GW sides with the CCP

The images created by dissident Chinese artist Badiucao to draw attention to the evils of the Chinese Communist Party are subversive in style but their message could hardly be clearer. The posters depict Winter Olympic sports while revealing the crimes of the Chinese regime: blood drips from a figure skater’s blade, a biathlete points his rifle at the head of a Uighur prisoner, a competitor rides not a snowboard but a CCTV camera.

Were a leader of a major American educational institution shown Badiucao’s art, you might expect a message of encouragement or admiration. Not so in the case Mark S. Wrighton, president of George Washington University. Wrighton was contacted by the GW Chinese Students and Scholars Association, who complained that the posters had appeared on GW’s campus and said the images amounted to an “attack on the Chinese nation”, had “serious racist views” and constituted “extremely vicious personal attacks on all international students.” “Punish them severely!” requested the CSSA. Here it is worth noting that such groups are frequently used by Chinese authorities to keep tabs on Chinese students on US campuses.

How did Wrighton respond to this call for censorship, intimidation and punishment? According to an email obtained by Badiucao, with a level of craven obsequiousness shocking even to those familiar with the ways in which the US academic establishment tends to kowtow to China. In his reply to the CSSA, he wrote:

Please know that I am personally offended by these posters. I treasure the opportunity to work with talented people from all over the world, including China. Your reaching out to me directly is much appreciated, and we are working to have all of these offensive poster removed as soon as possible. I, too, am saddened by this terrible event and we will undertake an effort to determine who is responsible. 

FIRE, the invaluable champions of academic freedom and free expression on campus, have expressed their concern at the statement. They call Wrighton’s pledge to “root out anonymous speakers who criticize foreign governments” a “wholly inappropriate response by an American university purportedly committed to free expression.” But you hardly need to be as well-versed in campus censorship as FIRE to be outraged: an academic leader suppressing speech on behalf of a genocidal autocracy. And in the heart of the American capital.

Badiucao has demanded an explanation from Wrighton. It’s very hard to imagine how one might be remotely satisfactory.

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The bipartisan attack on competitive elections

The redistricting results are coming in — and they are dismal. Not for one party or the other, but for American elections. According to a New York Times analysis, with two-thirds of the new boundaries set, fewer than forty of 435 House seats are set to be competitive. That number is almost half what it was a decade ago. Safe seats means primaries matter more than general election races, and fewer and fewer Americans have a meaningful choice over who represents them in Congress.

When it comes to party advantage, the Democrats are currently on course to gain more seats from state-level gerrymandering than the Republicans. David Wasserman reports that the president’s party is set to gain two or three seats from the once-every-ten-years process of redistricting, even though red states are growing faster than blue ones.

Not that you’d know it from the rhetoric. On Friday, President Biden welcomed the North Carolina Supreme Court’s rejection of the state’s new congressional map by saying “voters should choose their representatives not the other way round.” Barack Obama has praised Eric Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee as for “fighting so hard to make sure people everywhere have an equal opportunity to choose their representatives.” Republican-drawn maps are frequently attacked as tantamount to the dismantling of American democracy. But there is an awkward silence from the same sources when Democrats do the same thing.

Queen of gossip

Yesterday marked seventy years since Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the UK throne. She is the first ever British monarch to reach a platinum jubilee and, Politico reports, she is as hooked on Westminster gossip as ever. If she wants her daily fill of political news and intrigue from the former colonies, I know just the email newsletter.

The RNC’s legitimate discourse

The RNC had a busy winter retreat. As well as passing a motion that censured Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for “actions in their positions as members of the January 6 Select Committee not befitting Republican members of Congress,” they also issued a statement that denouncing “a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.” Contrast this Capitol riot apologia with a sharp rebuke of his old boss from Mike Pence. “I heard this week that President Trump said I had the right to overturn the election. President Trump is wrong,” he said on the same day the RNC censured Cheney and Kinzinger. “I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone.”

What you should be reading today

Dominic Green: Vladimir Putin is rolling over the United States
Matt Purple: Glenn Youngkin’s brass-knuckled conservatism
Amber Athey: Caution, this article is putting lives at risk
Aséna Tahir Izgil, the Atlantic: One by one, my friends were sent to the camps
Alex Seitz-Wald, NBC News: How Democrats went from defund to refund the police
Sean Sullivan and Marianna Sotomayor, Washington Post: Democrats’ big dilemma: avoid Biden or embrace him?

Poll watch

President Biden Job Approval
Approve: 41.3 percent
Disapprove: 54.4 percent
Net approval: -13.1 (RCP Average)

How do US voters see the Russian build-up of troops on Ukraine’s border?
A major threat to US interests: 26 percent
A minor threat to US interests: 33 percent
Not a threat: 7 percent
Not sure: 33 percent (Pew)

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