Part 1—These alleged millennials today: "Stronger together," Candidate Clinton repeatedly said.
In our view, it was a pretty good slogan. In some ways, it was a version of her husband's earlier campaign watchword:
"We don't have a person to waste."
One candidate won, one candidate lost. Each time, we agreed with the outlook.
That said, to what extent are we the people "together" at this juncture? More specifically, to what extent do we tend to share views on the most sensitive "social issues," on matters of gender and race?
Asking the question a gloomier way, to what extent have we been torn asunder on such issues? More specifically, to what extent do Those People hold retrograde views Over There, as opposed to the principled outlooks found in our own liberal tents?
In recent years, we liberals have tended to develop a gloomy, and perhaps misleading, reflexive approach in these areas. We're strongly inclined to see the glass a few percentage points empty, even when the glass in question seems to be largely full.
Did Clinton say we're "stronger together?" Again and again, it seems we liberals may be inclined to prefer "weaker apart." We seem inclined to stress relatively small amounts of difference, as opposed to larger degrees of agreement. We especially tend to adopt this stance when it lets us denigrate The Others, the lesser folk found Over There.
Alas! Even when The Others largely agree with our own spectacular views, we're inclined to focus on much smaller degrees of difference. In our view, this impulse was played out last week in a pair of intriguing pieces, one at the New York Times, one at the Washington Post.
To what analysis pieces do we refer? One was written by Nicole Lewis, a member of the Washington Post's Intern Class of 2017. The other was written by Professor Vavreck, a contributor at the New York Times' brainiac Upshot blog.
In our view, a familiar type of alarmism seemed to guide each effort. We think our tribe could improve its game by reviewing the preconceptions which seemed to be in play at each piece.
For today, let's start at the Washington Post, where Nicole Lewis, the intern in question, discussed These Millennials Today. We thought our tribe's instinct toward gloom was on display right in the eye-catching headline, which Lewis orobably didn't write:
Think millennials are woke? A new poll suggests some are still sleeping on racism.Are some millennials "still sleeping on racism?" Depending on how you make your assessment, "some" almost certainly are! Presumably, some always will be!
Presumably, there will never be a time when someone fails to be completely "woke" in such complex and difficult areas. An analysis of such matters becomes helpful only when it tells us how many such people we're talking about, and when it tells us to what degree such people remain un-woke.
No doubt, that headline was meant to grab the eyeballs of Post readers. We're assuming the headline was written by a Post editor, not by the intern who wrote the actual piece.
That headline was meant to startle us with a suggestion about These Racist Millennials Today! It did so in the reflexively gloomy way our tribe prefers in these areas.
That said, to what extent are different groups of millennials fully "woke" on race? As we'll note tomorrow, we thought Lewis betrayed a strong instinct to see the glass a tiny bit empty, rather than largely full.
Specifically, she seemed to say that different groups of millennials differed substantially on matters of race. As she engaged in this familiar reflex, we thought she skipped past the most intriguing data in the survey she reviewed.
Meanwhile, we saw no evidence that any group was less than substantially "woke." We saw nothing which would explain that eye-catching, pleasing headline.
Over at the New York Times, Professor Vavreck was exploring a slightly different question. In these highly partisan times, she wanted to know if we the people even agree on what it means to be an American!
"[T]he 2016 election made clear that there isn’t universal agreement on what it means to be an American," she somewhat vaguely, and rather gloomily, said. (Her piece appeared in Saturday's hard-copy Times.) She went on to frisk the views expressed by members of various groups concerning the importance of immigration status, knowledge of English, ancestry and religion.
In our view, the professor's analysis seemed a bit gloomy—and she seemed inclined to place her thumbs on familiar scales. Almost as if by rule of law, she found that Those People, the ones who voted for Donald J. Trump, hold "exclusionary conceptions of American identity" on the basis of their answers to a set of survey questions.
She focused on the (relatively minor) degree to which responses by Trump voters differed from responses by other groups. She referred to the "stark differences" between Trump voters and these various groups, downplaying the fact that their answers agreed with those of the other groups in much larger measure.
Lewis is a Washington Post intern; Vavreck is a professor at UCLA. Despite their differences, we were struck by the degree to which each seemed inclined to overlook substantial points of agreement between different groups among us, the people.
The instinctive creation of Us and Them! It has always been one of our strongest human inclinations. Again and again, we liberals tend to picture the world in this gloomy manner.
We liberals! Are we disinclined, at this point in time, to take yes for an answer? Are we inclined to shun stronger together in favor of weaker apart?
Tomorrow: The data on these sleeping and woke millennials today!