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The Discourse Report: May 6, 2023
Welcome to DiscRep, Berny Belvedere’s daily guide to the public discourse for Arc members. Got something you think I should include in a future entry? Write me at email@example.com. To discuss any of today’s items, post a comment below.
Trump Claims to “Believe in Loyalty.” Not So Fast... by William Saletan in The Bulwark
Trump cares more about hurting his rivals—or anyone who might outshine him—than he does about helping his allies. On Sunday, Fox News aired part of an interview with Mark Levin, apparently conducted late last month, in which Trump talked about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stint as host of The Apprentice after Trump left the show. Trump recalled people asking him, “Would you have rather had Arnold on The Apprentice make it big, ’cause you own the show with . . . Mark Burnett and that whole group? . . . Would you have rather had him be a tremendous success . . . or would you have rather had him fail badly?”
Trump told Levin his answer: “I said, ‘Probably fail.’”
The former president feuds constantly with other Republicans. He goes out of his way to insult Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Bush family, and many of Trump’s own appointees. When Republican candidates who don’t suck up to him lose to Democrats, Trump celebrates their defeats. Last month, when Republican Dan Kelly lost a crucial election for a seat on Wisconsin’s supreme court—handing control of the court to Democrats—Trump crowed that Kelly had “bragged that he won’t seek Trump’s Endorsement, so I didn’t give it—which guaranteed his loss.”
Ron DeSantis is Struggling Without the Covid Issue by Matthew Yglesias in Slow Boring
What made DeSantis a star was Covid.
Covid was a good issue for him on multiple levels. One is that precisely because Florida isn’t a red state backwater like Alabama or Nebraska, it became a Mecca for blue state Covid doves who were not otherwise particularly conservative. Another is that Covid revealed the massive disjuncture between Trump-the-cultural-phenomenon and Trump-the-chief-executive. Trump seemed overmatched by the federal bureaucracy and unable to either articulate or implement the Covid dove viewpoint. Conservatives eventually fought in court and forced Joe Biden to end the federal mask mandate on airplanes. But that mandate — like all other CDC rules — was put in place by the Trump administration. Last, even though DeSantis’ approach was extremely controversial in 2020 and rejected by most voters that fall, history took a turn in his favor over the course of 2021 and 2022. Due to a mix of changing circumstances and changing minds, DeSantis eventually won the argument both in public opinion and in the policy arena, and the Biden administration has essentially come around to his way of thinking.
That’s a significant achievement. But the problem in terms of electoral politics is precisely that he won and nobody is focused on Covid policy anymore.
We Are All Guests on ‘The Jerry Springer Show’ Now by Jane Coaston in The New York Times
Mr. Springer was often criticized for highlighting reckless violence and raunchy eroticism, particularly by the standards of daytime television. In an interview in 1995, he claimed that the guests on his show were mere mirrors of reality, and that he was simply showing Americans as they truly were. “They’re really out there,” Mr. Springer said. “When people say to me, ‘Where do you find these guests?’ I say, ‘They are us!’”
Are they us? Maybe so, since his particular brand of tabloid television gave way eventually to a landscape littered with reality shows in which people can brazenly broadcast their lives without the filtering mechanism of a studio talk show. There’s a direct line from the Springer show — which peaked in 1998 as the most-watched daytime television program in America, entertaining and horrifying nearly seven million Americans every single day — to the semi-staged mayhem of reality TV, which exploded following “Big Brother” and “Survivor” in 2000 and continues today with shows like “Real Housewives.”
The Outer Limits of Liberalism by David Brooks in The Atlantic
Individuals, the Mills argued, have the right to be the architect of their own life, to choose whom to marry, where to live, what to believe, what to say. The state has no right to impinge on a citizen’s individual freedom of choice, provided that the person isn’t harming anyone else.
A society organized along these lines, the Mills hoped, would produce a rich variety of creative and daring individuals. You wouldn’t have to agree with my mode of life, and I wouldn’t have to agree with yours, but we would give each other the space to live our fullest life. Individual autonomy and freedom of choice would be the rocks upon which we built flourishing nations.
The liberalism that the Mills championed is what we enjoy today as we walk down the street and greet a great variety of social types. It’s what we enjoy when we get on the internet and throw ourselves into the messy clash of ideas. It is this liberalism that we defend when we back the Ukrainians in their fight against Russian tyranny, when we stand up to authoritarians on the right and the left, to those who would impose speech codes, ban books, and subvert elections.
Why Are Wars Getting Longer? (The Economist)