First Bauerlein, then Collins: All too often, it’s painful to read the op-ed page of the New York Times. We’ll offer two examples.
This morning, Gail Collins was killing time at the start of her alleged column. This is the way she began, sad-sack headline included:
COLLINS (11/13/14): The Lame-Duck DynastyCollins is expert at killing time while blaming her readers for the need to do so. From there, she padded her column with endless examples of real and imaginary TV reality shows.
How am I going to get you interested in the lame-duck Congress? Did you even know they came back? Perhaps it’s like reports that Randy Jackson is leaving “American Idol”—the amazing news is that “American Idol” is still on the air.
See? You’re already a little more engaged because I mentioned an old hit television show. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
That left one paragraph in which she could state her “point.” This is the way she did it:
COLLINS: Wow. Who knew that was the message? Many environmentalists are violently against the Keystone project because it would carry oil to the Gulf refineries from the tar sands of Canada, which is particularly bad when it comes to carbon emissions. The pipeline may wind up getting built anyway, but nothing is going to happen until a court case over its route is resolved in Nebraska. A vote right now by Congress would be meaningless, and it’s a terrible moment to take a symbolic stand, since President Obama was just in China, announcing an agreement on fighting global warming.Tell the truth! From that presentation, do you know which aspect of the Keystone project “is particularly bad when it comes to carbon emissions?”
Truthfully, no, you do not. Neither does anyone else who read this column. On the other hand, you did enjoy a lot of fun as Collins fought her way through another piece.
In fairness, Collins’ column was world-class brilliant as compared to yesterday’s column by Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory.
Bauerlein is best known for his thoughtful book, “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30).”
That book appeared in 2008. Six years later, Bauerlein offered the bewildering set of statistics shown below. He was trying to show that the Democratic Party’s “grip on the young may be loosening:”
BAUERLEIN (11/12/14): Six years ago, voters aged 18 to 29 favored Barack Obama over his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, by a ratio of two to one and justified Time’s announcement that 2008 was “The Year of the Youth Vote.” Two years previously, in midterm races for the House, the same demographic went for Democrats 60 percent to 38 percent.Granted, he’s an English professor. Still.
In 2012, President Obama’s advantage slipped, but under-30 voters still gave him a 23-point edge, 60 percent to 37 percent. No wonder this year the president appeared two days before the election at Temple University, where he exhorted the crowd, “So I need all of you to go grab your friends, grab your classmates... I need you to vote.”
But it turned out that 2012 was no anomaly. Turnout for young voters this year was around 21 percent, typical for midterms, but the breakdown was disappointing for the left: Exit poll data show that young voters backed House Democrats 54 percent to 43 percent, half the advantage of 2006 and two percentage points lower than in 2010.
Are Democrats losing their grip on the young? Everything is possible!
But in that passage, Bauerlein is mixing an array of statistics—from presidential elections and House elections, from “Republican wave” and “Democratic wave” years, from White House campaigns and mid-term elections.
Everyone knows it’s very risky to compare such statistics from presidential and mid-term elections. That’s especially true in the case of younger voters, who turned out heavily for Obama, tend to stay home for the midterms.
Let’s compare apples to apples! Here are the totals for younger voters in 2010 and 2014. Each was a “Republican wave” mid-term election year:
Voters aged 18-29, House electionsThose are approximations, of course, derived from exit polls. Do you see a major trend playing out in those numbers?
2010: 55 percent Democratic, 42 percent Republican
2014: 54 percent Democratic, 43 percent Republican
Bauerlein doesn’t seem especially good with numbers. Rather quickly, he moves on to this:
BAUERLEIN: Last April, Harvard’s Institute of Politics found a growing gap in party loyalty between younger millennials and older ones. In 2010, 18-to-24-year-olds chose to self-identify as “Democrat” over “Republican” by 15 percentage points, or 38 percent to 23 percent. By 2014, that gap had narrowed to 10 percentage points, 35 to 25, even as older millennials, between 25 and 29 years old, maintained that 15-percentage-point split. What’s more, 18-to-24-year-olds who called themselves “moderate,” not “liberal” or “conservative,” climbed five points, to 31 percent.You can find the full data here. Please note:
In Bauerlein’s passage, we find no data which demonstrate “a growing gap in party loyalty between younger millennials and older ones.” All through his column, Bauerlein is seizing on relatively small changes in data and suggesting that big changes may lurk there.
It seems to us that Bauerlein isn’t especially savvy with numbers. To us, it’s sad that he actually wrote this piece, tragic that the New York Times stampeded off to print it.
Bauerlein enjoys sounding off about how dumb the younger folk are. “Never trust anyone under 60” is more the way we’d phrase it.