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Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Republicans in disarray

We start today with Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, Isaac Arnsdorf, and Jeff Stein of The Washington Post writing about the Republican Party in disarray and what the GQP plans to do about it as the midterm elections approach.

GOP officials have been mixing up their advertising spending, with a new focus on issues like crime, plans for a major policy rollout meant to reclaim voter attention and moves to send reinforcements for struggling Senate candidates.

Leaders have also been working, with mixed success, to cool down intraparty squabbles over their own strategic missteps and the quality of candidates in pivotal Senate races.[…]

The messages of unity were meant to dampen distracting divisions that have emerged within the party over controversial Senate candidates backed by former president Donald Trump and the ability of the party to fully fund campaigns in the face of an enormous Democratic financial advantage in key states.

Republicans remain favored to win the House, given the narrow margin they need to overcome and historical tail winds, say strategists for both parties. But the size of their potential victory is now in doubt, and the possibility that Democrats could pull off an upset has emerged, with McCarthy failing to repeat the net 60-seat prediction he made in November.

Americans are finally feeling better about the economy: Consumer sentiment, which hit rock bottom in June, has begun inching up in recent weeks. (@abhabhattarai) Details: https://t.co/Iv4s3N93wo pic.twitter.com/sepW5YoISu

— Opinion Today (@OpinionToday) September 11, 2022

Abha Bhaatarai/The Washington Post

Consumer sentiment, which hit rock bottom in June, has begun inching up in recent weeks. Gas prices are down. Decades-high inflation appears to be easing. And at the same time, Americans are making small changes — buying meat in bulk, for example, or shifting more of their shopping to discount chains — suggesting that many families are learning to deal with higher prices.

“While consumer sentiment is still fairly low by historic standards, we’re starting to see pretty dramatic improvements,” said Joanne W. Hsu, an economist at the University of Michigan and director of its closely watched consumer surveys. “It’s very much being driven by a slowdown in inflation, particularly with the decline in gas prices.”
That’s particularly good news for the White House, which has been hammered by criticism that it hasn’t done enough to address inflation

Danté Stewart of The Atlantic has noticed the “special treatment” that WNBA star Britney Griner is receiving from right-wing media.

…Griner’s problems are not just in Russia. I have been shocked by Americans’ reactions to Griner’s imprisonment. It is not just that so many Americans aren’t outraged enough. It’s that so many—especially in the right-wing media—are actually celebrating her detainment. They are trying to turn Griner into an enemy and a criminal, in a way that reveals a long-standing animosity toward those who are Black and athletic and who use their platform to speak out against injustice in America.

“On the bright side, B Griner won’t have to endure our National Anthem for 9 whole years! What a win for her!” the Fox News commentator Tomi Lahren tweeted to her 2 million followers after Griner’s sentence was announced. It was a reference to Griner’s refusal to walk onto the court when the anthem was played—a protest against the killing of Breonna Taylor by Louisville police officers in 2020. Instead of reflecting on what her fellow American citizen would have to endure in a Russian penal colony for charges Lahren herself described as “excessive, overblown, and overkill,” Lahren took the opportunity to taunt and shame Griner for exercising her First Amendment rights.

Griner has a history of using her platform to speak on issues affecting people of color. After she told Andscape that “nothing is being done” about Taylor’s death, she began wearing Taylor’s name on the back of her jersey as a tribute. After George Floyd was killed by a police officer two months after Taylor’s death, Griner again refused to take the court while the anthem played.

Switching to foreign affairs, Anton Troianovski of The New York Times notes the negative assessments of the Russian military withdrawal in key locations of Ukraine has led to some Russian bloggers criticizing  Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The outrage from Russian hawks on Saturday showed that even as Mr. Putin had succeeded in eliminating just about all of the liberal and pro-democracy opposition in Russia’s domestic politics, he still faced the risk of discontent from the conservative end of the political spectrum. For the moment, there was little indication that these hawks would turn on Mr. Putin as a result of Ukraine’s seemingly successful counteroffensive; but analysts said that their increasing readiness to criticize the military leadership publicly pointed to simmering discontent within the Russian elite.

“Most of these people are in shock and did not think that this could happen,” Dmitri Kuznets, who analyzes the war for the Russian-language news outlet Meduza, said in a phone interview. “Most of them are, I think, genuinely angry.”

The Kremlin, as usual, tried to minimize the setbacks. The defense ministry described the retreat as a decision “to regroup” its troops, even though the ministry said a day earlier that it was moving to reinforce its defensive positions in the region. The authorities in Moscow carried on with their festive weekend, with fireworks and state television showing hundreds lined up to ride the new, 460-foot-tall Ferris wheel.

Alexander Ward and Lawrence Ukenye of POLITICO report that a new North Korean law authorizes North Korea to automatically launch nuclear missiles in the event of dictator Kim Jong Un being incapacitated ot killed by an attack from the West.

The legislation, passed by Kim’s rubber-stamp parliament, also allows for preemptive nuclear strikes if North Korea judges that foreign weapons will soon streak toward its strategic targets or state leadership.

The measure comes as the dictator vowed to never part with the nuclear and missiles program it took his country decades to build, making them more and more dangerous by the year. North Korea will “never give up nuclear weapons and there is absolutely no denuclearization, and no negotiation and no bargaining chip to trade in the process,” Kim declared Friday, according to state-run media.

Kim, like his father before him, is reluctant to part with his nukes because they help keep the regime in place. But the thinking was Pyongyang would only use the weapons in the event of foreign nations first attacking North Korea, presumably some combination of the United States, Japan and South Korea.

Not anymore: The law says Kim’s bombs can fly in the event of any weapons of mass destruction attack and/or a non-nuclear strike on state leadership, command of nuclear forces or “important strategic objects” that is underway or “judged to be on the horizon.”

Charlie Duxbury of POLITICO Europe writes that in today’s elections in Sweden, a far-right populist party has a good chance of making significant gains 

Sweden’s election on September 11 is shaping up to be a unique vote in the Nordic state’s history. For the first time, a far-right populist party has a realistic shot at securing serious clout over key policy areas including immigration and policing.

While similar parties have recently held sway in nearby Finland, Denmark and Estonia, in Sweden SD has been ostracized by mainstream rivals for decades because of its roots among neo-Nazi groups active in the country in the 1990s.

One recent opinion poll showed support for SD is surging, with around 22 percent saying they would vote for the party, giving it the second largest backing after the ruling Social Democrats on 28 percent. POLITICO’s Poll of Polls, which aggregates polling, has the SD on 20 percent and the Social Democrats on 29 percent.

Crucially, SD now also has mainstream allies with the potential to dislodge the Social Democrats from power.

Kareem Shaheen and Rasha Al Aqeedi of New Lines Magazine takes a look at some of the reactions in the Arab world to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.

The survival of the British monarchy as an institution after the death of Queen Elizabeth II is a question that will continue to be posed, given her enduring and larger-than-life persona that is inextricably tied with the institution she led. But there is a harkening for the era of kings and queens in some corners of the Arab world that lies in opposition to the republican instinct that such an era of hereditary rule and primogeniture belongs in the dustbin of history.

As in the rest of the world, the queen’s death has garnered great interest and breathless coverage in the region, for many reasons that include the sense of spectacle, Britain’s colonial history in the Middle East, the fact that the Gulf monarchs who own most of the popular pan-Arab TV stations appeared to have a genuine rapport and reverence toward the queen (at least as far as can be gleaned from the pageantry of her official visits to the region) and perhaps because the monarchy is one of the few Western institutions we can identify with. 

Yes, I’ve heard of the theory that Queen Elizabeth II “was a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad” but I haven’t heard that in a long time and didn’t know that was still a thing.

Finally today, Zachariah Mampilly of Foreign Affairs takes a new look at some of the foreign policy articles of one of the magazine’s oldest contributors: American civil rights activist and scholar Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois.

It’s hard to argue that Du Bois, perhaps the most celebrated Black intellectual of all time, is underrecognized. His work remains a standard on syllabi across disciplines; prizes from academic associations bear his name. Despite the acclaim, however, Du Bois remains underappreciated—especially when it comes to his thinking on international politics. For a time, Du Bois was a regular contributor to Foreign Affairs, publishing five essays during the interwar period on topics ranging from European colonialism in Africa to the United States’ role in the League of Nations. But Du Bois was an exception in this regard: during his lifetime, this magazine published very few Black voices—and its founding involved acquiring an existing journal that had occasionally trafficked in the racist pseudoscience that shaped the early years of international relations theory. Then, during World War II and amid the hysterical anticommunism of the early Cold War, Foreign Affairs joined the rest of the white American establishment in casting out Du Bois; partly as a result, his contributions to the field have received little attention from scholars in recent decades.

Du Bois is rightly still venerated for his work on civil rights. But the erasure of his contributions to debates on U.S. foreign policy and international order represents an enormous loss. By discarding him, the American foreign policy establishment robbed itself of one of the twentieth century’s most perceptive and prescient critics of capitalism and imperialism. His now forgotten texts on world politics prefigured many of the ideas that later shaped international relations theory. They brim with insights on the importance of race, the effect of domestic politics on foreign policy, the limits of liberal institutions, and the relationship between political economy and world order. Revisiting them today reveals how racism marred the dawn of the so-called American century and the liberal internationalism that drove it—and the role of establishment institutions (including this magazine) in that history. And because many of the ills that Du Bois diagnosed in the imperial and Cold War orders persist in today’s putatively liberal international order, rediscovering his work serves more than a purely historical purpose. A better order demands a more complete reckoning, and restoring Du Bois’s rightful place in the international relations canon would be a step toward that goal.[…]

In his writings on international politics, Du Bois argued that the domestic could never be divorced from the global, and that Washington’s quest for a liberal order could never be reconciled with a Jim Crow system at home. Although American society has changed since Du Bois’s time, that fundamental tension has never been resolved: from the Cold War to the “war on terror” and beyond, the United States has cast itself as a champion of freedom and equality, despite never meeting its own standards in its treatment of American citizens and despite routinely enabling and empowering authoritarians and other enemies of liberal values when doing so has served U.S. economic or national security interests, as defined by establishment elites. Realists often excuse or even demand such inconsistency and hypocrisy, suggesting that liberals are naive to believe that domestic values should guide foreign policy. Meanwhile, hawks of all stripes—from neoconservatives to liberal interventionists—refuse to acknowledge the inconsistency and hypocrisy at all, claim they are transient aberrations, or insist that they don’t really matter.

Have a good day, everyone!