In what way did this column make sense? Kevin Drum is a nicer guy than we are.
We learned that yesterday. We learned it when we read his post about Alice Garza's guest column in the hard-copy New York Times.
Drum noticed the fact that Garza's column doesn't exactly make any discernible sense. That said, he was basically nice about that fact, and he didn't ask the obvious question:
Why would a newspaper like the Times put such material in print?
Our reaction was somewhat different. This is the way Garza's column began. We'll post our reaction below:
GARZA (5/29/19): During election season, I always cringe when I see candidates eating fried chicken next to a bottle of hot sauce in Harlem or taking staged photos with black leaders. These shallow symbolic gestures are not a substitute for meaningful engagement with black voters. And candidates should know that we see right through them.During election season, Garza always cringes when she sees candidates taking staged photos with black leaders.
Candidates and their campaigns are comfortable talking at black people, but few want to talk to us. This limits our ability to influence their decisions and policies. And it’s a bad strategy at a time when black people, black women in particular, form the base of the Democratic Party, are its most loyal voters and mobilize other people to go to the polls.
That’s why, in 2018, I started the Black Census Project, the results of which we are releasing on Tuesday. More than 31,000 black people from all 50 states participated in what we believe is the largest independent survey of black people ever conducted in the United States.
We're a little bit different. We cringe when we see newspapers like the Times publishing material like this.
As Drum noted, Garza's survey doesn't exactly make sense. It doesn't involve a representative sample, whether of black people on the whole or of some particular segment of the black population.
For that reason, no one can sensibly know what to make of this survey's findings concerning the overall views expressed by its respondents, as Garza does throughout her column.
How unrepresentative were this survey's respondents? Readers of the Times column aren't told, but Drum posted this background information from the survey's web site:
BLACK CENSUS PROJECT: Because traditional surveys too often erase the diverse experiences of Black people and particular segments of the Black community, the Black Census Project intentionally oversampled certain populations: Black Census respondents are younger, more likely to be female, and more likely to identify as LGBTQ+ than the Black population as a whole. The Black Census sample has a higher educational attainment than the adult Black population nationally (nearly a fifth has earned an advanced degree)...As Drum notes, only 8 percent of the overall black population has an advanced degree. It's hard to see what we're supposed to learn when a survey reports the overall views of such an unrepresentative sample.
The Times, of course, didn't notice this problem. Nor did it notice the silliness of passages like this:
GARZA: The most common response among people who were politically engaged was that no politician or pollster has ever asked them what their lives were like. Fifty-two percent of respondents said that politicians do not care about black people, and one in three said they care only a little.So goes Garza's cheer-leading.
Yet this doesn’t stifle our participation in politics. Nearly three in four respondents said they voted in the 2016 presidential election, and 40 percent reported helping to register voters, giving people a ride to the polls, donating money to a candidate or handing out campaign materials. Six in 10 women surveyed reported being electorally engaged. These responses debunk the myth that black communities don’t show up to vote — we do and we bring other people with us.
Meanwhile, Earth to the Times—no politician or pollster has ever asked most people of every demographic group what their lives are like. Also, the fact that people say they voted and drove people to the polls doesn't mean that they actually did so.
Meanwhile, the Times also published this, part of Garza's claim that liberal groups should focus more attention on black voters:
GARZA: [W]hite voters are declining in numbers and advancing in age, while communities of color get bigger and younger. It is illogical to overextend resources to soothe the fears of an aging group, shrinking in size, that is fearful of demographic shifts and oblivious to the ways that policies that lift the boats sinking the fastest will lift theirs too. The Democrats’ approach hurts everyone—including the working- and middle-class white voters who want to see change. Nor is it a winning strategy for a party that claims to embrace progress.Black turnout increased by nearly 11 percent! That's supposed to sound exciting and inspiring. It sounds like that's supposed to identify black voters as the key demographic, the group which is on the rise.
Campaigns that fail to understand or try to remedy the ways structural racism damages black people’s lives are doomed. Without this analysis, their solutions will always miss the mark when it comes to black voters.
Some say that politics is quid pro quo, but that hasn’t been true for black voters. Our turnout in the 2018 midterms increased by nearly 11 percentage points over 2014, and voters in the 2018 election chose from the most diverse pool of candidates ever.
But uh-oh! According to the Census Bureau figures to which Garza links, overall voting rose by more than 11 percent in 2018. Whites, Hispanics and Asian-Americans all showed larger increases in turnout than black voters did. The numbers look like this:
Increase in voter turnout, 2018 over 2014No, it doesn't actually matter, and all those groups are important.
Hispanic folk: 13.4 percent
Asian-American folk: 13.3 percent
White folk: 11.7 percent
Black folk: 10.8 percent
That said, those numbers make black voters look like the stragglers of 2018—and this is the very data set to which Garza links! In these ways, the New York Times makes us all dumber than rocks, pretty much every day of the week.
(For readers of the hard-copy Times, today's "Noteworthy Facts" are just this side of being noteworthily insane. As always, they're on page A3.)
Why would a major newspaper publish material like this? Answer—because it's the Times, and because Garza is saying things which are currently fashionable in the lower-IQ precincts of the upper-end Hamptons! Few things have to make much sense to appear in the New York Times, an upper-class paper which, despite its egghead branding, just isn't real sharp at all.
As a general matter, we don't like Garza's instinct, now quite common within our tribe, to slice and dice the population into atomized parts. This now includes the common practice, displayed in Garza's column, of voicing invidious distinctions between black men and black women. This now-common practice seems to date to silly statistical claims about voter turnout in the Alabama special election which elected Doug Jones.
(Atomized cheer-leading from paragraph 2: This is "a time when black people, black women in particular, form the base of the Democratic Party, are its most loyal voters and mobilize other people to go to the polls." Useless black men, please report to the underside of the bus! Increasingly, this is the way the "assistant professor left" thinks and proselytizes.)
The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Anthropologists say our liberal team was never especially sharp. Sadly reporting from the years which follow Mister Trump's Completely Inclusive War, they tend to cite the New York Times as a prime example of this existential former problem.