The Morning Dispatch: Did ‘Republican Traitors’ Save the Filibuster?

Plus: The Chinese Communist Party’s revisionist history.

Happy Friday! Let’s jump right in.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • A federal appeals court consisting of three Democratic appointees on Thursday temporarily blocked the release of former President Donald Trump’s records pertaining to this year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol, which had been slated to begin being delivered to the January 6 select committee later today. 

  • The number of daily new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has increased 7 percent over the past two weeks while hospitalizations and deaths attributed to the virus are down 12 and 13 percent over the same timeframe, respectively. The Mountain West region is currently facing the most strain on its hospital systems.

  • Initial jobless claims decreased by 4,000 week-over-week to a pandemic-low 267,000 last week, the Labor Department reported Wednesday.

  • In an interview with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl for his new book Betrayal, former President Trump defended those at the Capitol on January 6 who chanted “Hang Mike Pence.” 

  • F.W. de Klerk—the president of South Africa from 1989 to 1994 who, alongside Nelson Mandela, oversaw the dismantling of the country’s apartheid system—died on Thursday at the age of 85.

Did ‘Republican Traitors’ Save the Filibuster?

At around 11 p.m. last Friday night, 13 House Republicans joined 215 House Democrats in approving about $550 billion in new infrastructure spending over five years that had already received the support of 19 Senate Republicans. But judging by the reaction over the weekend, they may as well have been voting to establish the Gulag.

Conservative commentators lambasted the Republicans who voted for the package, with some calling them sellouts and insisting that they be primaried and others suggesting that they be shamed for their apostasy. Punchbowl reported that some of their Republican colleagues were looking into removing them from committees and stripping much of their legislative power. The House GOP conference Twitter account vowed “Americans won’t forget” who supported the bill (and later deleted the tweet).

There was more. Rep. Matt Gaetz has spent the past week calling for the 13 “sellouts” to be stripped of their committee leadership positions, while Rep. Madison Cawthorn pledged to “primary the hell” out of them. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted out the 13 representatives’ office phone numbers and urged Americans to “politely say how they feel about these traitor Republicans voting to pass Joe Biden’s Communist agenda.”

They did. “You’re a f---ing piece of s--- traitor,” one voter said in a voicemail left for GOP Rep. Fred Upton, vice chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus. “I hope you f---ing die. I hope your f---ing family dies. I hope everybody in your f---ing staff dies, you f---ing piece of f---ing s---. Traitor!”

Billy Fuerst, Upton’s communications director, told The Dispatch yesterday that his office has received more than 2,000 similar calls in the past week. “Ninety percent and above of our calls have come from out of the district,” he added.

If all this outrage over an infrastructure bill seems slightly over the top to you, you’re far from alone. There are very good policy reasons to oppose legislation boosting government spending at a time of heightened inflation and adding a $250 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years. And in an era when Republicans and Democrats have often fought to outspend one another, seemingly without regard to the inexorably growing national debt, there are many reasons for principled opposition to yet another spending push from Washington. But most of the histrionics are much more about what the bill signifies than what it contains. “Very sad that the RINOs in the House and Senate gave Biden and Democrats a victory,” former President Trump said in a statement. “They just don’t get it!” Yes, this is the same Donald Trump who proposed spending $2 trillion on infrastructure—and proposed that new spending just four days after he’d signed a $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill. And, yes, many of these same Republicans now outraged by the Democrats’ spending proposals, led the cheers for more spending when Republicans were in charge. 

When the House voted on the infrastructure package last Friday, Joe Biden’s presidency was, save maybe the Afghanistan withdrawal, at its lowest point. Voters had just sent Biden a resounding message about the direction of the country in Virginia and elsewhere, his approval rating had fallen to—besides Trump—the lowest level at that point in a presidential term in 75 years, and the remainder of his domestic agenda appeared to be crumbling as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi couldn’t wrangle the requisite votes in her caucus to advance anything. Then 13 House Republicans bailed him out.

But they may have done a lot more than that.

“By passing this bill, we have weakened the position of progressives in negotiating their wasteful spending bill,” GOP Rep. Andrew Garbarino of New York told Fox News, referring to the multitrillion dollar climate change and social safety net legislation Democrats have been trying to advance for months. “They can no longer hold physical infrastructure hostage to get their way.” A 64-year-old man was arrested yesterday for allegedly making a death threat against Garbarino for his vote.

The CCP’s ‘Historical Resolution’

The year was 1981. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, passed a resolution detailing the People’s Republic of China’s 32-year history in what, at the time, struck outside observers as a remarkable moment of self-reflection.

Though the party imposes its political will on China through strict ideological adherence, Deng’s account of modern Chinese history was, at times, critical of his predecessors. “Before the ‘cultural revolution’ there were mistakes of enlarging the scope of class struggle and of impetuosity and rashness in economic construction,” the document stated. “Later, there was the comprehensive, long-drawn-out and grave blunder of the ‘cultural revolution.’ All these errors prevented us from scoring the greater achievements of which we should have been capable. It is impermissible to overlook or whitewash mistakes, which in itself would be a mistake and would give rise to more and worse mistakes.”

But this week, leaders of the CCP convened once again to do just that: author a sweeping history of the party and country wholly detached from the reality of the suffering inflicted by its leadership. The official communique, released only in summarized form, presents a rosy picture of the party’s 100-year reign and articulates its future ambitions. The “historical resolution” also serves to lay the groundwork for Xi Jinping to further consolidate his grip on the party and, by extension, China.

“There’s only been two other resolutions on party history,” Ian Johnson, a senior fellow on China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The Dispatch. “And now in the year 2021 we have another effort at rewriting the past. So this is significant. … It’s clearly an effort to raise Xi Jinping to a level of a kind of founding father of China.”

The move aligns with what Xi has been working up to for years. In 2018, the Chinese government scrapped the two-term limit on the presidency. And in next year’s pivotal 20th National Congress, Xi seems likely to seek a third term, effectively solidifying his indefinite rule.

The two previous resolutions were adopted in 1945 under the revolutionary and early Communist Party leader Mao Zedong, and in 1981 under Deng, the reformer. Both men have reached near-mythic status among the Chinese populace—albeit for different reasons—and Xi’s decision to release another such document speaks to his ambition to be held in a similar regard. Its adoption by the sixth plenum of the CCP’s central committee—the body responsible for choosing party leaders—signals that Xi maintains strong support among the party’s elites.

Thursday’s resolution breaks modern Chinese history into three phases, detailing the party’s struggle against forces of “imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucratic capitalism.” 

The first phase, led by Mao, launched the Marxist-Leninist transformation of China, the communique writes. Unlike Deng’s resolution, which criticized Mao’s failed Great Leap Forward, Xi’s resolution praises the project for providing the “institutional foundation for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

Worth Your Time

  • In his weekly column on happiness, Arthur Brooks argues that, while it’s human nature to worry about what other people think of us, we ought to spend much less time and energy doing so. “Just because our overconcern for other people’s opinions of us is natural doesn’t mean that it’s inevitable,” he writes. “In the tao te ching, Lao Tzu wrote, ‘Care about people’s approval / and you will be their prisoner.’ He no doubt intended it as a dire warning. But as the years have passed, I have come to interpret it as more of a promise and an opportunity. I have learned that the prison of others’ approval is actually one built by me, maintained by me, and guarded by me. This has led me to my own complementary verse to Lao Tzu’s original: ‘Disregard what others think and the prison door will swing open.’ If you are stuck in the prison of shame and judgment, remember that you hold the key to your own freedom.”

  • The murder trial for Kyle Rittenhouse—the teenager who killed two rioters in Kenosha, Wisconsin last summer—is underway, and Freddie deBoer believes that, in a “just world,” Rittenhouse would be convicted for both a weapons possession charge and for reckless endangerment. But in his latest Substack post, he also argues that such a tragic outcome was entirely predictable. “At the time of the [Kenosha] riots, many many people along the left-of-center, including otherwise reformist liberals, endorsed riots to some degree or another,” he writes. “Bad shit happens when people riot. When you create environments where anything can happen… anything can happen. Some people are going to take advantage of that opportunity to do things that you don’t like. You can’t endorse spasms of directionless violence and then complain when some of it plays out in a way that you hadn’t intended. This seems totally obvious to me, and yet so many out there want to both condone riots and condemn their chaotic outcomes. It’s like putting on music and getting mad when people dance.”

Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • Political historian Jay Cost joined Jonah on Thursday’s Remnant for a conversation about his new biography of James Madison. What are the greatest misconceptions about Madison and the founding? How should the Declaration of Independence be understood? And could American politics use more smoke-filled rooms?

  • Nearly 100 former policy officials, Cabinet secretaries, and military officers signed onto an open letter calling on Congress to combat persistent threats to the American electoral system ahead of the 2022 elections. Charlotte writes about the letter and how election integrity is a national security issue.

  • Katherine Zimmerman of the American Enterprise Institute argues that the Biden administration’s “diplomacy first” efforts have effectively handed Yemen to the Iranian-backed Houthis.

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Charlotte Lawson (@lawsonreports), Audrey Fahlberg (@AudreyFahlberg), Ryan Brown (@RyanP_Brown), Harvest Prude (@HarvestPrude), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).