Hope Is Not a Plan. But Despair Is Not a Solution.
Becoming your best self and saving democracy while you're at it.
Every week I highlight three newsletters that are worth your time.
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1. The Daily Coach
Here is a true thing: “The most important person you’ll ever coach is yourself.”
That’s the mission statement of the Daily Coach, a newsletter founded by George Raveling and Michael Lombardi.
It’s about sports, sort of. But not really.
And I’ve gotta be honest: I really like it.
In the last week they’ve written about Cheslie Kryst and mental health, Tom Brady and leadership, and Rafa Nadal and self-doubt.
He was almost three hours into the match, and defeat seemed imminent. Already two sets down, a visibly-exhausted Rafael Nadal needed to win three straight points in the Australian Open final on Sunday just to avoid having his serve broken.
His mind flashed back to the past.
There was 2012, when he lost in the Open final that went nearly six hours.
There was 2014, when he was upset in the final.
Then, there was 2017, when he lost in the fifth set of the championship.
“I was repeating to myself during the whole match, I lost a lot of times here having chances,” Nadal said. “I just wanted to keep believing until the end. Just fight and keep belief in trying to find a solution.” . . .
The lesson for us isn’t that “We can overcome all” or “Nothing gets us down.”
It’s that when we’re facing hardship, when it appears there is no way to get through the challenges staring us in the eyes, we have to get our minds to a place of mental fortitude and realistic self-confidence.
This is not the Successories version of self-improvement. Because you cannot, in fact, climb any mountain by believing in the power of your dreams while never giving in because winners never quit.
You don’t win by getting the brass ring. You win by being the best version of yourself. Because “winning” really just means making the world around you a little bit better.
It’s worth subscribing to. And it’s free.
2. Robert Hubbell
So this is a strange beast: Hubbell is a hobbyist who started writing his newsletter in 2017. He’s a pretty standard-fare Democrat. But his thing is that he tries to always write about politics through the lens of hope.
I say this not as a complaint but a compliment: Reading Hubbell feels like the good old days of the blogosphere, before Twitter warped everyone’s brains.
He writes daily and it reads a little like a diary. He publishes every night talking about the news of the day.
Instead of giving you a long excerpt, I’m going to just give you one line from Hubbell, which encapsulates his view of the world:
If we are all Alexander Vindmans, there is no stopping us. That is the lesson of Alexander Vindman.
Read the whole thing. And if you’re a Democrat who’s into hope, subscribe.
3. The Liberal Patriot
John Halpin has written a call for Democrats to embrace “liberal nationalism.”
I am not . . . convinced?
We need a new public philosophy guiding our political discourse, one focused on three primary questions: “What does America need to succeed? How do we make sure all Americans participate in this project? How do we get over our divisions to make a project of national economic renewal the core focus of politics?” . . .
The two components of this public philosophy are “liberalism”—values such as reason, tolerance, pluralism, and equal dignity and rights for all—and “nationalism”, a concern with the common good and policies that strengthen America’s position in the world through steps to build up our domestic economy and increase economic security for all our citizens.
You should read the whole thing. It’s thought-provoking.
And I get what Halpin is trying to do. He views our current showdown as a contest based around identity politics and he thinks this fight is unwinnable and harmful.
Certainly, identity politics is part of what’s going on. It’s what drives both the progressive left and the nationalist-conservative right. These two groups fight against one another to a certain degree. But they also fight against their own sides. The nationalist-conservatives seem to care a lot more about excommunicating RINOs and conservative dissidents than beating Democrats. And the progs seem torn between one side that identity as a matter of economics and another which views it as a function of gender/race/whathaveyou.
All of which leaves about half the country only nominally aligned because they aren’t invested identity politics from either wing.
Halpin thinks we need to come up with a framework to bind that half together. That’s his liberal nationalism.
And maybe it works in theory.
But the experience of the last six years is concerning. Reform-minded conservatives spent a decade arguing that the Republican party needed to be reoriented away from Wall Street and the country club set.
They got their wish!
And when it happened, it wasn’t Yuval Levin who was animating the transformation.
I worry that if an attempt to create a liberal nationalism succeeds, it won’t be John Halpin building the playbook. It will be a demagogue who taps into something not very nice.
So what’s the alternative? Muddling through, maybe. I dunno.
Maybe we need some of that hope stuff.
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What is this strange sensation? Why does this man think everything will work out? Where is the doom and crushing morosity? How does he live like this?
Finally have a chance to read through last week's posts. Thanks again for doing these, JVL.
This is a response to the 2/4 Secret Podcast, but I didn’t know where else to share it. Sarah’s crazy story re: the bat in her hotel room reminded me of an equally insane story about my husband, a shoe and a small furry mammal (but no rabies shots, thank goodness!).
Years ago we used to walk to Sunday mass every week—a beautiful 4+ mile walk from our house to the cathedral. My husband has enormous feet (size 15 in athletic shoes) and some neuropathy (both important factors in this story). One Sunday, after we had walked to mass, sat through the full mass, and stopped for coffee afterwards, we were sitting at the bus stop waiting for our bus home when my husband mentioned that it felt like there was something in his shoe. He took it off to check for a bunched up sock or whatever, and—lo and behold—there was a tiny mouse in his shoe! Somehow miraculously alive, too!