TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2020
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.