryologist denies that it’s the beginning of human life. The term “person” is not scientific, and that’s why I avoid using it when debating abortion with non-believers. As I’ve noted before, the term “person” arose out of debates about the relations among the Three Persons of the Trinity in the run-up to the council of Nicea. Before that, the Latin term “persona” just referred to public citizenship. Slaves were not legally persons. The Christian philosophers made it into a much richer and more resonant concept, in order to explain that God could be one God but three “persons” — a way of saying that if God is Love, love is not a monism but a mode of relationality. Anyway, for purposes of modern discussion of abortion, the term “person” now means something close to what the pagan Roman meaning of “person” was: a human being legally granted rights by the state, including the right to life. In other words, some human beings are not “persons.”This distinction is morally troubling and creates issues for defenders of abortion. If it’s really up to the state to say who is or is not a “person,” why stop at the unborn? In the Roman Empire, and in later periods (including our own history, of course), slaves were not legally considered full “persons.”Is “personhood” a sliding scale, or an absolute state of being? Can you have “more” or “less” personhood? Are comatose (but stable) human beings persons, or do they lose their legal rights to life, as many seem to think? What about the conscious but mentally challenged? Do high-IQ people have more “personhood” than low-IQ people? You see where this is going, I’m sure. I’ve had many discussions about this, and there is NO criterion that denies full personhood to the unborn that cannot also be used to deny it to the already-born. I think once you hive off human rights from the status of being human, and attach them to some scientifically indefinable status like “personhood,” you go down a tricky path. Because you’re right, of course. “Personhood” is endlessly debatable, because it’s a philosophical and (ultimately) theological concept. It’s like arguing “Who has a soul, and who doesn’t?”But in our tribally inclined species, the question quickly becomes, who is “human” (i.e, like “us”) and who is “other” (i.e., not really “human”) — with the “other” not possessing the same rights. Most names of tribes for themselves translate to “the Human Beings” or “the People” — with anyone outside the tribe being less than human. (Did you ever see Little Big Man?)Of course, as a Christian I believe ALL human beings are also persons, no matter their mental state, helplessness, poverty or low social status. I also agree that all human beings are images of God. For purposes of argument with non-believers, rather than get side-tracked into personhood, I prefer to say that human rights are anchored in (inherent in) humanness, not “personhood.” This requires abortion advocates (if they have the slightest thoughtfulness or openness to engage in actual discussion) to explain how some human beings aren’t “persons” and who gets to make that determination. But any honest abortion defender who doesn’t want to deny non-contestable science must make that distinction.Here’s the difference between personhood in abortion and every other area. One person is literally inside another person’s body. In a society based on property rights, the body itself — “habeas corpus” — is central to freedom and autonomy. Another reader turns to sexuality:I was struck by one of the dissents you ran last week: “No mention of the 63 million babies who were murdered in the last 49 years, but oh how well you stand up for women and their right to have as many one-night stands as they want without consequences, guilt, or their morality even being questioned.”The second half of that sentence is so interesting. The dissenter is not only offended by potential babies not being born, but also by women having sexual fun without life-altering consequences. To the dissenter, one-night stands are an evil (at least, on the part of the woman), and going through a public pregnancy (look at her! shame!) and having babies (no career for her!) is the least punishment the female participants should deserve. The lost babies are bad, but even worse, look at what all those loose women are getting away with!I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that some part of the opposition to abortion in this country is actually driven by people who want to bring back 1950s prudery. They see abortion as an evil precisely because it allows more sexual pleasure — and even more galling, more sexual pleasure on the part of women (because this 1950s prudery so often seems to carry 1950s misogyny along with it). Of course we know many abortion opponents are deeply moved by love for potential babies that aren’t born, but this dissenter shows there’s at least one person out there celebrating Dobbs for the renewed opportunities abortion bans will provide to scare women out of sex or, failing that, shame them and derail their careers as punishment.Another reader turns the focus to me:For some context, I am a Christian who has spent most of my life in the evangelical subculture, but I am more moved in worship by liturgical forms. I am politically anti-Trump and I am abhorred by the current state of the Republican Party, though I am a lifelong Republican. Call me David French-like.I am responding to your dissent from the conservative writer and your comment that consent between adults is the sole limiting factor in sexual behavior. You have likely been asked and answered this question many times, so just send me a link if that’s easier for you: Since you are a Christian, what role does the Bible and/or church teaching have in your understanding of human sexuality? One could argue that in addition to consent, the Bible speaks of fidelity, monogamy, love, nurture, self giving, mutual submission, and adoration in sexual relationships. How do you treat the foregoing characteristics (or others) in your sexual ethic? Does your Christian faith have any role to play in your sexual ethics?I enjoy your writing and the Dishcast, keep it up. Guest suggestions: Kevin Williamson. (He had deep dissents on gay marriage, but culturally that train has left the station, and as you know, he has the added benefit of having been fired by The Atlantic three days after hiring — an early example of cancel culture by the insulated Left). Also Jonah Goldberg.I responded to some of these points on the main page. But I’ve written much more widely on this question — and I recommend Out On A Limb for the rest. The essay “Alone Again, Naturally,” comes closest to answering. But I do not share orthodox Christianity’s Augustinian terror of the body and its pleasures. Your guest suggestions are always appreciated: firstname.lastname@example.org. Here’s one more from a “20-year Dishhead writing for the first time”:I think Iain McGilchrist would be a great guest for the pod — and for TWO episodes, since the ideas in his recent work are so vast, complex, and far-reaching. (I encountered his earlier book on the Daily Dish.) It seems like IMcG is really working to get out his incredibly important, expansive, but very difficult project out and a couple of good conversations with you would be a great way of doing that, not to mention fascinating for us Dishcast listeners.Thanks for everything that you and Chris are doing with The Weekly Dish — trying to help us all think clearly and openly. My wife and I both appreciate having your voice in our lives each week. She especially likes the dissents!Subscribe to read them all — along with everything else on the Dish, including the View From Your Window contest. There are also gift subscriptions if you’d like to spread the Dishness to a loved one or friend — or a frenemy to debate the dissents with. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Matthew is a journalist who worked at The Weekly Standard and co-founded The Washington Free Beacon, where he served as editor-in-chief. Currently he’s a contributing editor at National Review, a columnist at Commentary, and a senior fellow and the Patrick and Charlene Neal Chair in American Prosperity at the American Enterprise Institute. We discuss his wonderful book, The Right: The Hundred-Year War for American Conservatism.You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player above (or click the dropdown menu to add the Dishcast to your podcast feed). For two clips of my convo with Matthew — on whether the GOP is destroying the Constitution, and debating how conservative was Obama was — pop over to our YouTube page.A listener looks back to last week’s episode:I enjoyed your discussion of friendship with Jennifer Senior, particularly your observation that a friend is someone we don’t want to change. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by Friedrich Nietzsche: “Love is blind, friendship closes its eyes.”And here’s some insight from Jesus on the subject:Another listener grumbles:Another woman talking about friendship? How novel. How about finding some guys to talk about it? Because it sure is tough for straight men to find new friendships. The old ones fall apart for much the same reason that women's do, but the straight male psyche seems particularly resistant to making new ones. The Dishcast, in fact, recently aired an episode with Nicholas Christakis that covered quite a bit about the nature of friendship between straight men. Much of it centers on taking the piss out of each other:Another listener remarks on the part of my convo with Jennifer about the evolving nature of newsrooms — basically that they’re boring now, ensconced in Slack:I agree about the dead quiet in newsrooms these days. I started out in broadcasting in the early ‘80s, with a stint at NPR in the late ‘80s early ‘90s. People would shout and yell and ask questions on spelling, grammar and facts about previous stories, all while rushing to meet the deadlines. Then a few years ago, I worked in a major public radio newsroom and it was dead quiet. The editor sitting behind me would type a question to me via top-line message and I’d just turn around and answer him. It was a major sin! So boring! Thankfully now I work for a small nonprofit newsroom and I’m the head of our tiny audio division. Sadly COVID made our newsroom virtual, but oh how I miss those early, pre-internet newsrooms with people arguing and talking and joking with each other.Here’s what Jennifer and I have to say:After the Continetti convo this week, here are a few requests for more conservative guests:Sometimes I feel like you’re a friend of mine, since I’ve been reading you for so long — God, since the ‘80s. The thing is your intellectual honesty, and changing your mind when facts change. So please, please, get Rod Dreher on to talk with you! We love it when you talk to someone who’s in the same area but looking in another direction. What Dreher is going through is just beyond the pale — embracing a strongman authoritarian regime and calling it conservatism. It’s the same as the left embracing CRT and calling it liberal. Yep. I just need to summon up the emotional energy for him. Another asks:Have you ever considered getting Ben Shapiro on? I think he might be a more fun guest than Ann Coulter (even though I enjoyed listening to your interaction with her), and he’s honestly more capable of learning (i.e. I’m hoping it’d be a educational interaction for him).Always open to your guest recommendations — and your commentary on the episodes: email@example.com.More dissents. First up, from one of the readers who most frequently criticizes the Dish’s coverage of crime:Last week you highlighted Scott Alexander’s column on the 2020 murder spike, calling it “devastating.” In fact, it’s wildly off-base. I’m sure Scott is a smart guy, but he’s wading into an incredibly complex subject with very little respect for or understanding of the work of others.His argument rests on timing. Murders began spiking around the launch of Black Lives Matter protests — the “structural break” mentioned in the Council on Criminal Justice’s report he cites — so, he says, it follows that one caused the other. This is a version of the “Ferguson Effect” theory, and it’s fared very poorly in the academic literature — though you wouldn’t know it from Scott’s selective citations. That doesn’t mean protests are irrelevant to crime, but the best research on the subject points out something that Scott, in his rush to judgment, misses: people don’t protest for no reason. Instead, protests tend to be caused by external factors, like police brutality. That’s why Rick Rosenfeld, who serves on the Council on Criminal Justice and did much of the descriptive work that Scott cites, argues that crises in police legitimacy, not protests, are what drive increases in violent crime and murders.The distinction is subtle but important, for methodological reasons that needn’t detain us and theoretical ones that should. Specifically, blaming protesters for rising violence is essentially an elaborate way of “blaming the victim.” If protests cause murders to rise, what else are people to do when police terrorize or kill their neighbors — as happened to George Floyd and so many others? Looking further upstream places the blame for degraded police legitimacy where it belongs: on the police force itself. What really irks me about Scott’s column, though, is its certainty in the face of an unbelievably complex social crisis. There’s a reason criminologists (not the most liberal bunch, trust me) haven’t settled on protests as the sole reason for a 30% nationwide murder spike, felt in rural communities as well as cities. Sometimes things really are complicated, and that’s ok.Scott followed up his post by replying to the best dissents from his readers, including Matt Yglesias, who began his reply, “I agree with almost everything in this post except for the media criticism parts.” You rarely see this kind of debate in the MSM. Check it out.Next up, abortion. First, a dissent from the right:Your wrong characterization of the rejection of Roe v. Wade is another example of your conversion to the Left. No mention of the 63 million babies who were murdered in the last 49 years, but oh how well you stand up for women and their right to have as many one-night stands as they want without consequences, guilt, or their morality even being questioned. Instead you should be praising the Supreme Court for finally beginning to bring our democracy back to the original standard — that only the legislature makes laws — not the president and not the courts. You should be rejoicing over the fact that abortion rights are forced back into the hands of the state legislatures, and ultimately (to some extent) into the hands of the voters. It should have been this way for the last 50 years, but a radical leftist cabal took over our Supreme Court and made decisions with very little legal support or logic. If it really is a fundamental right of women to control their bodies and ignore the consequences of killing the babies they produce, 50 years of debate and voting would have proved it to be so, and abortion would be largely legal throughout the US today. But instead, the Supreme Court dictated the law from out of nowhere, dictatorially legislated the law of the land, and the cost has been the unjust murder of some portion of 63 million babies. You should be sickened by it.So today I leave your blog. You’ve transformed from my favorite writer, defender of liberty and “explainer” of the evils of CRT and the transgender movement, to just another gay leftist parroting the lies of immoral people who have no concept of what makes our country different from all the rest. Your conversion is sad and twisted because you have the ability to reach out to the citizens who have no idea how important liberty is or what is required to safeguard it.I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about. The entire piece was a defense of abortion as a subject for democratic deliberation and not judicial fiat. That’s been my view for years. In this fraught and complex topic, I think a compromise on the European lines is the least worst option. I also believe — and have said so on multiple times — that I share your view that abortion is a moral evil, and the taking of human life. I could never be a party to one. But many disagree with me and you. And we live in a pluralistic society. And the question of when human life becomes a human person is a highly debatable one. Banning all abortion would be a disaster. Limiting and regulating it is a far better option. As for sexual freedom, you’ve got me there. As long as it’s between adults, and consensual, I have no problem with it, and lots of experience with it. I truly don’t think it is intrinsically wrong. Human beings’ sexuality is far more expansive and diverse than most other species’, and if children and marriage are not involved, I see no reason to curtail it, and many reasons to celebrate it.Next, a dissent from the left:You seem to argue from the perspective that Roe was not a compromise. It was. It was a politically failed attempt to pick a middle ground. Culturally, Roe succeeded. If you check Pew Research Center, the majority of Americans favor unrestricted abortion early in pregnancy, allowing a woman to terminate a pregnancy for any reason. Americans favor restrictions later, allowing for life of the mother and viability of the fetus concerns. This is the compromise between no abortions even for pregnancies of non-consensual sex and abortion on demand for any reason.In vitro fertilization remains a corner case. Generally, fertility clinics have legally binding contracts saying what should be done with unused embryos if a couple separates. However, if state laws regard all embryos as human beings, this raises important questions. Can a couple discard viable embryos when their family has reached the size they desire? If there is a dispute, does the party who wishes to bring an embryo to term have a right to do that over the objection of the party who does not? If a couple is conceiving through IVF to avoid a serious genetic anomaly, will it be legal to discard a viable but non-normal embryo, such as one with trisomy 21?What to do about pregnancies conceived through non-consensual sex continues to be the biggest challenge for the right-to-life movement. If the State can compel a woman to carry a pregnancy to term, even if the sex act was non-consensual, what other things can the State compel regarding our bodies? Surely states could compel mandatory vaccination, which is much less invasive and less likely to result in negative outcomes.Following that, what about states that forbid abortion but do not engage in good-faith efforts to catch and convict rapists? The map at End The Backlog does not correlate well with states based on their abortion laws. The map shows Alabama as “unknown.” A quick Internet search of “rape kit backlog Alabama” pulls up articles about backlogs of over 1,000 kits. One article talks about a community that can’t gather evidence anymore because they don’t have any specially-trained nurses. Texas is listed as having over 6,000 backlogged kits. Oklahoma has 4,600. (To be fair, California’s backlog is almost 14,000 and New York’s is unknown.) Ancestry DNA websites have made even very cold cases possible to solve. Yet, our society continues to let rapists repeat.You wrote: “I also believe that the Court could approximate your vision, in defending minority rights. But women are hardly a minority, and many women — at about the same rate as men — want abortion to be illegal.” You also wrote: “Those rights are related to minorities who cannot prevail democratically — not half the human population.”Rights are defensible when they belong to the minority — but if the right belongs to the majority, it doesn’t need to be defended? I know you are a fan of George Orwell, but this is sounding a lot like, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” I thought rights were rights regardless of how many or which people have them. Isn’t that the point?I'd love to see you engage with what should be the conservative argument for widespread access to contraception and abortion in the first trimester. If the conservative goal is a society where everyone contributes and rises or falls on merit, then access to reproductive health care should be a conservative priority. We know from developing nations one of the best ways to improve standards of living is to improve family planning. Most women will size their families to match the resources at hand. If conservatives want to reduce the welfare state, affordable and accessible family planning would go a long way toward doing that. Instead, the poorest states and most conservative states in our country are the ones who make it difficult.Conservatives are the ones arguing for limited government. Getting in the middle of one of the most difficult decisions anyone will ever make does not look like limited government.As always, thank you for an engaging read, even when I disagree.I truly don’t think Roe is in line with public opinion, or a compromise. Here’s where Americans stand on the question from a recent Marist/PBS poll:Nearly seven in ten (68%) support some type of restrictions on abortion. This includes 13% who think abortion should be allowed within the first six months of pregnancy, 22% who believe abortion should be allowed during the first three months of pregnancy, 23% who say abortion should be allowed in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the pregnant person, and 10% who say abortion should be allowed only to save the life of the pregnant person.Even 52% of Democrats think limits should be put on abortion.Roe mandated the most expansive abortion regime in the West. A democratic adjustment to the Western norm does not seem to me to be an outrage — as the polls suggest. Yes, I do think that rapists should be brought to justice; that a complement to abortion restrictions should be much more accessible healthcare for pregnant mothers before and after birth; more distribution of contraception; greater availability of adoption options; and medical exceptions for late-term abortions where the mother desperately wants the child but deformity or genetic disease makes delivery traumatizing, and the child’s life almost certainly short. Which is to say: in that situation, it should be up to mothers and doctors. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Meredith Deeds has spent the last 20 years writing and teaching about food all over the country. Besides being a food consultant, writer and an occasional host of my radio show, The Weekly Dish, She has co-authored six cookbooks, among them are the James Beard Award finalist The Big Book of Appetizers (Chronicle Books), her best selling, The Mixer Bible (Robert Rose, Inc.), and 300 Sensational Soups (October 2008, Robert Rose, Inc.), which was chosen by Good Morning America as one of the top 10 cookbooks of 2008.Meredith is now a columnist at the Star Tribune publishing tasty recipes each month and getting ready to spend a healthy dose of time in Spain.Try her chilled Avocado and Soup with Crab SaladChilled Avocado Soup with Crab SaladServes 6Soup4 small avocados (about 2 cups)3 c. buttermilk1/4 c. basil leaves2 tbsp. fresh lime juice1/2 tsp. saltCrab Salad8 oz. lump crab meat, picked over1/4 c. finely chopped red bell pepper1/4 c. finely chopped red onion2 tbsp. finely chopped basil1 tbsp. fresh lime juiceDirectionsPuree all the soup ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the soup so it does not discolor. Chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.In a small bowl, gently combine the crab salad ingredients, trying not to break up the crab too much.Taste the chilled soup and re-season with more salt and lime juice, if necessary. Divide among 4 serving bowls and top each with some of the crab salad. Get full access to Stephanie's Dish Newsletter at stephaniehansen.substack.com/subscribe
Meredith Deeds has spent the last 20 years writing and teaching about food all over the country. Besides being a food consultant, writer and an occasional host of my radio show, The Weekly Dish, She has co-authored six cookbooks, among them are the James Beard Award finalist The Big Book of Appetizers (Chronicle Books), her best selling, The Mixer Bible (Robert Rose, Inc.), and 300 Sensational Soups (October 2008, Robert Rose, Inc.), which was chosen by Good Morning America as one of the top 10 cookbooks of 2008.Meredith is now a columnist at the Star Tribune publishing tasty recipes each month and getting ready to spend a healthy dose of time in Spain.Try her chilled Avocado and Soup with Crab SaladChilled Avocado Soup with Crab SaladServes 6Soup4 small avocados (about 2 cups)3 c. buttermilk1/4 c. basil leaves2 tbsp. fresh lime juice1/2 tsp. saltCrab Salad8 oz. lump crab meat, picked over1/4 c. finely chopped red bell pepper1/4 c. finely chopped red onion2 tbsp. finely chopped basil1 tbsp. fresh lime juiceDirectionsPuree all the soup ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the soup so it does not discolor. Chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.In a small bowl, gently combine the crab salad ingredients, trying not to break up the crab too much.Taste the chilled soup and re-season with more salt and lime juice, if necessary. Divide among 4 serving bowls and top each with some of the crab salad. This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit stephaniehansen.substack.com
Jennifer Senior was a long-time staff writer at New York magazine and a daily book critic for the NYT. Her own book is the bestseller, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood. She’s now a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she won the 2022 Pulitzer for “What Bobby McIlvaine Left Behind,” a story about 9/11. But in this episode we primarily focus on her essay, “It’s Your Friends Who Break Your Heart.”You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player above (or click the dropdown menu to add the Dishcast to your podcast feed). For two clips of our convo — on why friends with different politics are increasingly rare, on how Jesus died for his friends — pop over to our YouTube page. A new transcript is up in honor of what we are still learning about Trump’s attempted violent coup: Bob Woodward and Robert Costa on the perpetual peril of Trump. Below is a segment of that convo — probably the most significant one we’ve had on the Dishcast yet:Turning to the debate over abortion in the ashes of Roe, a reader dissents:I’m having a hard time understanding why you’re so misleading about abortion rights in the US compared to other nations, and naive about protection of the other rights under the 14th Amendment. Germany allows abortions up to 12 weeks for any reason, but what’s remarkable about Germany is not the 12-week mark, but that Germany offers pre-natal care, child care, employment guarantees, etc. that make it much easier for a woman if she chooses to go through with her pregnancy. The US doesn’t have anything like this. And even with the new right in America pretending to hop on board the social insurance train, passing any laws in a conservative-majority Congress that would provide more social services to pregnant women would deliberately NOT address or protect the right of a woman to control her own fertility — that is, to decide to have a child or not. In other words, the interests of a woman’s bodily autonomy and reproductive control would be denied. That makes women, on the whole, unable to live freely in society. But we don’t have to hop over to Europe to run a comparison. Canada protects abortion rights for any reason, with most clinics providing the procedure up to 23 weeks. This aligns with the (previous) fetal viability cutoff that Roe protected. And recently Mexico decriminalized abortion entirely, which paves the way for full, legal abortion rights.The US is now the regressive anomaly, not the progressive outlier you insist we are. And your idea that abortion can just be decided via democracy is cute — maybe that would’ve been true in the past — but SCOTUS could care less about the legislative process. You only have to look at their recent gun decision to realize that. You should make these things clear when you discuss abortion, instead of conveniently obfuscating the context and facts.As far as your confidence that the other rights under the 14th Amendment — gay marriage, access to contraception, etc. — will stand firm, I’m not sure why. Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Coney-Barrett evoked stare decisis in their confirmation hearings, and this turned out to be a shameless lie from all of them. With the conservative majority in place, they could then take up the Dobbs case and use it to overturn Roe entirely — stare decisis be damned.Alito left the door open to address Obergefell, etc. in his draft opinion, so why would you think Thomas taking it a step further is just him “trolling”? The majority of Americans wanted Roe left in place; its provisions were the compromise that balanced the interests of the woman with that of the fetus that you incorrectly thought was lacking. (Listen to Ezra Klein’s podcast with court expert Dahlia Lithwick to understand why that is). Yet despite its popularity, Roe was struck down. The majority of Americans support gay marriage. But the conservative court has publicly stated now that they don't care about what Americans want or think. Alito and Thomas have clearly said what they're willing to go after next. Kavanaugh playing footsie with the idea that those other rights are safe is just another lie that you are too willing to fall for, as I was too willing to think they wouldn't, in the end, touch Roe.As far as healthcare access in Germany, Katie Herzog made that point during our “Real Time” appearance last Friday:From a “Real Time” watcher:I disagree with you on quite a few issues, but appreciated your level-headed commentary on Bill Maher’s show. You’re one of the only people I saw today who forcefully made the point that the SCOTUS decision still allows for action by Congress — it’s a crucial point that has been totally lost in this discussion.From another fan of Bill’s show:I appreciated your take pointing out that the US is the only country that has made abortion rights a constitutional right, and I do understand your argument that this is something that needs to be decided through the democratic process. But I’m wondering if perhaps, on a deeper level, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Your attitude has been for a long time that America is unique, exceptional, in its supposed commitment to individual freedom, as reflected in its constitution. Doesn’t that imply that enshrining personal rights in its constitution is in fact a perfect evocation to our country’s exceptionalism, what sets it apart from the cynical bickering and proceduralism of European parliamentary systems?I believe in democracy, tempered by constitutional restraints. So the kind of judicial supremacy you seem to be advocating seems outside that. I repeat that I would not have repealed Roe, for stare decisis and social stability reasons. But for the same reason, I wouldn’t have voted for it in 1973. I also believe that the Court could approximate your vision, in defending minority rights. But women are hardly a minority, and many women — at about the same rate as men — want abortion to be illegal.Many more dissents, and other reader comments on abortion, here. That roundup addressed the concern over stare decisis that readers keep bringing up. As I wrote then:Yes, I worry about stare decisis — but it is not an absolute bar to changing precedents. Akhil Amar, the renowned constitutional scholar at Yale, rebuts the same argument. Amar also just appeared on Bari’s podcast, in an episode titled, “The Yale Law Professor Who Is Anti-Roe But Pro-Choice” — a great listen.Bari addressed the Dobbs decision in her new piece, “The Post-Roe Era Begins.” Another reader looks at the legislative route:I think President Biden and the Democrats as a whole would be in a far better position with voters today if over the past 18 months they had taken that same “small bites” approach on a variety of other issues: border security, election reform and just about any other challenge where they now have nothing to show the American voters because they approached those issues if they had significant majorities in each house. They could even take this “small bites” approach right now on the abortion issue, given (as you’ve documented) that the vast majority of Americans favor access to abortions with reasonable restrictions. Instead, Chuck Schumer runs a bill that’s even more permissive than Roe.I know it’s naïve to think we can take politics out of policymaking, but maybe, given the election hand they were dealt, it would have been good politics to pursue progress over progressivism. Right now they’d be running on a far different record (one of being the adults in the room) and could present a much stronger claim for leading our nation. Instead, they wasted a lot of time and opportunity pretending they had the clout to adopt the entire far-left progressive agenda.Another reader delves into the Court precedents that Democrats are wringing their hands over:You wrote about Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell: “Thomas also concedes that there could be other constitutional defenses for these previous decisions beyond ‘substantive due process.’”There is one defense, at least. The 14th Amendment has a due process clause and an equal protection clause. When Casey upheld Roe, the right to abortion was based upon due process, not equal protection. Dobbs found that due process did not guarantee the right to abortion. Equal protection of the laws is different. If a state allows an opposite-sex couple to marry or have sex, but bans a similarly situated same-sex couple from doing so, then equal protection of the laws is denied based upon sex, in violation of the 14th Amendment. If there were a state where females were banned from obtaining abortions but males were specifically permitted to have abortions, then that would be a denial of equal protection, based upon sex. But there is, of course, no world in which that would happen, and if there were, the state could simply ban males from having abortions as well and cure the equal-protection problem. Obergefell was based upon both due process and equal protection, so if due process is removed we still have equal protection. Lawrence was decided on due process alone, but it easily could be upheld based upon equal protection. (Justice O’Connor, in concurring in the ruling, said she would have relied upon equal protection instead of due process.) So Lawrence and Obergefell seem safe. Griswold does not seem safe under equal protection, but it may be safe under other provisions, although no state is currently seriously trying to ban the sale of contraceptives. Although Bostock was a decision based upon the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and not on the Constitution, Gorsuch ruled that the law that banned sex discrimination in employment applied to gays and transgender people. His reasoning was that if you fire a female employee for being married to a women but don’t fire a male employee for being married to a woman, then you are discriminating based upon the employee’s sex. There is a very strong argument that the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause works similarly. I broadly agree with this. Speaking of the transgender debate, a parent writes:While I generally agree with your balanced approach, I think you are still missing what is fueling the alarm on the right. As a parent of a 14 year old, I’m very aware of the extraordinary confusion that some teens now face because of the mainstream promotion of gender identities. For many kids, all this is harmless and ridiculous, and they tune it out. For a very tiny number of kids, this information may be extremely necessary, and perhaps even lifesaving, so they don’t feel so alone. But unfortunately, I believe there is a quite significant number of kids that have come to believe that all their teen problems will be solved if they simply lop off a few body parts. A few days ago I caught up with a friend who is a wreck because her 14-year-old daughter asked if she could cut off her breasts. This girl has some issues with body anxiety and acceptance, like the majority of teen girls, and has now decided she can avoid all the bad aspects of maturing into a woman by simply becoming a man, which in her mind is closer to remaining a girl, which is what she really wants. The mother is trying to help every way she can, and is about as caring and progressive as a parent can possibly be. But you have to understand how parents today are simply helpless to combat the flood of bizarre, foolish, and/or utterly toxic information that their kids find on the internet, or in social media with their classmates. We entirely ban our 14-year-old from all social media, and from all internet sites except for those needed for school, because we have seen time and time again how kids’ lives are getting wrecked from all that sludge. Most parents are simply not equipped to handle it. Many aren’t able to police their child as thoroughly as we do, and for those on the right with kids, I believe this very real damage has caused some to turn to any platform such as QAnon or other fringe groups that can make sense of this real trauma and harm to their kids. If you don’t have kids, it’s very easy to dismiss this as hysteria. But if you are aware of what's happening to kids nowadays, it’s truly terrifying.Lisa Selin Davis would agree; her new piece on Substack is titled, “It’s a Terrifying Time to Have a Gender-Questioning Kid.” And I completely understand where the reader is coming from. I find the relentless promotion of concepts derived from critical gender and critical queer theory to be destabilizing to kids’ identities, lives and happiness. These woke fanatics are taking the real experience of less than a half percent of the population and imposing it as if it is some kind of choice for everyone else. This is called “inclusion.” It is actually “indoctrination.”Telling an impressionable gay boy he might be a girl throws a wrench into his psychological development, adding confusion, possible generating bodily mutilation. Making all of this as cool as possible — as so many teachers and schools now do — is downright disturbing. The whole idea that all children can choose their pronouns because the tiniest proportion have gender dysphoria is a form of insanity. But it’s an insanity based on critical theory whose goal is the dismantling of all norms, and deconstruction of objective reality by calling it a function of “white supremacy.” This next reader has “a theory I’ve wanted to float by you”:I’m increasingly becoming of the opinion that the modern trans/gender movement is the twisted offspring of something in the gay rights movement that we thought was a good thing but actually wasn’t: the notion that someone is “born that way.” Today, we increasingly feel the need to diagnose children who were “born a certain way” and then provide medical interventions for something that is aggressively conflating the physical and the mental. (I’m using the historical Abrahamic distinction between the two here, sure there’s a philosophical debate about whether or not this distinction exists.) And that makes perfect sense if you think that the foundation of acceptability for these immutable identities is determined at birth — we have medicine in service of zeitgeist.I think the original sin here is going with “what we could get done” in the gay rights movement and stopping before we finished the job — of letting everyone know that these are preferences, and you need to respect and love people regardless of the choices they make and not just because they “can’t help it” because they were “born that way.” If we were to do away with this biological imperative driving identity, we’d end up with what we should really be striving for: radical acceptance of personal choices, and deconstruction of gender roles and stereotypes without engaging in pseudoscience.The trouble with this argument, I think, is that it doesn’t reflect the experience of most gay people. We do not “choose” our orientation. That is the key point — whether that lack of choice is due to biology or early childhood or something else is irrelevant. And genuinely trans people do not choose to be trans either. It’s a profound disjunction between the sex they feel they are and the sex they actually are. It also may be caused by any number of things. But it is involuntary.The queer left rejects this view entirely — because, in their view, there is no underlying reality to human beings, biological or psychological. It’s all about “narratives” driven by “systems of power,” and being gay or trans is infinitely malleable. That’s why they continuously use a slur word for gays — “queer” — to deconstruct homosexuality itself, and turn it merely into one of many ways in which to dismantle liberal society. I regard the “queer left” as dangerous as the far right in its belief that involuntary homosexual orientation doesn’t exist. Lastly, a listener “would like to make a couple of suggestions for Dishcast guests”:1) Razib Khan — he has been blogging for 20 years on genetics, particularly ancient population movements (e.g. Denisovans and Yamnaya). His Unsupervised Learning is currently the second-highest-paid science substack after Scott Alexander. To give you a flavour, his post on the genetic history of Ashkenazi Jews was very popular. Khan also does culture war stuff, mostly because he is a scientist and believes in truth and science. He has subsequently been the subject of controversy, as you can see from his Wikipedia page — which isn’t really fair, but gives you a flavor. His post “Applying IQ to IQ: Selecting for smarts is important” is the kind of thing that gets him in trouble. He is my favourite public intellectual, in large part because he combines actual hardcore science information with anti-woke skepticism. And he is just generally a very smart and interesting guy. Though I’m a fan of his substack, I’d like to hear him on your podcast because I’d like to find out more about Razib as a person, how he feels about the controversies, etc.2) Claire Fox — Baroness Fox of Buckley — is a former communist turned libertarian and Brexiteer, once a member of European Parliament and now a life peer in the House of Lords. Her Twitter feed gives a pretty good idea of her interests and views. Here are some clips on cancel culture in higher education; single-sex spaces for women; and a libertarian view on smoking. She broadly belongs to the British “TERF island” of gender-critical feminists. I know you’ve had Kathleen Stock on your podcast already, but Fox’s background, libertarian views and current membership in the House of Lords make her particularly interesting.I know Razib and deeply admire him and his intellectual courage. And it’s true that, in real life, he’s a hoot, a lively conversationalist, with an amazing life story. Because of his views about the science of genetics and human populations, he is, of course, anathema to the woke left. One good reason to invite him on. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
Jill is a journalist, academic, and the author of five books. She’s best known as the first woman to become executive editor at the New York Times, from 2011 to 2014. She’s currently a professor in the English department at Harvard. We’ve been friends forever.You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player above (or click the dropdown menu to add the Dishcast to your podcast feed). For two clips of our convo — on whether women are better observational reporters, and looking back at the Supreme Court saga of “Long Dong Silver” — head over to our YouTube page.We have a new transcript posted for posterity: Jamie Kirchick on his new history of gay Washington, recorded in front of a live audience at Twenty Summers in Ptown. If you missed it, here’s a teaser:With Pride still marching along this month, a reader writes:You frequently cover the takeover of the gay rights movement by transgender ideology, and how that can be at odds with the sex-based rights our generation fought for. I want to share a glimpse that I got at another under-discussed appropriation of the movement that’s significantly less threatening, but still leaves me feeling a bit out in the cold as a gay man: Pride going mainstream.I live in a small Midwestern exurb that recently began hosting its own Pride parade. This is not a small event — the banners go up well before June and stick around much of the summer, and it draws a crowd on par with our largest town festivals. I’ve generally avoided it, assuming it would be chock full of pink-and-blue flags and wanting to spare myself the political frustration. I also figured that a Pride parade in a town like mine indicated how unnecessary Pride parades have become.But this year I found out my (straight) brother was bringing his family, including my very young nieces and nephews. I wanted to see the kids, and I hoped my presence might provide some contrast to whatever left-wing antics they saw there. I was also curious how a Pride parade could possibly be family friendly enough for elementary school kids.Long story short, the whole thing was incredibly anodyne. I saw a couple drag queens and exactly one trans flag, but otherwise you would think it was a parade to celebrate rainbows. There were a few other older gay men wandering around, looking as awkward as I was. I had been worried about how to explain things to the kids, but I don’t think they even realized there was any connection to myself or my husband — they were in it mainly to catch candy. I don’t even recall seeing the words “rights” or “equality” mentioned. The messages were along the lines of “Be Yourself” and “Love Wins!”Afterwards, I learned that this event had been founded not by a homosexual, nor by a trans person, but rather by someone’s mother. Her daughter came out to her (I’m not even sure as what) and the mother decided she needed to show her daughter she was loved no matter what. And it all suddenly made sense. This was what a well-meaning mom wants to see when she sees gay pride. Be yourself! Love wins!I don’t want to say this kind of thing should stop. It was a nice enough time, and I don’t disagree with the message. But, I do wish more people understood exactly how unrooted “Pride” has become from the gay culture that started it and the reasons it was necessary. As I explained to my own mother afterwards, I don’t know of any man who had ever been imprisoned or assaulted just for loving another man. It was always about sex, and it’s still about sex. We just can’t mention that at Pride anymore, I guess.I suspect a great deal of this is a function of getting what we asked for — and the consequences of that taking root. Pride now is for straights as much as for gays — just as all the old super-gay events — like the High Heel Drag Race for Halloween in DC - went from being broken up by the cops (in my adult lifetime) to being packed with countless young straight women trying to be cool — and parents and all the letters of the alphabet. I’m made uncomfortable by some of this mass cultural appropriation — but that’s just my nostalgia for an era which I’m glad is now gone. We need to take yes for an answer, and as I wrote nearly 20 years ago, a very distinctive gay culture will end because of it.If you missed last week’s pod with David Goodhart, here’s a primer:This listener enjoyed the episode:On the conversation with David Goodhart, I want to chime in about your argument that one of the great contributions of Christianity, historically, has been reminding smart people that they aren’t any better than anyone else — and might indeed be worse, because of the arrogance and ambition that often accompanies that trait. It reminded me of a seminal moment in my childhood. I was 10, and I had just lost the regional spelling bee in a hard-fought match in which the last kid and I went several rounds before I made an error that he capitalized on. I turned to shake his hand. My dad told me later that night, “When you shook that boy’s hand, I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of you. You showed graciousness in a bitter moment, and it’s one of the hardest things to learn to do. I’m never going to be proud that you’re smart. That was a genetic luck of the draw and you had no more to do with it than you did with having brown hair or being a little scrawny. But how you responded is your character, and I DO care about that, and I am immensely proud of you.”I think the fact that that was a consistent message at home when I was getting a lot of accolades at school probably made me marginally less unbearable than I would have been otherwise. I should say that my family is Southern Baptist; our faith was part of the warp and woof of daily life and the lens through which my parents interpreted life and what was worthy and valuable. Being smart was nice, but not nearly as important as being kind and generous and forgiving. I’m very grateful to have been raised like that.Me too. Another listener also took the convo personally:I’m so grateful for your episode with David Goodhart, which covered a topic that is both intensely personal and professionally important to me. My father is one of seven children of an Italian immigrant who was a short-haul truck driver. He almost flunked out of high school and only finished because his father threatened to kick his ass if he didn’t. Talking to my dad, any highly educated person would instantly dismiss his opinions and observations. But he wouldn’t care. After high school he started his own business — a car repair and towing company. After 40 years he retired with one million dollars, having bought our family home outright and having sent both my sister and myself to college, and me to law school. Yes, he did this through hard work and persistence, but he also did it through extremely competent business management and strategic savvy. He survived the shutdown of a local mine (70% of his business at the time), the recessions and gas shortages of the 1970's, cyclical recessions and more. You don’t do that unless you know how to identify risks and opportunities and exploit them to your own advantage. If that isn’t intelligence, I don’t know what is. I myself work at a talent firm. My job entails creating a business model to help move junior enlisted veterans without college degrees into good-paying jobs with our skilled-manufacturing clients. It’s been fascinating to talk to companies who are still resistant to paying living wages at entry-level positions in the face of literally one million-plus competing job openings. I agree with Goodhart that reality is going to force a lot of rethinking about the value of labor of all kinds. It may take a while, but we are already seeing a few companies that are all-in on paying enough to attract this talent. They are far less nervous about the future.Thank you for this episode, and please find more guests who want to discuss this topic: How to recognize and reward everyone’s strengths, and how to measure success in new ways. Another listener recommends a guest:I’d love to see you interview Greg Clark, economic historian at UC Davis. His work on the heritability of social status is fascinating. Using surname data from England, he’s found that social status is strongly heritable but that it drifts back to the mean over many generations. So everyone’s ancestors will be elite or downtrodden eventually, but it might take 400 years. The key factor is assortative marriage and mating. Even before women had careers and got educations, you could predict the type of person a woman would marry by looking at the social status of her brother. Clark has shown how the same phenomenon exists in Scandinavia, China, etc. Most interestingly the data show that although income inequality is less in Scandinavian countries because of redistribution, educational and other achievements like admission to scientific societies, it’s just as unequal as other countries. They also show that even communist revolutions in China and Hungary didn’t prevent people with high social status names from reasserting dominance within a generation or two.Twin studies and data where unexpected parental deaths happen show that the differences can’t be environmental. It’s just amazing and totally under reported for obvious reasons, but I do think this data will blow the lid off our current debate. It’s also great that Clark’s data is about white English people and doesn’t involve race at its core. (Here’s a link to one of his key research papers.)I’ve been impressed with Clark since his book, A Farewell To Alms. It’s a great reader suggestion. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe
From the Star tribune - Neal Justin, John Bream, and Chris Hewitt! Laundry Evangelist Patric Richardson and Get Growing with Larry Pfarr! Stephanie Hansen from the Weekly Dish and Ali Kaplan from the Shop Girls! Moon from KS95 and we end it all with Jason!
David Goodhart is a British journalist. In 1995 he founded Prospect, the center-left political magazine, where he served as editor for 15 years, and then became the director of Demos, the cross-party think tank. His book The Road to Somewhere coined the terms “Anywheres” and “Somewheres” to help us understand populism in the contemporary West. We also discuss his latest book, Head Hand Heart: The Struggle for Dignity and Status in the 21st Century.You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player above (or click the dropdown menu to add the Dishcast to your podcast feed). For two clips of our convo — on why elites favor open borders, and why smart people are overvalued — head over to our YouTube page. Early in the episode, David discusses how his adolescent schooling in Marxism was “a bit like how people sometimes talk about the classics as a sort of intellectual gymnasium — learning how to argue.” Which brings to mind the following note from a listener:I feel compelled to tell you how much I enjoyed listening to your episode with Roosevelt Montás. I’m a retired lawyer in my 60s, and although I had a decent education growing up, my experience did not involve a full immersion in the classics. Hearing you two talk was like sitting in a dorm room in college — except the people talking are older, wiser, actually know what they were talking about. What a treat. I’m a pretty regular listener of the Dishcast, and this was the best yet in my opinion.Much of this week’s episode with David centers on how our capitalist society ascribes too much social and moral value to cognitive ability. That theme was also central to our episode last year with Charles Murray, who emphasizes in the following clip the “unearned gift” of high IQ:The following listener was a big fan of the episode (which we transcribed last week):I must tell you that your conversation with Charles Murray was the single best podcast I’ve ever heard. So deep, broad, and thought provoking. Thank you both for your willingness to explore “unacceptable” ideas so thoughtfully and carefully.I have read two of Charles’ books — Human Diversity and Facing Reality — and, among other things, I am stunned by how ordinary a person he seems to be. That sounds odd. What I mean to say is that, while few people could analyze and assemble so much data and present it so compellingly, his conclusions are what the average person “already knows.” I suspect that most people couldn’t plow through Human Diversity, but given a brief synopsis, they would say “duh.”When you mentioned your deep respect for black culture in America, you touched on something I wish had been more developed in Charles’ books: the option we have of celebrating human diversity rather than resigning ourselves to it or denying it. I would like to develop that idea a bit further:Conservation biologists understand (celebrate) the value of genetic diversity in nonhuman species, because each population potentially brings to the species genes that will allow it to flourish under some future environmental challenge, whether that be disease outbreak, climate change, competition from invasive species, etc. Humans too, as living organisms, have faced and will undoubtedly continue to face many unforeseen challenges, whether environmental, cultural, economic, etc. Hopefully, we will continue to rise to these challenges, but we have no way of knowing which genes from which populations will carry the critical traits that will allow us to do so. So, all the better that races DO differ and ARE diverse — in the aggregate, on average. Population differences are GOOD for a species because they confer resilience!Oh, and for the record, I tend to be center-left, with most of my friends leaning further to the left, so the ideas you presented are forbidden fruits. I cannot discuss them with anyone other than my husband, who can hardly bear to listen because they are so taboo in our circle.Here’s another clip with Charles, bringing Christianity into the mix:This next listener strongly dissents:Charles Murray, and you as well, seem to believe that you can magically separate out the effects of culture and poverty, and determine the effect of “race” on intelligence, which you define as IQ. The problem is, everything you’ve discussed here is nonsense.First, you assume that the term “race” describes a shorthand for people who share a common genetic background, and I suspect this is garbage. Most American Blacks have multi-ethnic backgrounds, with skin melanin being the main shared genetic feature. So, there’s little reason to believe that there’s a correlation between melanin content and other genetic features.Second, you assume that IQ describes general intelligence, that G factor Murray talks about. But intelligence is clearly multi-dimensional. My wife and youngest daughter have a facility with Scrabble, and general word enumeration games, that is way beyond me, and they’re better writers than I am. On the other hand, I have a general facility with mathematics that they can’t match (though my oldest daughter might be able to). And that’s just two dimensions; I’d bet there are many more, encompassing things like artistic talent, architectural design and talents in other arenas. You yourself are an excellent writer and interviewer, but I’ve read your writings for years, and I’d bet your understanding of statistics is elementary at best.Finally, you have no answer to the remarkable changes in IQ in Ashkenazi Jews over the past century. Supposedly IQ is supposed to represent an innate and unchangeable measurement of intelligence. And if you believe that average IQ of an ethnic group is a meaningful measurement, then you have to explain the changes in average IQ among American Jews over the past century. Goddard in the early 20th century claimed that 83% of tested Jews were feebleminded, while today, the great grandchildren of those feebleminded Jews now have IQs 1/2 to a full standard deviation above their co-nationalists. There’s an obvious answer here: IQ tests simply don’t test anything fundamental, but instead test how integrated into American culture the tested subjects were at the time.These are serious challenges to the idea that specific ethnic groups have unchangeable intellectual talents: some of your ethnic groups are non-homogeneous genetically, your definition of intelligence is simplistic, and there’s clear evidence that social integration greatly overwhelms any inter-group average differences. It is obvious that some people are more talented in one area than another, and that a significant amount of these differences are determined genetically. But when you move from the case of individuals to trying to correlate American racial groups with intelligence, I truly believe you’re just making a big mistake. Many Blacks in this country have grown up with the expectations that they simply can’t succeed on their own. I find it impossible to believe that we can filter out the effect of being raised with the expectation of failure. I work in tech, and it seems that a seriously disproportionate number of Blacks at my Gang of Five company come from the Caribbean — where, of course, Blacks are a majority and don’t face the same expectations of failure. We had a panel discussion on race and all the panelists came from the Caribbean, and all had stories of parental expectations that you’d expect from a stereotypical Asian-American family today.That said, right now, the Woke are acting more patronizing (and in my view, racist) than anything since the ‘60s. At this point, the Woke (I refuse to apply this label to the whole Left) treat Blacks as incredibly fragile beings who can’t handle any discussions of problems that aren’t laid at the feet of white people’s racism. It’s pretty disgusting.Instead of going point for point with my reader, here’s a comprehensive list of Dish coverage on the subject from the blog days. Another listener recommends a related guest for the Dishcast:After ruminating on some of your recent podcasts, I’d like to suggest a future guest: Paige Harden, author of The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA Matters for Social Equality and professor of behavioral psychology at the University of Texas-Austin. I imagine you’ve read her profile in The New Yorker. Since your conversation with Briahna Joy Gray, the tension between matters of structure and personal agency have been echoing in my head.When I listen to other guests of yours, other podcast hosts, other conservatives, I see everywhere the tension between structure and personal agency. And having read Harden’s book this fall, I’ve been thinking of her work more and more as a bridge between these seemingly divergent world views. She swims in the same research waters as Charles Murray and Robert Plomin — but she (a) is explicitly clear that this research has, as of yet, no value in studying ethnic groups and (b) treats environmental factors differently than they do. On the latter, Harden makes some compelling arguments about the interplay between environment and expression of individuals’ genes (and thus abilities). It’s easy to see the corollaries in personal ability and responsibility (both with strong roots in genetics) versus the leftist tendency to dismiss people’s actions vis a vis blaming structural inequalities.Harden sometimes trades in some language verging on woke, for lack of a better term, but her more nuanced philosophical references are to John Rawls, not neo-Marxists. She’s really quite convincing. Also, I’ve always appreciated that you ask your guests to reflect on their upbringing and how they got where they are. Having read that New Yorker piece and her book, I think hers is an interesting story in and of itself.It is indeed. Harden is a great idea for a guest. I’ll confess that I felt I needed to read her book thoroughly to engage her, and didn’t have the time so put it off. Thanks for the reminder.A reader responds to a quote we posted last week praising Mike Pence for standing up to Trump after the assault on the Capitol:Pence had innumerable chances over years to expose Trump for exactly what he was. Besides one forceful speech since, there hasn’t been much else from the MAGA-excommunicated, nearly-executed veep. How about a live appearance before the Jan 6 Commission, Mr Vice President? Probably not. While I agree that Mike Pence may have saved the republic on Jan 6, he only did so with a gun to his head — with an actual gallows erected for him, while the Capitol was being stormed and people were dying. Better late than never, but he really cut it close, no?Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney are the profiles in courage here, along with all those Capitol police. Pence doesn’t deserve this lionization … at least not yet.Points taken. But to be honest, any mainstream Republican who opposed the attempted coup is a hero in my book. Another reader quotes me and dissents:The early Biden assurance that inflation was only a blip has become ridiculous, as Janet Yellen herself has conceded. No, Biden isn’t responsible for most of it. But some of it? Yep. A massive boost to demand when supply is crippled is dumb policy making. And imagine how worse it would be if Biden had gotten his entire package. Larry Summers was right — again.European countries did not have stimulus like we did, yet they are experiencing similar levels of inflation. This would indicate that inflation is a world-wide phenomenon and not tied to our particular stimulus packages. Also, Larry Summers has been pretty much wrong on everything — here’s a synopsis from 2013 (or just google “larry summers wrong on everything” and see the articles that pop up). Money quote:And Summers has made a lot of errors in the past 20 years, despite the eminence of his research. As a government official, he helped author a series of ultimately disastrous or wrongheaded policies, from his big deregulatory moves as a Clinton administration apparatchik to his too-tepid response to the Great Recession as Obama's chief economic adviser. Summers pushed a stimulus that was too meek, and, along with his chief ally, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, he helped to ensure that millions of desperate mortgage-holders would stay underwater by failing to support a "cramdown" that would have allowed federal bankruptcy judges to have banks reduce mortgage balances, cut interest rates, and lengthen the terms of loans. At the same time, he supported every bailout of financial firms. All of this has left the economy still in the doldrums, five years after Lehman Brothers' 2008 collapse, and hurt the middle class. Yet in no instance has Summers ever been known to publicly acknowledge a mistake.Sorry, but the EU provided a Covid stimulus of $2.2 trillion. And Summers was clearly right in this case, and Janet Yellen wrong. Another reader also pushes back on the passage I wrote above:I have a bone to pick with you when you discuss the Biden economic policy. Your contention is that the American Rescue Plan was “dumb policy making” because it exacerbated inflation. Fair enough — but if we are going to discuss the economy, then we need to have a full exploration of the policy choices and their implications. Yes, we have had six months of multi-decade high inflation, but we also have had about a year of near-record lows in unemployment and record-high job creation. Before you dismiss that as simply due to the reopening of the economy post-COVID, it’s worth noting that the American economic recovery has vastly outperformed all prognostications, as well as other Western economies. So in sum, the result of Biden’s policy is high inflation, high growth, high job creation, low unemployment. Let’s be clear then: when you criticize the ARP as too big and thus causing inflation, you are advocating for stable prices at the cost of a low growth, high unemployment environment. It’s a fair argument, I suppose. But after having lived through the weak economic recovery engineered by Larry Summers during the Obama administration, one that choked the early careers of many millennials, I’m not sure Biden’s choice was particularly egregious. But what we may well be about to get is stagflation — as interest rates go up even as inflation continues. It’s possible we fucked up both times: in 2009 with too little stimulus and in 2020 too much. I understand why those decisions were taken and the reasons were sane. But they were still wrong. Tim Noah has been doing great work lately on these questions of inflation and recession, including an interview with Summers. This next reader defends Biden’s record on the economy and beyond:The pragmatic counter-argument to your criticism of Biden is this: his economic program, while inflationary, produced unprecedented job growth after a recession, reductions by 50% in child poverty, more than five new business startups, and increases in business investment and personal bank balances of more than 20%. It’s among the reasons the American economy is outperforming China’s for the first time in two generations.Biden’s signature foreign policy achievements in Central Europe have led to the enlargement of NATO and awakened Europe to its responsibilities to its own security, all of which will contain Russia over the long term. This precedent, coupled with the Aussie-Brit nuclear deal, opens real possibilities for containing China’s potential regional expansion in Asia. At home, Biden’s Justice Department, like Gerald Ford’s, is fumigating the fetid stench of politics it inherited. The Biden White House has re-opened the doors to governors and mayors who need help from Washington in a disaster, regardless of partisan affiliation or views of Dear Leader; and it is laying the groundwork for a much-needed affordable-housing boom in our cities. Your hopes for a politics of dynamic centrism, which I share, does not take into account that as many as 10 million of our fellow citizens are prone to political violence due to the real-world influence of Great Replacement Theory, according to Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago. There is no comparable threat from the illiberalism on the left — which is a problem, nonetheless. In the wake of Trump’s loss in 2020, leading Republicans, including the governors of Florida and Texas, are competing for those constituents. That’s a movement my fellow classical liberals and I — stretching from the center-left to the center-right — can and should live without. Bill Buckley wouldn’t have sucked up to them. In the real world, the GOP wooing of the violent right poses an existential threat to our quality of life. It’s why I am voting straight Democratic in 2022. And it is why I would gladly vote for Biden, again in 2024, if he sought re-election.Happy to air your perspective. This next reader is bracing himself for Trump 2024:I know it gives you a warm feeling all over to write a column about the revolt against the woke, but it won’t be wokism that propels Republicans into office in 2022 and returns Trump to power in 2024 — something I agree will be a disaster for the republic. Trump’s return to power feels inevitable to me today. The January 6th hearings will make no difference to Trump supporters.Don’t get me wrong; I think wokism is annoying and stupid, but it is not the threat to the nation that you believe it is, and it never was. Wokism has destroyed the left and that is the real tragedy. Instead of a populist left railing against the rich, we have a bourgeois left railing against heterosexual white men, leaving the working class in the thrall of an American Orban. The working class now feels that the left and Democrats have failed them; and they are right, they have.Americans will vote for Republican for one reason: inflation. It should be no surprise that inflation is out of control, but both Biden and Trump spent billions helping people who were unable to work during Covid (the right policy) without raising taxes (the wrong policy). Now, to fight inflation we need to raise taxes and that is impossible; there aren’t the votes in the Senate. American tax policy is insane. You can have low taxes, or you can solve social problems like helping people who can’t work because of a pandemic, an inadequate public health system still unprepared for the next pandemic, homelessness and addiction, and crime. But you can’t have both. It really isn’t that complicated.Grateful as always for the counterpoints, and you can always send your own to firstname.lastname@example.org. Another dissenter gets historical:I agree wholeheartedly with your clarion condemnation of the odious Trump. But you are wide of the historical mark when you state that Trump is “the first real tyrannical spirit to inhabit the office since Andrew Jackson.” Jackson was authoritarian in character. He was a product of the trauma of the Revolution and he brought his military identity to the White House. But he was not a tyrant or dictator. (There is more historical evidence for Lincoln as dictatorial than Jackson.) More appropriate — if non-American — comparisons for Trump would be Henry VIII, Wilhelm II, Mussolini and Nixon.Mind you, an interesting Dishcast guest would be Jon Meacham to discuss US presidents with authoritarian tendencies: Adams Sr., Polk, Andrew Johnson, Teddy R and Wilson. All expressed some form of authoritarianism, but sometimes the presidency and the nation derived benefitAnother digs deeper into the Jackson comparison:I suggest you interview W.H. Brands, who wrote a biography of Andrew Jackson. There are many ways to judge a history book, but to me an important criterion is, did I learn anything I did not already know? Reading this book I did.I am only going to mention one of a good number events in Jackson’s life that Brands brings to the forefront. After the Battle of New Orleans, Gen. Jackson had ordered that a curfew remain in effect and that the city was to remain under martial law. For good reason: while the British offensive on one flank was a disaster, they had relative success on the other flank, and their remaining commander could have ended the truce and ordered another attack. But the British never did a follow-up attack. One New Orleans business man then took Andrew Jackson to court, claiming he endured an unnecessary economic loss on account of the military curfew. The court ruled in the businessman’s favor. AND, incredibly, Andrew Jackson paid the fine! Now stop and think, what must have been on Old Hickory’s mind. Here he risks life and limb to save the city from British domination, and he’s fined. Andrew could think, why should I pay? I’ve got the Army in my control, I’m not just a commander whom soldiers fear, but also one that has the adulation and respect of my soldiers and the populace at large. To me, that episode reveals that Jackson was hardly the tyrant he is portrayed to be by most modernists steeped in presentism. He should never be placed in the same sentence as Trump unless the word “contrast” or “opposite” is used. Let's keep Old Hickory away from any such comparisons and let his image remain on that $20 bill!Well I learned something from that email — so many thanks. Meacham is a good idea too. Get full access to The Weekly Dish at andrewsullivan.substack.com/subscribe