The Weekly Dish
The Dishcast with Andrew Sullivan
Michael Anton On The State Of Trumpism

Michael Anton On The State Of Trumpism

One of the leading intellectuals of Trumpism, Michael was a senior national security official in the Trump administration and is most widely known for writing “The Flight 93 Election”, an essay endorsing Trump in 2016. He’s out with a new essay, “The Continuing Crisis”, and a recent book, “The Stakes”.

I think you’ll find our debate, er, lively. You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player embedded above, or right below it you can click “Listen in podcast app” — which will connect you to the Dishcast feed. To listen to two excerpts from my chat with Michael — on what he believes are Trump’s greatest achievements in office; and how he thinks Trump caved to the GOP establishment — head over to our YouTube page.

A lovely note from a reader about the Dishcast:

My husband and I listen to your podcast separately. We then discuss it on our weekly date night. I learn something new in each episode. We miss you on Real Time. Thanks for brightening our Covid mindsets.

Another reader dissents over the still-new format:

One tiny piece of feedback: Please, please, please stop interrupting your interviewees/guests. I found myself thinking during the Kmele Foster podcast, “Andrew stop interrupting him and let him finish his response on the question you JUST asked him!” There are so many platforms (like Bill Maher’s) that are meant to be a more strident debate between commentators where it is more of an interruption and zinger battle between them, and that makes sense. But in a 1:1 interview for an hour-long podcast, I expect the pace to be slower and for the two people to not interrupt each other.

This is not the first time a reader has told me this. I get absorbed into the conversation too easily and can forget I’m broadcasting. I will try harder.

Another reader “very much enjoyed your discussion with Kmele Foster” and dissents over a passing comment of mine:

I particularly enjoyed those parts that touched on the power of words and mob rule; the concepts of “use vs mention”, “intent vs impact” and the power the mob has in exercising its almost ritualistic cancelling of a person’s career.

It was interesting to me, therefore, that you stated George Floyd was murdered. Interestingly — actually, surprisingly — your statement ignores the very concepts upon which much of your discussion with Mr. Foster was focused: intent and the need to defend against mob rule.

Murder is when one person kills another (unlawfully) with the intention to cause either death or serious injury (UK). In the States, I understand it to be the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought — and malice aforethought means the “intention to kill or harm”.  Intent matters, and the case of George Floyd has not yet been adjudicated. Mr. Floyd was killed. From what the general public has seen, his killing was appalling, horrific and heinous, but we do not yet know if he was murdered.

Defending the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” is vital. Intent in all its forms should also be defended. Otherwise the mob rules.

Point taken. (There’s also the complicating factor of fentanyl in Floyd’s bloodstream at the time of death — which may be irrelevant but will still doubtless come up at the trial.) Another reader continues on the theme of preventing mob rule:

I totally second the concerns of Kmele Foster. Before social media, the methods that political victors could use to suppress the other side in the USA was limited mostly to government structures. The separation of powers and the guarantees of individual rights stymie the urge to suppress others through government. When these rights are violated, individuals can seek redress through the legal system. It is not a perfect system, and it often takes longer than it should, but our civilization depends on most citizens believing the system will ultimately work.

Social media has dangerously changed that by bypassing government. I fear that cancel culture and the example of groups like Antifa — which can coordinate on social media and behave as they do with few consequences — is shaking the belief in our system of government. There are new methods of suppression, outside of our legal structures. Many feel a vulnerability they did not feel a few years ago.

Another reader illustrates the divisiveness of woke initiatives in the workplace, even among friends:

I wanted to share a story with you after listening to your conversation with Kmele Foster. I work for a very well-known big tech company in the Bay Area. (I can hardly stand CA, from Texas originally — two different worlds.) A few weeks ago, the company sponsored a week-long summit for women of color. The summit description invited all groups of women or people who identify as women that were: black, latina, asian, native american, muslim, etc. — all listed there except white. So while they didn’t say “anyone who isn’t white”, the message was clear. I am Lebanese (not a muslim) and have never thought of myself as white until the 2020 census included Lebanese ... as white (?).

The summit invited anyone outside of these listed groups to join as allies but also made it clear that swag was not available for allies. I didn’t join for numerous reasons.

But a colleague who is Mexican-American did, and when next we spoke, I asked her how it went. She was most impressed by the keynote speaker’s explanation of whitewashing. She explained that having to change her look and the way she speaks to fit into corporate America is an example of whitewashing. I noted back that everyone has to change to accommodate office and business formalities, i.e., I have to leave myself at home too. Then I pressed her to say more about whitewashing so I could understand what it is. 

She told me that as a “white woman,” I couldn’t possibly understand. 

This is someone with whom I have exchanged stories of our families and childhoods. We’ve laughed more than a few times about how much we actually have in common. I am Lebanese. She is Mexican. We were both raised Catholic by big families and have many siblings. This is also a women who recently sold her house in SF for 3 million. I am still trying to pay off my student loans.

In your conversation with Kmele, it was mentioned that calling people out and asking them to explain is a good first step. I try to do that where I can AND find that most folks, when pressed, CAN’T explain. 

But at work, I can only press so much without putting my livelihood in jeopardy.  There must be ways for people in my circumstance to counter this effectively, without having to put our families at risk. 

One last reader has a suggestion for an upcoming topic and guest:

Just finished listening to the pod with Kmele Foster — another early gem in this project. I’m also in the midst of reading Cynical Theories, and I was struck by how much the conversation with Kmele overlaps with the dangers of applied postmodernism and critical race theory highlighted in the book. The rejection of reason and objectivity in favor of opportunistic groupthink, the emphasis on superficial and contrived identity-based power dynamics over individual experience, the dismissal of intent in favor of (often disingenuous) wailing over subjective impact — all came through in your discussion. If only more of us could approach these issues with the courage and intellectual honesty you and Kmele called for at the close. 

Along those lines, it would be interesting if you could find a guest to dissect some of the similar overreaches of the me-too movement. I was struck while listening to this pod by how many of the themes you and Kmele criticized with respect to race are also prevalent in some me-too cases, especially those where unprovable subjective responses to awkward situations end up ruining the lives of men and boys who actually have a lot less power than the woke left will admit — all in furtherance of a different kind of identity-based reckoning. Emily Yoffe comes to mind as someone who has shown some guts in countering the prevailing narrative.  

Emily is a great idea. Thanks for prodding me.

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