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Why Glenn Youngkin Won

Support for the family and opposition to racialism is a winning platform. Republicans, take note.

Glenn Youngkin speaks at a campaign rally in Alexandria, October 30, 2021. (Eli Wilson/Shutterstock)

As you’ve probably heard by now, Glenn Youngkin hand-delivered disaster to the Democratic Party on Tuesday night. His campaign was a masterclass of discipline and messaging, illuminating a path forward for Republicans in the Biden Era. 

Youngkin, at least on the campaign trail, was able to unite disparate voters in a way no other Republican has for quite some time. After a late dinner in Old Town Alexandria, I ran into a brigade of moms passing out pink “I voted for Youngkin” wristbands on King Street. Once, pulling over to a farmers market west of the Shenandoah, I bought fresh apples from a lady in a “Farmers for Youngkin” hat. Youngkin signs adorned yards, medians, businesses, and cars everywhere I went in Virginia over the past few months. Next to Beto O’ Rourke’s campaign for Texas Senate in 2018, it was the rawest grassroots energy I have ever seen. 

Youngkin’s election will be over-analyzed until rendered meaningless like some bizarre racialist poem a Virginia high school assigns to its students. The Republican establishment, never ones to let good deeds go unpunished, have already attempted to worm their way into credit. I’m sure Frank Luntz will have an incomprehensible assortment of data sent to the RNC by the end of the week. Before history is rewritten, however, I’d like to highlight a few encouraging factors for the conservatives who made Youngkin’s victory possible. 

Youngkin campaigned heavily on the rights of parents to have a say in their children’s education, a potent message in the aftermath of the drama in Loudoun County, Terry McAuliffe’s gaffes, and the rise of critical race theory. Education was a mobilizer and a winner. 

Democrats have concluded that education was a code for white supremacy. They’re a party that finds white supremacy in food products, children’s toys, and sporting events. Hysteria will blind them to the obvious lessons. Education, however, was indeed a code. In an era where Black Lives Matter has declared the nuclear family to be a white supremacist relic, Youngkin’s campaign addressed families as citizen stakeholders.

The principle at stake in the election was not Virginia’s K-12 curriculum but family as an institution itself. Terry McAuliffe doesn’t believe in family; he believes in the state. Placing education decisions in the hands of public-sector unions rather than parents is only an outgrowth of that fundamental belief. Typical Youngkin stumps mentioned CRT once or twice but addressed families and parents dozens of times. CRT was a potent message, but only when linked to the left’s broader war on the family unit. 

Due to the work of the aforementioned genius Frank Luntz and other consultants over the years, Republicans have long believed that capitulation on critical social issues is the only path to victory in blueing regions of the country. Youngkin’s campaign built on the seemingly counterintuitive gains of the Trump years and proved these narratives wrong. Youngkin stood firm on traditional social issues. He opposed same-sex marriage, supported the pro-life movement, and fought against gender ideology run amuck in Loudoun County.

He didn’t make same-sex marriage or abortion the focus of his campaign, but he also didn’t betray his conservative base in a desperate gambit for liberal votes. As a result, he was rewarded with sky-high turnout among evangelicals and overwhelming margins of support. Exit polls indicate that 88 percent of white evangelicals supported Youngkin, securing his tight victory. Rather than follow the disappointing model of other Republicans and depress this critical voting mass via compromise with progressive social narratives, Youngkin stood firm and turned them out to vote. In addition to family-first messaging, these same factors likely contributed to his consolidation of the rapidly realigning and socially conservative Hispanic vote as well. 

Finally, voters in Virginia soundly rejected the cultural implications of the progressive racialization of politics. It turns out that Americans support police and will not tolerate a party that actively degrades safety and quality of life. Youngkin leaned into the issue, boldly declaring his support for law enforcement and promising to sack the Virginia Parole Board on his first day in office. Amid a historic crime wave, the message struck a chord with voters. The election of Virginia’s first black woman to a statewide office, Lt. Governor-Elect Winsome Sears, further broke the absurd Black Lives Matter racial narrative.

More troubling for the Democrats, however, should be the polling on monument removal. 53 percent of voters in Virginia expressed opposition to the removal of Confederate statues on public grounds. Only 41 percent indicated support for removal. Just ahead of the election, Robert E. Lee’s towering figure was removed from Monument Avenue in Richmond without the consent of a majority of Virginia voters. Lee is controversial even among Republicans in Virginia, many of whom are not from or connected to the South.

But if a majority of voters opposed the removal of the ever controversial Robert E. Lee’s statue, how many supported the widespread attacks on the Founding Fathers of the United States? Christ Church in Alexandria, George Washington’s church, removed his plaque from church grounds and replaced it with Black Lives Matter symbolism. The University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson, battled endlessly with students who wanted his statue removed from campus. Contrast this with Youngkin’s appeals to the “spirit of Madison, Monroe, Jefferson, Washington, and Paine,” and it’s clear that the cultural revolution is unpopular, even in blue Virginia. Republicans should respond by supporting markers of our cultural inheritance and stop waffling in the face of iconoclasm. 

Youngkin’s campaign was broader than the issues I addressed, and it will take longer to forge his model into a national strategy. Committed conservatives, however, should delight in these immediate takeaways that prove the viability of our message in an increasingly hostile age. There is much work to be done, but Virginia demonstrated the left is beatable on the issues and terms most threatening to American life. Three cheers for the Commonwealth.

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What Can The New Right Learn From Hungary’s Strategy?

Hungary has a strategy, but do we have the will to make and act on one?

(Mathias Corvinus Collegium Press)

On Friday, The American Conservative hosted Balázs Orbán, the Hungarian parliamentary and strategic state secretary to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (no relation), at the Catholic University of America to discuss his recently-translated book, The Hungarian Way of Strategy.  

The talk was fascinating, and no surprise given Orbán has been described by Tucker Carlson as “one of the smartest political thinkers I’ve ever met.” In his remarks, Orbán said Hungary’s way of strategy should be of interest for the American right for two main reasons.

“First, sustained persistence and strong survival instincts,” Orbán said. “The last 500 years of Hungary was about survival. Despite the unfavorable odds and the lost wars, every power that defeated us in the last 500 years ceases to exist by now, and we are still standing.”

The second reason Orbán said American conservatives should pay close attention to Hungary is what’s at the “core purpose of political strategy.”

In a time of expansion, and statebuilding, exercising global influence and handling international problems, political strategists can easily forget what it’s all about. I know from the U.S., Europe may look like an open-air museum, but sometimes it’s worth visiting such museums. According to the great Italian painter Ambrogio Lorenzetti, ‘good governance is achieving peace and prosperity for the people of the political community.’ Hence, every country’s main goal is to create these circumstances.

The institutions and intellects of the American “new right,” as it has been inappropriately named, have certainly taken notice of Hungary to the chagrin of major media outlets that have written long articles about Hungary’s American defenders in an attempt to write them off as aspiring authoritarians by capitalizing on misrepresentations of Prime Minister Orbán and his Fidesz Party.

Almost everyone considered on the American new right also embraces Orbán’s second proposition and believe that the purpose of governance is to create the proper conditions for true human flourishing beyond that of materialistic autonomy. However, various factions within the new right, no doubt a consequence of its welcomed growth, continue to wrestle with questions over what America substantively looks like when governed under traditional conceptions of the common good.

I began identifying with the new right after years of being a campus normie-con for a number of reasons. But above all else, I identified with the new right’s sense of urgency, and the recognition that our window of time to act before irrevocable damage is done to the nation is increasingly narrow.

As to be expected of any political coalition, fierce disagreements within the new right remain over the desirable size of government, the role of the church (and which church), a proper understanding of rights, and what role the founding should play. Depending on which side you take, each of these differences have implications on what ends are desirable, and some of the means you’re willing to take to get there, which makes resolving these differences important. 

However, too often our deliberations are quickly hindered by considerations of limiting principles and bogged down by other minutia. This jeopardizes our ability to act in the time we still have. Arguing ad infinitum about limiting principles and where we should stop before we’ve even begun to move the needle in our direction is a luxury only the conservative intelligentsia can afford.

What both Orbáns seem to understand better than us is that politics is ultimately a process of trial and error. This is why we need to operationalize a strategy for us to begin tilting the scales back in our favor through enacting, and adjusting if necessary, our policies—and not a moment too soon.

Will our strategy be similar to Hungary’s? In some ways, maybe, but Hungary and the United States is a far cry from an apples to apples comparison. Hungary is a landlocked nation of just under 10 million inhabitants, with a shared culture that extends back almost a millennium before America gained its independence. It’s much more homogenous, and much more religious, then the ever diversifying and ever secularizing United States.

Our American strategy won’t be perfect, but we must have the Hungarian will to act on it because settling the disputes that preoccupy factions of the new right won’t be found in the outset of our journey towards American renewal. Rather, they’ll be vigorously negotiated along the way.  

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Tennessee Got It Right

The Tennessee state legislature's new bill is a death warrant for pandemic-era policies and a welcome return to the old normal.

The Volunteer State is officially the first to take a decisive step toward ending the pandemic. On October 30, the Tennessee state legislature passed a bill to end mask mandates in the state, to protect individuals from public or private vaccine mandates, and to provide unemployment benefits for employees who leave their place of work due to a vaccine mandate, among other provisions.

The bill was passed out of conference committees in both the state house (58-22) and state senate (25-6) Saturday during a special legislative session convened to counter the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for businesses, which has yet to be elucidated in more than a press release. In addition to making mask mandates largely toothless, the bill also prevents a governmental entity, school, or local education agency from mandating that a person receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and prevents private business or schools from requiring proof of vaccination as a condition to access their premises, facilities, products, or services. Private businesses, government entities, and schools are also prohibited from taking any adverse action against a person to compel him or her to provide proof of vaccination if the person objects to receiving a Covid-19 vaccine for any reason. Medicare and medicaid providers are exempt from this mandate.

In its final version, which awaits the governor’s signature to become law, the bill is softer on private businesses than originally, according to local news reports, after Gov. Bill Lee’s office confirmed Ford Motor Company and other manufacturers with plants in the state expressed concerns with some of the proposals being considered. The lawmakers agreed to exempt certain industries—including health care facilities, food distribution or consumption facilities, and entertainment venues—from the vaccine and mask mandate bans. Private businesses reliant on federal money can also apply to the state to be exempt from the ban.

Notably, however, the plan takes significant steps toward stopping the spread of federal Covid mandates by reasserting the preeminence both of state power over federal power and of the duty of the state legislature over the use of health bureaucracies to make prudential public health decisions in consideration of all factors (not merely biologic ones). The bill includes prohibitions which severely curtail county health departments’ power, including stopping health officials from quarantining Tennesseans who merely came in contact with an individual with Covid-19 but remain asymptomatic. The bill adds that “a local health entity or official, mayor, governmental entity, or school does not have the authority to quarantine a person or private business for purposes of Covid-19,” only the state commissioner of health.

The legislature certainly could have gone further to end the unending malaise—for example, by not making carveouts for protected industries—but it’s still a remarkable step forward, made even more so by the fact that it came from the legislature itself, not merely by the blunt tool of a governor, as in most red states that have attempted similar strides. The state—toward which, of course, as a born-and-raised Tennessean, I am irreparably biased—is an example of precisely the only way that we return to real life from the biomedical security state that has weighed so heavily on the American people these past 20 months.

Tennessee got it right; which state will be next?

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Child Vaccination: Signed, Sealed, Delivered

The FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine for 5-year-olds is just another avenue for the bureaucracy to assert ownership over your children.

Christmas came early for the biomedical security state: 28 million children are now eligible for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, after the FDA approved the shot for emergency use in children as young as 5 years old on Friday afternoon. If past is prologue, it won’t be long before K-12 age students see an onslaught of vaccine mandates for school, whether at the federal or state level, and perhaps even in private associations.

The mRNA shot is purported to be 90.7 percent effective at preventing symptomatic Covid in children aged 5-11, though testing on this age group has been limited. Earlier this week, a member of an FDA panel on vaccinating kids announced that “we’re never going to learn about how safe the vaccine is for kids until we start giving it.” Parents who aren’t discomforted to hear of their children’s new use as guinea pigs can give them shots as early as Wednesday, according to the New York Times.

The risk of infection for children, on the other hand, is almost nonexistent. The rate of deaths per Covid infection in kids is 0.001 percent. Moreover, a breakthrough study from the U.K. last week found people inoculated against Covid were just as likely to spread the Delta variant of the virus to contacts in their household as those who haven’t had shots. In other words, parents and grandparents will be just as likely to catch the virus via their kindergarten-age kids even with the expanded vaccine eligibility. So what’s the point?

For those at risk of severe infection from the virus, vaccines seems to protect against more severe symptoms; for everyone else—especially young children—it’s hard to say what it does offer. Why take a shot for 90 percent protection when you’re already practically 100 percent safe from the virus? Why the political push to get shots in ever younger adolescent arms, kids who aren’t even of voting age, when the safety and efficacy of the drug remain uncertain? Then again, our biomedical managers seem to err always on the side of the solution that lines their pocketbooks, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by this.

But they also walk in lockstep with the rest of the bureaucracy in its efforts to replace the parental role in the child’s life as early as possible. The Covid vaccine is just another avenue through which they can flex this power. From universal Pre-K education to what should and shouldn’t be allowed in their bodies, the bureaucracy is more present in the lives of American children than too many children’s father is.

That alone should tell us something is wrong.

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You Must Bend The Knee

The conservative movement must learn to speak the language of power dynamics

You must participate in the sacraments of liberalism.

At least, that’s what Cricket South Africa effectively told players on the South African cricket team when it mandated players must take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement hours prior to playing a T20 World Cup game. One player, a wicketkeeper-batsman by the name of Quinton de Kock, refused to play in the team’s Tuesday game against the West Indies in protest of the national cricket board’s directive. Each of the South African players on the field took a knee before the contest—some of whom had never protested on the field before—and managed to secure a victory against the West Indies without one of their stars.

Before Cricket South Africa forced its athletes to kneel at the altar of anti-racism, it gave players the option to protest in their own way. At the start of previous matches, some players kneeled or stood with their fists raised, while others, de Kock among them, stood in silence with their heads down and hands to the side or behind their back out of respect. However, people who think themselves as the progressive muttawa found de Kock and other players’ observance of this performative ritual insufficiently venerated black lives.

In the past, de Kock had declined to comment on why he didn’t take a knee, but decided to issue a response after sitting out of the game against the West Indies.

“I felt like my rights were taken away when I was told what we had to do in the way that we were told,” de Kock  expalined. He believes other players who did not sit out and took a knee also felt uncomfortable with the mandate.

“I did not, in any way, mean to disrespect anyone by not playing against West Indies, especially the West Indian team themselves,” de Kock added. “Maybe some people don’t understand that we were just hit with this on Tuesday morning, on the way to a game.”

The South African cricket star also responded to accusations of racism stemming from his refusal to kneel. “For me, Black lives have mattered since I was born. Not just because there was an international movement,” de Kock said, explaining that he has a mixed-race family—his step-mother is black and half-siblings are mixed-race. “I didn’t understand why I had to prove it with a gesture, when I live and learn and love people from all walks of life every day. When you are told what to do, with no discussion, I felt like it takes away the meaning.”

“If I was racist, I could easily have taken the knee and lied, which is wrong and doesn’t build a better society,” de Kock went on to say. “I’ve been called a lot of things as a cricketer … Stupid. Selfish. Immature. But those didn’t hurt. Being called a racist because of a misunderstanding hurts me deeply. It hurts my family. It hurts my pregnant wife.”

Ultimately, Kock apologized “for all the hurt, confusion and anger that I have caused,” and said he would take a knee moving forward “if me taking a knee helps to educate others, and make the lives of others better.”

Sure, the Black Lives Matter movement takes on a much different context in South Africa than the United States, given South Africa’s system of apartheid lasted into the 1990s and has been embroiled in racial unrest for some time now—but don’t expect the enforcers of anti-racism and its kindred ideologies to spare America on account of South Africa’s sins. Regardless of where and in what contexts these forces operate, they often employ similar strategies to tilt the political landscape in their favor, and the right needs to get to work unraveling those strategies.

So, no, I don’t blame de Kock for bending the knee. I blame the right for allowing a culture that forced de Kock into kneeling in the first place. At the end of the day. de Kock and his family’s livelihood depends on being able to play cricket. When de Kock started playing cricket, this condition on his employment wasn’t in place, and as ludicrous as it was for Cricket South Africa to create this barrier to entry, it now exists and has effectively changed the bargain between worker and employer.

Conservatives, and Americans more broadly, aren’t accustomed to thinking that athletes are workers given their celebrity status and the oodles of money they’re paid. It’s true, they’re not the same as your everyday nine-to-fiver. Nevertheless, de Kock can serve as a stand in for any worker. Like typical laborers, de Kock is subjected to power structures readily abused by its overlords. In de Kock’s case, it’s Cricket South Africa, but it could have just as easily been a corporation’s human resources department forcing him to attend a mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion training where he must reject his white privilege or face termination had de Kock become an accountant or something of the sort.

Standing alone, de Kock, despite his wealth and fame, never had much of a chance, which is why de Kock’s story illustrates why the conservative movement, if it wants to be successful (sometimes I have my doubts), must learn to speak the language of power dynamics. The libertarian ethos that causes some conservatives to say “just change jobs” or “pick up and move” are wholly incompatible with our present political moment, and will only result in defeat. If this is all the resistance a famous athlete can muster when powerful institutions decide to project their power in abusive, ridiculous ways, imagine how hopeless and voiceless millions of workers in the U.S. and abroad must feel.

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Sudan’s Problems Run Deeper Than Democracy

Sudan’s problems are beyond something a change in governmental structure can fix

On the same day a U.S. envoy left Sudan, the Sudanese military executed what seems to be a successful coup against the civilian leaders of the country long embroiled in civil conflict.

Sudan’s top general, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, reportedly spearheaded the coup effort just over a month after the Sudanese government apparently staved off another coup attempt. The 61-year-old general, once the inspector general of the Sudanese armed forces, became the head of the Sovereign Council when Omar al-Bashir was removed from power in 2019. As chairman of the Sovereign Council, Burhan essentially served as the head of state. However, Burhan’s rule was scheduled to soon come to an end as the Sudanese government was set to transition to further civilian control.

Over the weekend, United States Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman met with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, Burhan, and other Sudanese leaders in Khartoum in an attempt to avoid further crisis and keep Sudan on the march towards liberal democracy. During the high-stakes meeting, Burhan and other military leaders reportedly told Feltman that they wanted Hamdok to disband the transitional government’s cabinet and appoint new ministers.

In response, “I said that our assistance and the normalization of our relationship [shorthand for things like sanctions lifting] derived from forward momentum on the transition. If the transition is interrupted or the constitutional documents violated, that would call into serious question our commitments,” Feltman told Foreign Policy. “That’s diplo-speak but surely even the generals understand it.”

Burhan and the generals may have understood it, but they certainly didn’t follow it. Mere hours after Feltman’s plane left the tarmac Monday, the military coup was well underway.

The coup dismantled the Sovereign Council and transitional government, established after the ousting of Bashir in 2019 in which the military and civilian leaders shared power “to build a modern, democratic nation-state” under the August 2019 Draft Constitutional Declaration. Military forces detained Hamdok and his wife, along with other government ministers Monday for resisting the coup attempt. Defending Hamdok’s detention, Burhan said “no one arrested him [Hamdok], no one assaulted him” when taking the prime minister into custody. During his detention, Hamdok and his wife were put up in Burhan’s house, where the general said the pair met, and that Hamdok was free to leave when “the situation stabilizes” and “he feels safe.” Hamdok and his wife returned home Tuesday.

Before Bashir was removed from power in a 2019 coup, his three decades of rule were defined by civil war, economic turmoil, corruption, and charges of genocide and war crimes brought by the International Criminal Court, which would still like to try him on these matters. Bashir’s ousting was welcomed by the United States. It spent decades attempting to cast Bashir’s Sudan as an international pariah like that of the Kims of North Korea, labeling the state a sponsor of terrorism and enacting crippling sanctions against the country. At one point, U.S. officials, including diplomat Princeton Lyman, even tried to meet with members of a plot to depose Bashir, which included Salah Gosh, Sudan’s former director of national security with a previous relationship with the CIA, at a hotel in Cairo in 2012. Gosh and his co-conspirators never showed.

However, in the two years Bashir has been out of power, the country as a whole doesn’t seem much better off. Sudan’s Sovereign Council brought with it the promises of liberal democracy—expanded participation of women, anti-discrimination and anti-corruption practices, and human rights protections. The fulfillment of some of these promises would likely be beneficial to Sudan’s stability in the long run, and there has been some movement in that direction since Bashir’s ousting, which partly explains why relations with Sudan were improving during the Trump administration. However, Sudan’s problems are much more fundamental, and beyond something a change in governmental structure can fix. In fact, the very pressures that led to Bashir’s removal and calls for large-scale reform—namely, unrest due to poverty, unemployment, inflation, and corruption—have persisted to this day.

In April of last year, inflation soared to upwards of 99%, and could be much higher, given the little information that comes out of Sudan’s economy. The price of food and other essential goods skyrocketed, in part thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. In July, Sudan was forced to devalue its currency and attempted to rein in black market transactions as it faced an economic crisis.

In response to the coup, the Biden administration froze $700 million in assistance meant for Sudan’s transitional government to incentivize Sudan’s military leaders to restore it. State Department Spokesman Ned Price told journalists from the podium Monday that the Biden administration will hold “those who may be responsible for derailing Sudan’s path to democracy” accountable for their actions. “Potentially, of course, our entire relationship with this entity in Sudan will be evaluated in light of what has transpired unless Sudan is returned to the transitional path,” Price added, and did not rule out the possibility of reimposing sanctions.

For longtime readers of TAC, it shouldn’t come as a shock that a country marred by civil wars and ethnic and religious conflicts under the dominion of a revolving door of Islamist strongmen isn’t the ideal cradle for democracy. Since 1958, there have been 35 plotted or attempted coups in Sudan. Only five have been successful in their attempts to replace the government—not including the current one, given its success is yet to be fully determined. Nevertheless, the foreign policy establishment continues to have fever dreams of a MENA region that resembles that of western Europe. Now that this project has failed in Sudan, much less South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and a host of other countries, maybe our foreign policy elite will wake up. Odds are, they won’t.

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Politico’s New Owners Are Hungry For More Influence In American Media

From CIA psyop to media oligarch

What if I told you that some of the most prominent American political and business news outlets aren’t owned by Americans, but Germans. Sounds like something out of the middle of last century, but it’s true.

I got interested in the subject after the New York Times reported some of the findings of an investigation into allegations that the German tabloid Bild and its then-Editor in Chief Julian Reichelt created a toxic working environment for women. Reichelt allegedly had intimate relationships with several female subordinates, one of whom was a trainee eleven years his junior starting in 2016.

The female trainee claimed Reichelt told her in November of 2016 that, “If they find out that I’m having an affair with a trainee, I’ll lose my job,” in testimony she gave investigators hired by Bild’s parent company Axel Springer, a transcript of the testimony obtained by the Times read. Despite these apparent concerns, the affair continued, and when Reichelt was promoted to editor in chief in 2017, he gave his lover a high-profile media job she was ill equipped to do given her inexperience. Afterwards, Reichelt continued to meet with his subordinate in hotel rooms in the Berliner Fernsehturm—where Axel Springer also has offices.

“That’s how it always goes at Bild,” the female employee testified. “Those who sleep with the boss get a better job.”

Once the investigation into Reichelt and other power players at Bild concluded, a statement from Axel Springer announced its findings and said that while Reichelt made “mistakes,” it did not change “the enormous strategic and structural changes as well as the journalistic achievements that have taken place under the management of Julian Reichelt.”

Throughout the ordeal, Reichelt maintained that he did not abuse the responsibilities of his position; however, he did issue an apology in the statement released by Axel Springer. “What I blame myself for more than anything else is that I have hurt people I was in charge of,” Reichelt said.

Reichelt took a 12-day leave of absence, but was able to return to his job after the company concluded his behavior did not qualify as a fireable offence, and was joined by a female co-editor, Alexandra Würzbach, who took control of personnel decisions.

Reichelt seemed able to withstand the media frenzy surrounding Bild’s work environment and allegations of sexual misconduct until the Times’ story caught the attention of an American audience. A day after the Times story was published, Reichelt was fired. Axel Springer, who defended Reichelt despite his mistakes and allowed him to keep his job, said Reichelt failed to keep private and professional matters separate. In the statement, Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner thanked Reichelt for his work and praised his achievements before announcing Reichelt would be succeeded by Johannes Boie.

Axel Springer’s decision to can Reichelt at this particular moment was interesting to me. Bild is no small deal—it’s the most-circulated tabloid in all of Europe. I even took up reading Bild to keep up with current events when I studied in Berlin for a semester. And, if you thought the Times report was juicy, the reports from Bild’s German competitors as this story developed were even juicier. Der Spiegel initially reported the news of the inquiry into Reichelt’s conduct, which was not yet completed, with the headline “‘Screw, Promote, Fire.’” Der Spiegel said Bild was operating under “the Reichelt system.”

“The editor in chief was said to have invited female trainees and interns to dinner via Instagram. Young female employees were sometimes quickly promoted. Their fall from grace was similarly rapid,” the report claimed.

Axel Springer was under an immense amount of pressure, yet it decided to keep Reichelt on even though the investigators’ findings effectively confirmed what Bild’s competitors were reporting of its work environment under Reichelt. It’s hard to imagine an American media figure in a similar position surviving such an onslaught for such a long time. Many haven’t, which is what really got me digging. The best explanation I have for Axel Springer deciding to fire Reichelt upon the story making massive inroads with an American audience is to maintain its business ambitions in the United States.

Axel Springer is the largest digital and periodical publishing house in Europe, operating across 40 countries with holdings and licenses in six continents. Beyond Bild, they publish Die Welt, the German edition of Rolling Stone magazine, and Poland’s largest daily tabloid Fakt. Axel Springer has been a mainstay in European media since the immediate aftermath of World War II, when the journalist Axel Springer founded the company and named it after himself. After Bild launched in 1952, it skyrocketed to success, reaching peak-readership in the mid-1960s by feeding its audience sensationalized stories of politics, entertainment, and sports, as well as sillier reading topics such as horoscopes.

But that’s not the only secret to Axel Springer’s success. Two former CIA officers once told The Nation in an interview that Springer, who admitted in his autobiography that he had hardly any money to establish and operate the publishing house, allegedly received $7 million from the CIA to get the company off the ground and promote an Atlanticist perspective in line with American interests.

To this day, Axel Springer’s website proclaims its fidelity to this Atlanticist perspective.

Now, the media leviathan the CIA funded to advance American interests has turned its eye on swallowing up some of America’s most prominent publications, increasing its control over the dissemination of print information in an industry already dominated by a few select media conglomerates and American tech billionaires.

In 2015, Axel Springer purchased Business Insider for nearly $450 million. A $343 million purchase increased Axel Springer’s ownership share of the company from 9% to 97%—the other 3% is owned by Jeff Bezos.

Upon the sale, a press release from Business Insider read, “The addition of Business Insider’s 76 million unique monthly visitors will increase Axel Springer’s worldwide digital audience by two-thirds to approximately 200 million users, making the company one of the world’s six largest digital publishers in terms of reach.”

“With the acquisition of Business Insider, we continue with our strategy to expand Axel Springer’s digital reach and, as previously announced, invest in digital journalism companies in English-speaking regions of the world. Business Insider has set new standards in digital business journalism globally,” Döpfner said in the press release.

Axel Springer was also able to acquire Morning Brew in October of 2020, but still sought to expand its holdings in the United States. In March, the German publishing company was in talks to purchase Axios for between 400 to 450 million dollars before talks fell through. Despite this minor setback, Axel Springer was able to further cement itself in the American media market in August when it purchased Politico, which Axel Springer was already working with on Politico Europe, a 50-50 joint venture between the companies. As part of the sale agreement, which valued Politico at over $1 billion, Axel Springer took the remaining 50% of Politico Europe.

If Axel Springer refused to fire Reichelt in light of the Times’ report—action that was certainly deserved, and should have been taken immediately after the investigation’s conclusion—the company could have jeopardized hopes of acquiring more American media outlets, given the prolonged impact the Me Too movement has had on the American media apparatus.

The other reason Axel Springer may have decided to make the move now is that the controversy has finally reached back to its own parent company. In 2020, the U.S. based private-equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) became Axel Springer’s largest shareholder by purchasing a 43.54% stake in the company worth $3.2 billion. KKR now owns approximately 48% of Axel Springer, and has helped it purchase outlets to expand its influence around the world, but particularly in the United States.

I find the story rather fitting. What started as a CIA psyop to promote free market ideals and an Atlanticist world view has resulted in the embrace of the media industry’s oligopolistic practices to expand its control over the dissemination of information, and aligned with America’s financial sector in order to do so. It’s harder to think of a better story that summarizes the current state of global capital.

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Is In-N-Out Conservative?

The burger that just leveled up was already a superior sandwich.

After one brave In-N-Out burger location in San Francisco refused to enforce the city’s vaccine mandate on its diners, conservatives started flocking to the chain to support the restaurant.

The city health department shut down the iconic burger chain’s San Francisco location last week, prompting In-N-Out’s chief legal and business officer Arnie Wensinger to tell the San Francisco Chronicle: “We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government.”

Always ahead of the curve, San Francisco has been requiring patrons to show proof of vaccination at most indoor businesses since August—including bars, restaurants, gyms and large events. Los Angeles, another hub for In-N-Out, is not far behind, with its own vaccine mandate set to begin on November 4. The San Francisco Department of Public Health shut down the restaurant because employees “were not preventing the entry of Customers who were not carrying proper vaccination documentation,” according to a statement from In-N-Out.

The company has since paid two fines for refusing to enforce the order, but has reopened its Fisherman’s Wharf location for drive-through and outdoor dining. Meanwhile, another In-N-Out in Contra Costa County was also closed for failing to check customers’ vaccine status.

One customer, Michelle Woolard, told a local news station: “I think it’s horrible and it’s government overreach. We are eating here tonight because we want to support In-n-Out.”

Wensinger called it “unreasonable, invasive, and unsafe” to ask staff to “segregate customers into those who may be served and those who may not.” Because, yes. Yes it is.

As The American Conservative associate editor Declan Leary described recently, devotion to fast food chains is often disappointing, to say the least, even among the brands that aren’t obnoxiously woke like Starbucks. Chick-Fil-A is no beacon of Christian values, and McDonalds, though it has shown some promise by refusing to get involved in race-based activism, still supports LGBTQ+ causes and fries its fries in canola oil. Yes, I said it.

Is In-N-Out actually worthy of the praise?

Started as a family business in Balwdin Park, California, the fast food chain certainly has the roots to contend for the slot. Not to mention, its burger has been a cult classic for good reason, in a large part thanks to the brand’s commitment to fresh, local ingredients. This commitment gives In-N-Out a unique, twofold market advantage: a better-tasting burger than almost any other fast food chain and exclusivity to the western half of the county, meaning it’s not just a delicious dining experience, it’s also a pilgrimage for the loyal devoted.

The brand is also one of the only fast food chains in America to have achieved its success without departing from the original company vision: a simple menu, fresh ingredients, Christian values, and a damn good burger.

Can In-N-Out be more than just a damn good burger? Does it need to be? Either way, the company that prints Bible verses on its pink lemonade cups and douses its patties in Thousand Island dressing is surely doing something right on multiple levels. Maybe it’s not the perfect trad dining experience, but at least it’s pushing back for the sake of normal people. Will other restaurants follow?

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Hauling in the Supply Chain

Hawley's new proposal would require more than 50 percent of the value of critical goods to be produced in the U.S. in order to be sold stateside.

US Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, speaks during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Senate Rules and Administration committees joint hearing on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, on February 23, 2021, to examine the January 6th attack on the US Capitol. (Photo by ERIN SCOTT / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ERIN SCOTT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Josh Hawley is giving Pete Buttigieg a run for his money.

While the transportation secretary and his male partner finish out their third month of paternity leave, with the United States in a supply chain crisis that both Buttigieg and the White House have told Americans they should just deal with, the Missouri senator has introduced a bill to address a major part of the problem: namely, our global-dependent supply chain.

Hawley says the bill will end the United States’ “dangerous over reliance on foreign factories” by bringing manufacturing back to American soil. Using the language of national security, the Make in America to Sell in America Act would require multinational corporations to make more of their goods in the United States.

The bill would direct the Department of Commerce, in consultation with the Department of Defense, to produce an annual report detailing which manufactured goods, both finished and intermediate, are crucial for U.S. national security—or, importantly, are crucial for the protection of the U.S. industrial base, an inclusion which broadens the bill’s reach significantly. Those goods which the DoC and DoD identified would be required to produce more than 50 percent of the value of that good within the United States in order to be sold in the domestic commercial market. The bill would also allow domestic manufacturers to petition the International Trade Commission and the DoC for enforcement actions against importers of goods that fail to meet the new standards.

Hawley told Fox Business:

For decades, Washington elites shipped American jobs overseas while factories throughout the country were shuttered, leaving us perilously reliant on foreign manufacturing. The COVID pandemic, disastrous lockdown policies, and Joe Biden’s war on American energy have exposed just how misguided these choices were and everyday Americans are now paying the price.

Executive Director of American Compass Oren Cass, a member of The American Conservative advisory board, was cautiously approving in a tweet about the bill on Thursday.

“Interesting proposal from @HawleyMO today on local content requirements for critical supply chains. This is something we discussed with him at the @AmerCompass event last year.”

American Compass Research Director Wells King told The American Conservative the bill moves the reshoring debate in a constructive direction.

“The Made in America to Sell in America Act is a promising proposal that centers on one of the simplest yet most effective tools in industrial policy: local content requirements,” King said in an email. “Compared to other policies like tariffs, quotas, or subsidies, local content requirements are simpler, require less discretionary authority, and pose fewer drawbacks. They can be an appropriately blunt instrument for achieving a blunt good, and they’ve been adopted successfully to achieve a goals for technological and industrial development in the past.”

The remaining question, as King points out, is which industries would be subject to the requirement.

According to Hawley, the requirement would go into effect three years after the bill is enacted—potentially so businesses have ample time to move their manufacturing back home, or perhaps to garner support from his fellow legislators who will be campaigning for reelection before that. Nevertheless, it’s a step in the right direction, and a notable one from a party that has been as slow to act on moving the supply chain stateside as they are quick to talk about it on national media.

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