They’re Voting for Trump to ‘Save Democracy.’ Plus. . .

The smartest takes on the former president’s conviction. Suzy Weiss on the return of the finance bro. Ben Kawaller on ‘racialized spaces.’ And much more.

On today’s Front Page from The Free Press: Suzy Weiss on the finance bro’s comeback, Ben Kawaller goes down a critical race theory rabbit hole, and much more. 

But first, our lead story. After Donald Trump’s conviction in the New York hush money trial last week, America paused for only the briefest moment to mark the historic first: a former president was now a convicted felon. The next question was: How would this change the presidential race? Would the conviction boost turnout among Trump’s outraged supporters? Would the f-word be a turnoff for swing voters in the suburbs? Two polls conducted after the conviction showed little change in the race. If prediction markets are your thing, Biden’s chances ticked up slightly with the conviction. 

In truth, it’s far too soon to predict the effect of the verdict on this race. However, it is clear that for some Americans, Thursday’s news was a galvanizing, even radicalizing, moment. Today, Free Press reporters Olivia Reingold, Francesca Block, and Rupa Subramanya talk to people who once hated Trump, but hate this conviction—and its implications for America—even more.

Who are these sudden supporters? To find out, read “They’re Voting for Trump to Save Democracy.” 

The conviction of Donald Trump is a major moment, not just in the 2024 race, but in American history. We’ll be bringing you more on the fallout in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, here are three illuminating pieces about the verdict and its repercussions.

  • Prosecutors “got Trump—but they contorted the law” to do so, argues veteran prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Elie Honig in New York magazine. “Both of these things can be true at once: the jury did its job, and this case was an ill-conceived, unjustified mess,” he writes in the widely shared piece. 

  • Matt Labash is a conservative—and he is also no fan of Trump. He recently wrote an essay on his feelings about the verdict. Here’s a taste:

While I regard Trump as a lowlife demagogue with a narcissism disorder who cheats on everything from his wives to business to golf to elections that he lost, and while I think his reckless disregard for the truth and his addiction to pushing lies cynically appeals to the rage, fear, and cheap emotions of his cult followers, and while I think he is guilty of many things, including but not limited to: sexual assault, a coup attempt, and involuntary manslaughter (five people died on January 6—a party he was responsible for throwing)…………(deep intermission breath)……..on the other hand, I’m not sure the crime(s) he was just convicted of, while technically a violation of the law, didn’t involve some creative indicting on the prosecution’s side, and might not have been prosecuted at all if his name weren’t “Donald Trump.”

Read the whole thing over on Matt’s Substack. 

  • Matt Taibbi says this is a sham case—and everyone knows it. “Of all the things Donald Trump has been accused of, none are as serious or system-imperiling as abusing the courts to dispose of a political rival.” Read it here

  • Sam Harris thinks Donald Trump “is the most dangerous cult leader on Earth” who he would “love” to see go to jail. So you might expect him to be rejoicing after the verdict. Here he explains why he wasn’t popping champagne at the news of the guilty verdict. 

  • And returning to the question of what all this means for the election is Nate Silver. He games it all out in his most recent Substack post and says that the less partisan, less politically engaged voters will be the ones who decide the race. 

And now on to everything else happening in the world. . .  

  1. Biden’s Friday speech laying out Israel’s latest cease-fire offer and urging a deal has set up a moment of truth for Bibi Netanyahu, explains David Horovitz. The Times of Israel editor lays out the thinking behind Biden’s intervention—and the dilemma facing Israel and its prime minister. (Times of Israel

  2. Joe Klein joins the growing chorus worried about American boys and men. “The disdain for maleness, for competition, for meat-eating, for a healthy masculine appreciation of women. . . has distorted society.” (Sanity Clause)

  3. In 2021, the National Institutes for Health launched a major study into the causes of—and potential treatments for—long Covid. Three years and $1.6 billion later, the study has, as one long Covid patient says, done nothing “to narrow down what’s actually going wrong with people.” Take from that what you will. (Stat News

  4. Exit polls in India suggest Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party are set for a landslide victory. But will the win really be that big? (Bloomberg

  5. As president, Donald Trump tried to ban TikTok, but now he has joined the app. Trump shot to 2.1 million followers overnight. That’s six times as many as Joe Biden (who also uses TikTok, even though he signed a law that will force its sale or ban it). According to Puck, pro-Trump content outnumbers pro-Biden content on the app two-to-one. (Axios)

  6. Germany has been the big loser of the geopolitical and economic changes of the last few years. Economist Adam Tooze asks: Can the biggest economy in the EU rise to the challenges it—and Europe as a whole—faces? (Chartbook)

  7. This Thursday marks eighty years since D-Day. Major commemorations are held every five years, and organizers of this year’s say it could be the last to involve living veterans. So they’re going all out. (CNN)

  8. Some commentators, trying to understand why Americans aren’t happier about the state of the economy, claim that “inflation” doesn’t mean what it used to. Here’s why that’s dangerous nonsense, write Ryan Bourne and Sophia Bagley. (The War on Prices

  9. A multimillion-dollar scandal is rocking the pickleball world. Hundreds of retirees and other creditors say a senior citizen, who goes by the name Rocket and was once described as the “ultimate ambassador” for the sport, owes them $50 million. (Wall Street Journal)

  10. Henry Oliver, author of the new book Second Act: What Late Bloomers Can Tell You About Success and Reinventing Your Life, offers five tips on how to spot a late bloomer. (X)
    Related: The Free Press is hiring; we welcome late bloomers and young guns alike.

→ Ben Kawaller digs deeper on “racialized space”: Free Pressers may have seen my interview last week with the mayor of West Hollywood, a fellow named John Erickson.  

I spoke to Erickson after learning that WeHo City Council was touting various DEI-related initiatives, including a workshop for city staff and officers about “Understanding Racialized Space in Architecture.” (Read that twice.)

I asked the mayor what that phrase meant, exactly. How did he understand “racialized space in architecture”? What followed were two of the most sublimely incoherent minutes I have ever experienced. Watch it here.

The video has racked up more than 700,000 views across various platforms, I think because it reveals how little there is to the ideas that have gained currency on the left. (In response to my clip of him failing to answer my question, Mayor Erickson advised people to “stay mad,” complete with a Rihanna gif.) 

While Mayor Erickson—who has a PhD in American Religious History and will be one of the Californians nominating Joe Biden at the DNC this summer—was busy clapping back, I was still trying to figure out what “racialized space in architecture” actually meant.  

So I Googled the phrase and found this article, from what appears to be a scholarly journal, by someone named Todd Levon Brown at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center. 

Brown’s paper is a master class in the art of using gibberish to describe a situation inaccurately. For instance, in describing a study that showed people associate newer buildings with white people and more rundown buildings with black people, Brown contends that “the study ultimately revealed a raced space imaginary among participants, indicated by a clearly demonstrated association of particular architectures with specific ethnic groups.”

To describe an association between gentrification and white people as a “raced space imaginary” is to take something easily comprehensible and then make it incomprehensible. This is invariably what happens when someone uses an adjective like imaginary as a noun and pluralizes a word like architecture. As is the case with so many fashionable ideas about race, it is in fact the critical theorist himself who is “racializing architecture” by ascribing inherent whiteness or blackness to certain types of buildings based on how nice or crappy they are. —Ben Kawaller

→ Made in America, controlled by China: Last September, we told you the story of LIDAR, a complex piece of technology manufactured by both American companies and a large Chinese manufacturer named Hesai. LIDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging and is essentially a series of sensors that can serve as the “eyes” of autonomous or semiautonomous vehicles. (It can also be used on drones, as a tool for robotics, and much more.) By undercutting the American manufacturers on price, Hesai has become the dominant player in the industry, generating $264 million in revenue last year. Indeed, twelve of the fifteen biggest autonomous car companies use Hesai’s LIDAR. (Waymo and Tesla do not use it.)

What’s more, the Defense Department had awarded a $50 million contract to Kodiak Robotics, an American company that uses Hesai’s LIDAR in self-driving military vehicles. This was a problem because, like TikTok, Hesai’s LIDAR was suspected of being able to spy on Americans. As the Congressional Research Service put it in a recent report: “China could use this information to conduct military or industrial espionage or gain operational advantages in a military conflict. [Chinese] firms also could introduce malware via a software update and degrade the performance of systems using the technology.” Yikes.

Since our story ran, the Defense Department has had a change of heart. In January, it added Hesai to a list of Chinese companies that are alleged to be working on behalf of the Chinese military. Hesai has vehemently denied the allegation, and last month, it sued the U.S. government to be removed from the list. “Our inclusion on this list follows a one-year media smear campaign based on unsubstantiated, baseless, and false allegations,” said Hesai CEO Yifan Li.

As it turns out, Hesai had another trick up its sleeve. According to a story The Wall Street Journal broke last week, a new company popped up in Michigan, right near the U.S. automakers, called American LIDAR. According to the Journal, “The company behind American LIDAR, and not reported in its registration, is China-based LIDAR maker Hesai Group, which the U.S. has labeled a security concern.”

The Journal added, “Chinese firms trying to buffer themselves from Washington’s anti-China policies are rebranding and creating U.S.-domiciled businesses to sell their wares.” Well, yes, that’s one way of putting it. Another way is that Hesai—and a handful of other Chinese companies similarly labeled—are trying to hide their identities, and betting that the government won’t figure out that they’re still selling the same goods with the same potential national security implications, as they were before the Defense Department blacklisted them. And they hope the fig leaf will be enough to keep its American customers from asking too many questions.

Or, to borrow the analysis of Bloomberg’s Matt Levine, “There will be some people (1) who want to avoid companies allegedly affiliated with the Chinese military but (2) whose due diligence will consist of looking at the name. So you might as well put ‘American’ in the name.” Indeed. —Joe Nocera

→ Finance bro summer: Joshes, Jareds, and Jakes of the world: rejoice! It’s going to be a good summer for basic dudes who favor Patagonia vests and work in the finance sector. For starters, there’s the earworm song that has gone absolutely viral on TikTok. The lyrics—“I'm looking for a man in finance, trust fund, 6'5", blue eyes,”—are what my mind replays over and over as I close my eyes to sleep. There was that viral article from the girl who said she was marrying older but really just married rich, plucking her husband out of Harvard’s business school. Rupert Murdoch—not exactly a finance guy, but certainly a master of the universe—just had his fifth wedding at the age of 93. (Congratulations, king.)

(News Corp via AP)

The return of the finance bro is also a sign that the era of the tech nerd, exemplified by Mark Zuckerberg, has come to an end. Sam Bankman-Fried nailed the coffin shut for the cargo shorts–wearing, boy-genius crypto set. Look to the bit characters in The Social Network to see what’s coming down the pike: the strapping, tall, Winklevoss twins. They made their money in crypto, but unlike the techy SBF, have cast themselves as twenty-first-century financiers. They’re both six feet, five inches. They’re medaled rowers, not amateur MMA fighters. And yeah, they don’t live in a compound in Hawaii, but they managed to scrape together over $5 billion between the two of them. And ladies, neither of them is married. 

The finance bro has been much maligned: he is basic, he wears a fleece vest, he probably talks in incomprehensible corporate jargon. But hey: at least he has a job. He isn’t, like a huge number of men in his cohort, depressed. He might even have hair, and he certainly didn’t spend this past spring sleeping in a tent

The archetype took a hit with American Psycho, and then the financial crisis, but the finance bro is now in his metamorphosis, offering a few things to the American dating public that they forgot they needed: stability. Predictability. The kind of virility that doesn’t need saunas and cold plunges and dopamine fasts to regulate.  

So, which way, urban Western woman? An SVP with no salary but promising stock options in a buzzy start-up that’s going to shutter next week? A coder for Big Tech whose job is about to be hoovered up by artificial intelligence? Another Ivy-credentialed filmmaker who forgot his wallet? Or the sweet-enough guy—and it doesn’t matter how, and you won’t understand it, so don’t bother asking—who makes the money rain? —Suzy Weiss 

Stan recommends the movie Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes: More than just an action movie, this summer film explores surprisingly deep themes, notably the conflict between Kingdom and Clan, and the apes show us what it means to be truly human.

Karen recommends Süti & Co., a coffee shop in Boulder, CO: The least corporate, coolest coffeehouse in downtown Boulder. Chef Andrea, who hails from Denmark, turns out killer shortbreads and other baked goods. She has great coffee from locally roasted beans and also offers a wonderful selection of home goods.

A movie to watch this summer? The best place for a cup of joe? What do you recommend, readers? Share your wisdom:

Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman

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