Does Bret Stephens' column make any sense?


The thinking of one Trump voter: Does Bret Stephens' column make any sense in today's New York Times?

Stephens interviews a New York City woman (he calls her "Chris") who's going to vote for Trump. She was "enthusiastic for Bernie Sanders in 2016," Stephens writes—and not only that, she's a lesbian!

Despite all this, she's going to vote for Donald J. Trump! Stephens seems to think that Democrats have something to learn from this particular voter.

Personally, we'd like to see Trump voters interviewed much more often. We'd like to see such interviews on CNN and MSNBC.

That said, we don't see any benefit to a lazy effort like this. Stephens has really phoned it in. Here's the start of his presentation of Chris' point of view:

STEPHENS (9/29/20): It’s worth understanding where she’s coming from.

Start with the economy. “I haven’t seen double digit [gains] in my 401(k) since the internet boom of the late ’90s,” she says. “It went up 19.6 percent” in the year before the pandemic. “Look at the stock market,” she says. (Up about 35 percent from four years ago.) “Look at gas prices.” (About the same as what they were when Trump took office, but well below the $3.31 per gallon at the midpoint of the Obama administration.)

The stock market is up under Trump, as is the natural state of affairs. Such comparisons are parlous, but all in all, it looks like it was up more under Obama.

Now consider gas prices. According to Stephens, they're "about the same as what they were" at the end of Obama's tenure. If so, it's hard to see why we should feel that Trump has worked some sort of miracle here. 

For the record, presidents don't set or control the price of gas.  Nor does it make any obvious sense to compare today's gas prices to where they were midway through Obama's tenure, as Stephens does.

Regarding Chris' 401K, she says it went up by 20% last year, as it may have done. That's one plan's gain in one single year. 

A quick search seems to show analysts saying that 401K gains were as good or better under Obama and others. Stephens made no such search.

In short, it's interesting to see what Chris is saying, but Stephens makes no serious attempt to see if her perceptions and claims make sense. At times, he seems to be putting his thumb on the scale in support of her possibly puzzling views.

Next, Stephens presents Chris' negative views about Obamacare. She's still talking about the website snafu. 

At this point, does this really make sense? Meanwhile, Stephens doesn't seek her view about Trump's lack of a health care proposal.

From there, it's on to the pandemic. Why would a newspaper like the Times but bullshit like this in print?

STEPHENS: Then there’s the pandemic. “Is Trump trying to play it down?” she asks. “Yeah. But when this first started, the news media was saying that millions of people were going to die. And look at it: 200,000, compared to the population.”

When the pandemic started, were "the news media" really "saying that millions of people were going to die?" 

Stephens provides a link to one (1) interview at CNBC in mid-March in which one (1) health analyst is pushed into saying that this outcome wouldn't surprise her if worse comes to worse through successive waves of infection over an unspecified amount of time.

That's what one (1) health analyst said in one (1) interview. At that same point in March, Trump himself was saying that millions of people were going to die this year alone if we didn't intervene. But it's absurd to say that "the news media" were making some such general statement. Nor is it clear how that would help us evaluate Trump's performance. 

Stephens really has it on cruise control as this former Sanders enthusiast speaks. Meanwhile, this is Chris' gloomy view of life in Gotham itself:

STEPHENS (continuing directly): What worries her more are the effects of the response to the pandemic in a liberal city like New York. “Crime is in my neighborhood now. There’s a homeless encampment near me that’s growing and growing. They have a living room and a shower curtain and that’s where they go to the bathroom. I have a guy who walks in front of the store every day. In a diaper! And there’s lawlessness coming into the store every day, with an attitude of ‘Who’s gonna stop me?’” Regarding Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, she adds, “I can’t put into words how inept this guy is.”

It's a horrible day in the neighborhood wherever it is that Chris works. For the record, that's a very "Fox News" account of life in These Liberal Cities Today. 

People may well sour on liberal governance to the extent that such descriptions are accurate. That said, did Stephens go where Chris lives and works  to see if her claims make sense?

There's zero sign that he ever did any such thing. What he actually did is just phone her claims in. His work is amazingly lazy. 

There's little point in interviewing Trump voters if you aren't going to make any attempt to fact-check, analyze or evaluate their perceptions and claims. We'd like to see liberals exposed to Trump voters but not in this silly, faux manner..

Voters within our own self-impressed tribe are full of shaky claims too. Meanwhile, the New York Times crawls with vapid work. With these lazy, bumbling efforts, our tribe tries to take out Trump.


  1. "When the pandemic started, were "the news media" really "saying that millions of people were going to die?" "

    On this particular point, dear Bob: we don't care what exactly your goebbelsian dembot media were saying (and still are), but everyone gets the drift of it.

    Your liberal cult was (and still is) inducing a panic. The end of the world, the sky is falling, we all are gonna die.

    And we all appreciate Our Beloved Commander trying to calm it down.

    As for other things, we here don't really care about the stock market. We doubt very much that gas prices were similar under Barry The Demigod, but you're right: that's not what presidents do.

    And the lawlessness advocated by your liberal-hitlerian cult ('defund the police', dear Bob, eh?) is right in front of everyone's eyes, dear Bob. This one will definitely play a role.

    Oh well, we'll see. It's gonna be fun, dear Bob; fasten your seatbelt.

    1. Tell that to the parents of the 200,000 Americans Trump killed through his criminal negligence.

    2. Mao,
      That's nothing. President Deadbeat tried to gaslight the virus, and killed more than 200,000 Americans.

    3. My favorite bit of lawlessness advocated by Bob's liberal-hitlerian cult in the Senate was when they let Trump walk on treason charges without calling a witness.
      At this point, even Bret Stephens fictional voter would struggle imagining a Republican being against treason.

    4. Folks, don't respond to Mao.

    5. Мао - тролль, поедающий дерьмо.

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  2. Ever notice these fictional Trump voters the media are always trying to tell us exist, never mention their love of bigotry?

  3. Somerby Says Bret Stephens doesn't make any sense, but it is the Trump supporter who is making the errors.

    You don't invite someone to tell you their reasons for voting for Trump and then dispute and criticize them. That would be rude and would end the interview immediately. So Stephens is listening respectfully. That's what he should do. But it is clearly the Trump supporter whose statements are nonsensical.

    But Somerby thinks we should spend more time listening to such people! Why? They don't make sense and they won't make any more sense if you keep listening to more of them.

    1. Stephens probably made up the person he is talking about.

  4. Somerby claims Stephens “phoned it in”, but then wishes the media would interview more Trump voters.

    Does he think that other Trump voters would say anything much different than this one?

    And since Stephens himself is a conservative, it’s hard not to imagine that, rather than phoning it in, he is working hard to dampen Democrats’ enthusiasm, rather than offer a sincere bit of advice.

    How did Stephens find this person anyway?

  5. Trump voters talk about economics but that isn't what motivates them.

    What normal person could overlook all of Trump's excesses and defects for the sake of money? How could a genuine human being look at themselves in the mirror if they sold their soul, their sense of right and wrong, down the river for gold? Did no one ever teach them about morals, ethics, to do the right thing? Why do Trump voters have no sense that they are behaving badly and making wrong choices? Why do they all have no conscience when sociopaths are supposed to be only 5% of the population? What accounts for the other 35%?

    We won't find out by listening to them because they don't wear their motives on their sleeves. Given that asking them isn't going to provide info, it is a waste of time and not worth the paper Stephens interview is printed on. Not worth the effort of reading.

    Somerby perhaps hopes to find others like himself, so he won't feel alone in his selling out of his own soul, comrades to justify his actions. Somerby is a wretched person because he hopes to find fellow travelers (Bernie people who have sold out to the devil).

    I've never thought that Bernie supporters were big thinkers or politically astute. Somerby confirms that impression. That they find it easy to slide across to Trumpville suggests there is something else wrong with them, in the center of their chests where the heart ought to be.

  6. I wonder how many Trump-supporting small business owners are out of business now due to covid?

  7. How do you fact check an opinion?

  8. Stephens says:

    “Chris is a registered Democrat in her 50s who lives in Manhattan. She’s well-educated, well-traveled and well-informed. She has voted for candidates of both parties over the years and was enthusiastic for Bernie Sanders in 2016.”

    “If the Democratic Party and its allies can’t hold on to a voter like Chris, who else might they be losing?”

    Not sure Chris counts as “well-informed”, or even a true Dem voter at this point, since She has voted for candidates of both parties over the years. We don’t even know who she voted for in the 2016 general election.

  9. Eric Boehlert tweeted today:

    There are 146M registered voters in US

    NYT published an entire column abt 1 Trump voter...who's anonymous

    it's like a parody at this point;

  10. Thanks Bob. You even did this without saying that those who don't worship the racist, sexist, homophobic, pussy-grabbing grifter are just as bad. It astounds that part of my $76/month helps Stephens pay his mortgage. But i'm not boycotting....

  11. In order for that debate to have been fair, the moderator needed to have the ability to cut Trump's mic.

  12. The moderator asked Trump whether he would tell the white supremacists (Proud Boys) to stand down and he wouldn't say it, he said he would tell them to stand by. That isn't the same thing at all. So, now we know.

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