Nobody cares about issues: Yesterday, Gail Collins tried to explain why Bill de Blasio rolled to victory in this week’s mayoral primary.
As we noted yesterday, she said de Blasio won because of race—because one of his TV ads generated an “urban feel-good moment.” You see, de Blasio's wife is black. And in the TV ad in question, the whole family seemed very happy!
Like Collins, we don’t know why de Blasio won. It wouldn’t be easy to answer that question, since it involves the votes of many New Yorkers.
That said, we were struck by how little Collins seemed to care about the policy issues involved in the campaign. We had a similar reaction to the lengthy analysis piece in which Jodi Kantor and Kate Taylor tried to explain why Christine Quinn lost.
Right off the bat, we were struck by the banner headline on the large, sprawling piece. This was the headline in our hard-copy Times:
“Questions About How Big a Role Gender and Sexuality Played in Quinn’s Loss.”
Gender and sexuality might have played important roles in this race—although, to be perfectly honest, the reporters didn’t turn up much information. For the most part, they offered anecdotal accounts and complaints which added up to very little.
Still, we were struck by their focus. We wondered—could we imagine banner headlines like these in the New York Times?
“Questions About How Big a Role Stop and Frisk Played in Quinn’s Loss.”
“Questions About How Big a Role Early Childhood Education Played in Quinn’s Loss.”
It was hard to imagine those headlines. Those articles didn’t appear.
In truth, the Times did little reporting in the last few months about the issues of this campaign. The paper obsessed on Anthony Weiner’s sexual problems while showing little interest in much of anything else.
Yesterday, Collins discussed a feel-good moment concerning de Blasio's family; Kantor and Taylor speculated about sexuality and gender. In truth, these are the types of things which interest the New York Times. To judge from its emphasis and focus, the Times doesn’t care about the issues which got discussed in de Blasio's ad, the ad which made Collins feel good because his family seemed happy.
It isn’t Kantor and Taylor’s fault that they received this assignment. The questions they raised are perfectly valid, although they came up with little real information.
But land o Goshen, some of the glimpses they offered from within the Quinn campaign! Welcome to the cultural frameworks surrounding the upper-class Times:
KANTOR AND TAYLOR (9/121/3): Critiques of Ms. Quinn’s physical attributes came from many corners, even the wealthy Upper East Side women who helped raise money for her mayoral bid. “Why can’t she dress better?’” they would ask Rachel Lavine, a Democratic state committeewoman who was on Ms. Quinn’s finance committee.Remember—those were the people supporting Quinn. And this is part of the cultural framework which spills from the upper-class Times.
“I might think that St. John is not the end all and be all of fashion,” Ms. Lavine said, referring to the upscale clothing line favored by wealthy, older women. “But that’s what they’re saying. ‘Why isn’t she wearing a size two St. John’s dress?’ There’s that kind of constant commentary.”
In fairness, Kantor and Taylor sounded somewhat clueless on their own at times. Who is betraying a hopelessly upper-class outlook now?
KANTOR AND TAYLOR: [Quinn’s] fall from front-runner status to a distant third place finish in the Democratic primary is now stirring intense debate about whether her femaleness, or her homosexuality, played any role in her struggle to win over voters.According to that middle paragraph, it sounds like de Blasio won because of the desire to move away from plutocrat approaches. Kantor and Taylor moved quickly past that, saying Quinn's supporters had other things on their minds.
Exit polls showed no gender gap in the results and indicated that Ms. Quinn lost for a number of reasons—her close association with the plutocratic incumbent mayor, her rivals’ ability to outmaneuver her on the issue of stop-and-frisk policing, and her inability to be a change candidate in an election in which voters sought new direction.
Still, her supporters wonder: Why has New York, home of tough, talented women like Eleanor Roosevelt and Anna Wintour, proven resistant to female candidates? And was it simply too much to expect the electorate to embrace a candidate who would be not just New York’s first female mayor, but its first openly gay one, too?
Wintour is editor in chief of Vogue. She was all over yesterday’s Times, mainly in the highly foppish Thursday Styles section.
But good lord! Who could be so clueless as to ask why the city where Wintour lives could “prove resistant to female candidates,” if that is really what happened? Granted, Kantor and Taylor attribute that question to Quinn’s supporters. But they were willing to type it up as if it made perfect sense.
Collins talked about race, but only concerning that “feel-good moment.” Kantor and Taylor's analysis piece went on and on about sexuality and gender. Increasingly, this is the stuff of press corps discourse, and not just in the upper-class Times. We were struck by this statement by Gloria Steinem:
KANTOR AND TAYLOR: [T]rue to the concerns of the women who met with Ms. Quinn in July, some allies thought the campaign could have handled the tricky matter of being a woman candidate with more finesse.In this account, de Blasio didn’t make a proposal which many voters favored. Instead, he “took over the language of gender,” aside from which nothing exists. (Steinem may have said a great deal beyond the remark which was quoted.)
Gloria Steinem said in an interview that Mr. de Blasio effectively “took over the language of gender” in the race with his proposal to expand preschool programs with a tax increase. (The proposal was widely seen as impractical but politically effective.)
Even though Ms. Quinn passed a Council bill to provide paid sick leave, she stalled action on the measure for so long that she was widely viewed as an opponent, which hurt her credibility as a fighter for women.
Reading this piece after reading Collins, we were struck by the lack of interest in the lives of average people. The Times likes to talk about race and sex, not about people in Queens who might yearn for preschool programs because that would help them with their everyday lives, not because it helps them figure who’s saying what about gender.
Not about people in Manhattan who may think that preschool programs would create a better society.
Why did people vote as they did? Without any question, gender and sexuality might be involved, though Kantor and Taylor offered little real information.
But the Times likes to talk about sexuality and race. Does it like to talk about preschool programs for low-income children?
People! Possibly not quite so much! Collins blew right past that crap. On assignment, so did Kantor and Taylor.