I can’t decide what I think about the relatively recent phenomenal growth of Substack newsletters. I’m one of the thousands–millions?–who regularly reads Heather Cox Richardson’s “Letter from an American,” and after my sister strongly recommended Robert Hubbell, I subscribed to his daily newsletter as well.
On the one hand, these transmittals afford writers much more scope than they would have if confined to more traditional columns or “op-ed” pages. On the other hand, an individual reader’s ability to pick and choose who to follow–and to disregard arguments from people with contrary perspectives–rather obviously adds to our ability to construct and inhabit “bubbles” that protect us from conflicting points of view, and thus reinforce our own biases.
Newsletters–and not just those from Substack–are part of the significant and growing fragmentation of our current media environment–a fragmentation that has many Americans living in incommensurate realities.
I am one of those Americans, and despite the foregoing admissions, I will admit that I enjoy getting a newsletter that expresses my own views in language I find particularly apt. That was the case with Robert Hubbell’s reaction to Donald Trump’s announcement that he is once again running for President. I am sharing his response–which includes observations with which I heartily agree–but with the admission that people like Richardson and Hubbell have become essential parts of my bubble (and that I’m not proud that I inhabit one despite genuine efforts to access contrary perspectives…)
Hubbell focused less on Trump’s rambling and low-energy speech and more on the “about faces” of some of those who have previously been prominent Trump supporters. The former President’s announcement met with a marked lack of enthusiasm from major GOP donors, and from Fox News, the NYPost, and the WSJ –a lack of enthusiasm that has been widely reported.
With respect to Murdoch’s media empire, Hubbell wrote
Each was a staunch ally of Trump through two impeachments, insurrection, bribery and sex scandals, and Trump’s criminally negligent handling of the pandemic. The fact that each has changed its news coverage and editorial policy on forty-eight hours’ notice demonstrates that they are not independent news organizations… Rather, the supposed “news organizations” are extensions of Rupert Murdoch’s ego and desire for personal power. It is a disservice to maintain the fiction of their legitimacy. It is a pretense that insults the democratic tradition of a free press.
Then there was the seeming defection of a number of those all-important major donors.
So, too, with Trump’s major donors. The media is ticking off each announcement by a hedge fund billionaire or captain of industry who will no longer contribute to Trump’s campaign. See, e.g., Axios, GOP megadonor Stephen Schwarzman defects from Trump after 2024 announcement, and Fox News, GOP megadonors want to move on from ‘three-time loser’ Trump, look to back DeSantis in 2024 presidential bid.
It is shocking that billionaires are casually mentioning their switch in loyalties as if they are describing their preferences in wine or cigars. Their corruption of the political process is grotesque and yet they are unashamed and unrepentant for their role in funding a man who attempted a coup and incited an insurrection. No apology; no “Mea culpa;” just “Next!”
In a particularly pithy phrase, Hubbell suggests that the lesson these donors took from their support of an aspiring fascist was that they needed “a better-educated, more articulate aspiring fascist to support.”
Hubbell is quite correct in pointing out that the current exodus from Trump–even assuming it isn’t transitory– isn’t the story. The story–the lesson we observers should take away from the current spectacle–is that
the enablers and co-conspirators who nearly prevented the peaceful transfer of power have learned nothing—except that they can make more money and acquire more power by creating another Frankenstein’s monster. We cannot treat them as if they are legitimate participants in the political process. They are not. They are vultures looking for carrion.
While I appreciate his felicitous turn of phrase, what really makes Hubbell’s newsletter valuable–at least to me– is that he consistently includes suggestions for actions citizens can take. He provides answers to the recurring question: what can we citizens do? It was that aspect of his newsletter that most appealed to my sister, and now appeals to me–a roadmap of sorts that helps dispel the feelings of powerlessness that periodically overcome and depress us.
My newsletters: Richardson for historical context. Krugman for economic wisdom. Nichols for biting commentary. And Hubbell for positivity and–despite occasional lapses into legalese (he’s a lawyer)–intermittent rays of sunshine…..