Yep, young people think differently. And they’re wrong.

Reading Nicholas Kristof’s latest column this morning, “Stop the Knee-Jerk Liberalism That Hurts Its Own Cause,” I was reminded of several things. Such as, for instance, Bret Stephens’ column after the Democratic debates last week, “A Wretched Start for Democrats:”

In this week’s Democratic debates, it wasn’t just individual candidates who presented themselves to the public. It was also the party itself. What conclusions should ordinary people draw about what Democrats stand for, other than a thunderous repudiation of Donald Trump, and how they see America, other than as a land of unscrupulous profiteers and hapless victims?

Here’s what: a party that makes too many Americans feel like strangers in their own country….

For liberals out there who want to dismiss whatever Stephens says because he’s a conservative, allow me to tell you why you’re wrong (I’m in that kind of mood): You should listen to Bret Stephens because he is the kind of person who will decide whether Donald Trump is re-elected. Stephens voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 to try to stop Trump. (Several months later, he left The Wall Street Journal, where he was deputy editorial page editor, for The New York Times.)

Stephens has been begging Democrats to nominate someone he — and other conservatives, and independents — can vote for next year. Which is why his column before the one referenced above defended Joe Biden from the criticism he was getting over having worked with segregationists. Joe is a candidate, if not the candidate, non-Democrats can embrace. (The other candidates fell over each other trying to demonstrate that in the debates last week.) Which is an essential prerequisite to turning Donald Trump out of office.

But the association with the Stephens piece was based just on Kristof’s headline. As I got into the piece, I realize it had far more in common with a column written by David Brooks — another of the NYT’s in-house conservatives — two months ago. It was headlined “Understanding Student Mobbists.” I wanted to write about that one at the time, but it was hard to explain without quoting practically the whole thing, and I don’t want the NYT’s lawyers coming down on me for copyright infringement.

So before you read what I have to say about it, I urge you to go read the whole thing.

Then, I urge to go read all of Kristof’s latest piece.

Done? OK, then you probably see what I mean about them having a lot in common.

They’re both about how very, very differently “woke” young people in 2019 think about practically everything, but especially social justice issues. And when I say “think differently,” I don’t just mean holding different opinions, arriving at different conclusions. I’m saying the way they think is different — their brains operate in an entirely different fashion. The little cogs and gears turn in different directions, or whatever metaphor you prefer.

Both Brooks and Kristof bent over backwards to give the kids’ thought processes great deference (something the kinds of people they’re writing about would almost certainly not do with regard to the way these elders think), but neither quite succeeds in hiding how appalled he is.

That’s because the youthful phenomenon they’re discussing is a rejection, by the most fashionable current “progressives,” of fundamental principles of liberalism, principles upon which all the progress that Western civilization has yet achieved depend.

Some key excerpts from the Brooks piece:

I would begin my stab at understanding by acknowledging that I grew up in one era and they grew up in another. I came of age in the 1980s. In that time, there was an assumption that though the roots of human society were deep in tribalism, over the past 3,000 years we have developed a system of liberal democracy that gloriously transcended it, that put reason, compassion and compromise atop violence and brute force….

But certain things happened to cause the young to reject that worldview. The first was a reshaping of the way we talk about race. Then:

The second thing that happened was that reason, apparently, ceased to matter. Today’s young people were raised within an educational ideology that taught them that individual reason and emotion were less important than perspectivism — what perspective you bring as a white man, a black woman, a transgender Mexican, or whatever.david-brooks-thumbLarge-v2

These students were raised with the idea that individual reason is downstream from group identity….

If you were born after 1990, it’s not totally shocking that you would see public life as an inevitable war of tribe versus tribe…

A war being fought not within the moderating institutions of a liberal democracy, but in a Hobbesian state of nature, one assumes.

Anyway, let’s turn to the Kristof piece…

No, wait. First, I want to refer you to a podcast I heard not long after the Brooks piece ran, which provides a nice bridge. It was an episode of “Invisibilia” called, “The End Of Empathy.”

The role of Brooks and Kristof is played in this podcast by co-host Hannah Rosin. Again, if you have time (like, 52 minutes of time), you might want to listen to the whole thing. But to try to encapsulate it for you… A young contributor researched and presented a story for the podcast about a member of the “incel” movement who presents himself as having outgrown that, and is trying to move forward as something other than a woman-hater. But in the end, she — the contributor — can’t bring herself to see things his way and accept his version of himself.

“And why?” she asks. “Like, why should we see ourselves in him?”

Rosen’s partial response (the podcast goes on and on):

Why? Where did I get this idea that my job is to get you to empathize with a guy like Jack Peterson? When I was growing up, empathy was a kind of unquestioned thing. Like, of course, it was good. It was like puppies or sunshine….

I never thought of empathy as an ideology or creed, but I’ve since learned it was. Empathy was this obscure, psychobabble-y term up until the ’60s and ’70s. Social scientists and psychologists started to push it into the culture, basically, out of fear. Their idea was we were either headed for World War III or empathy. We were all going to kill each other or we were going to learn to see the world through each other’s eyes….

That’s what I learned about how you make the world better. Encounter a person you’re unfamiliar with or afraid of or even repulsed by. Don’t duck. Move closer. Figure out what they’re all about….

Starting 10 or 15 years ago, students just stopped buying the automatic logic of empathy. Like, why should they put themselves in the shoes of someone who is not them, much less someone they thought was harmful?

There’ve been surveys given to cross sections of high school and college students starting in the late ’60s….

And starting around 2000, the line starts to dip for all dimensions of empathy – either just understanding someone’s position, which is called perspective taking, and empathic concern, the one about tender feelings. More students start saying it’s not their problem to help people in trouble, not their job to see the world from someone else’s perspective….

Because if you do lose your conviction, you might not have the energy to march in the streets or get better laws to protect women from dangerous exes.

So the new rule is reserve it – not for your, quote, unquote, “enemies” but for the people you believe are hurt or you have decided need it the most – for the victims, for your own damn team. That’s how you make things better….

“Your own damn’ team.” That puts it pretty starkly. Lot of that going around… Now to the Kristof column. He writes of an argument that he had with his daughter while they were tossing around a football (I include that detail for those of you who thing we don’t have enough sports on this blog):

We were discussing a Harvard law professor, Ronald Sullivan. He had been pushed out of his secondary job as head of Harvard College’s Winthrop House after he helped give Harvey Weinstein, accused of sexual assault, the legal representation every defendant is entitled to.nicholas-kristof-thumbLarge-v2

To me, as a progressive baby boomer, this was a violation of hard-won liberal values, a troubling example of a university monoculture nurturing liberal intolerance. Of course no professor should be penalized for accepting an unpopular client.

To my daughter, of course a house dean should not defend a notorious alleged rapist. As she saw it, any professor is welcome to represent any felon, but not while caring for undergraduates: How can a house leader support students traumatized by sexual assault when he is also defending someone accused of rape?…

Progressives of my era often revere the adage misattributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” For young progressives, the priority is more about standing up to perceived racism, misogyny, Islamophobia and bigotry….

Kristof concludes:

As we head toward elections with monumental consequences, polarization will increase and mutual fear will surge. The challenge will be to stand up for our values — without betraying them.

I’ll do like Brooks and Kristof (who at least tried not to judge the young folks) to the extent of saying, of course you defend sexual assault victims, with all your might. But in doing so, you don’t throw out such liberal values as the right of the accused to counsel, or making the effort to see another person’s perspective, or trying to find common ground that you can build on.

If you reject those liberal values, and call yourself “progressive,” your brain isn’t working right. Which is why, in the end, I have to conclude that you’re wrong

97 thoughts on “Yep, young people think differently. And they’re wrong.

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    There’s a related topic that I’d like to explore separately one day.

    I’m normally quite fond of saying that the nature of being human, and the nature of right and wrong as they relate to human behavior, do not change substantially over time. Consequently, when someone tells me I’m failing (or that Joe Biden is failing) to get in step with the times with regard to this or that, I’m inclined to dismiss it as babbling nonsense. The fundamentals don’t change.

    Oh, and people today aren’t essentially better than in the past. Or worse.

    This is not so much a philosophical assertion on my part as one based in my admittedly limited understanding of evolution: recorded history is not long enough for humans to have evolved significantly while it’s been going on, much less within such ridiculously short periods as a decade, or even a century.

    (Don’t misunderstand me: This does NOT mean that a currently fashionable judgment regarding right and wrong, one that was not in fashion a century ago, is invalid. It may be absolutely right, and the old popular judgment completely wrong. But in that case, in my long-held view, it was always right. And the idea that it WAS right had likely existed in some form for a long time before it was fashionable. For instance, it may have taken until 1865 for this nation to acknowledge that slavery was evil. But Founders like John Adams, and even some who PRACTICED slavery, like Thomas Jefferson, had known it at the nation’s beginning.)

    Where was I? Oh, yes…

    I’ve begun to wonder whether everything I just said, about humans and evolution and fundamentals, is completely wrong.

    And this cognitive shift that has occurred among the younger generation, especially among the “woke,” is the thing that makes me wonder about it. This abandonment of reason in favor of passion, of pluralism in favor of tribes, is just too fundamental and too sudden.

    And I suspect something different from the usual culprits, such as a generation’s different political and social experiences.

    One place to look is social media, which has caused a revolution in human expression and thought (or nonthought) that rivals or even exceeds that wrought by Gutenberg. (He was this old dead dude in history, kids.)

    Social media have changed youth in ways one would have thought impossible. Less interest in sex, or at least less engagement in the practice. Less drinking and driving — less driving, period, with kids being far less interested in getting their licences. In fact, less going out and engaging the meat world altogether — in favor of virtual interactions via the web.

    Those shifts indicate a revolution in what it means to be young, something far more profound than a shift in modes of political thought.

    Of course, the shift in empathy that Rosin describes occurred well before Facebook or Twitter — although it did occur well after most of us had started communicating extensively online.

    I dunno. But it would be an interesting thing to explore…

    Reply
  2. bud

    Had to look up “woke”: alert to injustice in society, especially racism.

    Ok. Sounds reasonable to me. So why all the condescension? There IS injustice and racism in society. Why be so dismissive of people who are alert to It? Bret Stephens and David Brooks are just wrong about the young. They see the world through an entirely different prism and that’s ok. It’s Stephens and Brooks who continue to find false equivalency where there is none. It’s Stephens and Brooks who give shade to the Trump administration with their anachronistic and illogical attacks on pragmatic solutions to real problems. The young are the ones who understand the need for healthcare as a right. Brooks and Stephens approach will still leave millions without insurance. The young understand social injustice as a reality that needs to be addressed. Brooks and Stephen approach only give shade to the racists and bullies who speak fondly of the “good” people in Charlottesville; The young clearly understand global warming is REAL and calls for immediate action (It was 83 degrees in Juneau Alaska today, an all time record). The young recognize that corporations that ‘earn’ billions and pay zero in taxes are nothing but moochers. They see gun violence as a scourge. But illegal immigration is a minor problem. They clearly see the absurdity of the USA standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel in it’s mistreatment of the Palestinians as both cruel and reckless. The young see only folly in withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. Stephens has praised the withdrawal even though Iran is now enriching uranium at a much faster rate. The young view the continued maintenance of troops in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan as nothing but a modern day form of imperialism. Brooks and Stephens say withdrawal is reckless, but they are the ones who are detached from reality.

    But why stop with just condescending the young? Not all people that view these as critical issues are folks with unformed brains. Even though I may be young at heart my body lets me know otherwise. And I find the thinking of the young refreshing and positive. It is the Brooks and Stephens of the world who are condescending, confrontational and irrational. They are the ones who live in world that not longer exists if it ever really did exist. Maybe Brooks and Stephens should form a new party. I have a perfect name for it: The Know Nothings.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, come on, Bud. The people who do NOT believe “woke” is a ridiculous word did not invent being concerned about social justice; they only think they did.

      If you don’t see the problem with currently fashionable modes of addressing these problems, after reading the things I suggested and reading what I wrote, then I can’t explain it to you.

      Or to the many others who will object, in all sincerity, to what I’m saying. Some quite vehemently.

      But Brooks and Kristof are writing about a real problem. And it’s a problem that Democrats need to WAKE — not “woke” — up to, or prepare for four more years of Trump. Among other things.

      Last week’s debates demonstrated rather dramatically that most of the Democratic presidential candidates are failing to see this…

      And I find myself wondering whether their own respective bubbles will ALLOW them to see it…

      Reply
      1. Doug Ross

        “Last week’s debates demonstrated rather dramatically that most of the Democratic presidential candidates are failing to see this…”

        All I saw was three old people (Biden, Sanders, and Warren) looking out of touch with the times. Ranting Bernie, Scolding Warren, and Nostalgic, Stumbling Joe are not the solution.

        If there is a problem on the younger end of the spectrum, it is matched by the candidates on the geriatric side of the slate. Would any of us age 55+ think we’re at the peak of our intellectual and physical capabilities? Why would we want someone to run the country who is statistically closer to experiencing mental and physical decline? Or someone who has been insulated from the realities of the real world for literally decades?

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Doug, I don’t know why you are always to anxious to demonstrate that you are — as someone might have said in the ’70s — hip and with it and totally in sync with the kids.

          But if you think it’s people like Kristof who are “insulated from the realities of the real world,” then you are looking at the world through a funhouse mirror.

          No, Doug, I don’t expect a “woke” 25-year-old “to read the Kristof piece, slap his forehead, and say ‘Wait, NOW I GET IT!'” I don’t think he knows enough to do that.

          I do expect more of his elders.

          These people are writing about serious, profound ideas, the very underpinnings of liberal democracy. And if the world thinks it can get along without liberal democracy, the world is even stupider than it looks. And it’s been looking pretty stupid ever since the advent of “reality” television.

          The refusal by large swaths of the electorate to listen to what intelligent, thoughtful, well-read people have to say is what gave us Donald Trump as president of the United States.

          The things these guys have been writing on this subject in recent months is well worth consideration by anyone who is serious about where our country is headed. They’ve made a deep impression on me.

          But I’m just some clueless idiot who is too old to be taken seriously, right? (Thereby cueing the response, “You said it; I didn’t!”)

          Reply
          1. Doug Ross

            I’m not hip, woke, or in sync with younger people. I don’t think like they do. I don’t expect I agree with them on much… but I do recognize that they have a world view that is completely different than yours or mine. I’m open to the idea that I don’t know what it’s like to be 20 or 30 today.

            What I do know is that Joe Biden is part of the generation and the political system that put us exactly where we are today… he did it, not AOC. He did it, not Tulsi Gabbard. He did it, not Mayor Pete. And he did it, not Donald Trump. Why would we give him the keys to the car when he has a track record of driving it off the road (and is now even LESS skilled). Everything that exists today happened on his watch… with his approval in many cases. He voted for the Iraq War. He voted for harsh crime bills that hurt the African American community. He played buddy-buddy with segregationists instead of repudiating them. And if he wants to take credit for Obamacare, than he can own that. Even his own party has decided that was a dud.

            So, no, I’m not hip. But I do listen to a lot of different people every week that cross a very broad spectrum of age groups and demographic groups. Just in the past week, I had 10-15 minute conversations with Uber drivers who were:

            1) An immigrant from Afghanistan who had worked with the military there and had to flee with his wife and children because they were targeted by the Taliban (BECAUSE WE ARE THERE!)

            2) An ex-immigration lawyer (about 40 years old) who now teaches non-fiction creative writing at a college who said he was a lifelong Democrat and would never vote for Biden

            3) A young black male who makes “beats” in his spare time but has focused on supporting his family so he doesn’t have time to do his music much any more

            Just like in 2016 when I realized Trump had a good shot at winning, I don’t see any indication that Biden will win. Other than you and a couple others on this blog, I have not heard a single person claim to be supporting Biden… not on Facebook posts, not in interactions with people in Ubers, bars, airports, etc. Not one.

            Reply
      2. bud

        All you’re doing with this condescending nonsense about how inciteful idiots like Brett Stephens are saying is making people like me even less likely to embrace Biden. Seriously do you really believe this nagging, lecturing crap is going to change anyone’s mind? Do you really believe that? I can tell you it only hardens my antipathy towards these two. I find them to be the problem, most assuredly not the solution. It’s YOU are out of touch if you can’t see how Biden comes across as ridiculously out of step with where we need to go.

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          You seem to be under the impression that being “ridiculously out of step” with those leading the Democratic Party into La-La Land is a bad thing. It is not. It is something that makes you viable in the general election. The one that, after last week’s debates, Trump is more confident than ever of winning. He’s wrong about most things, but he’s onto something in this case…

          But hey, let’s ignore what some of the nation’s brightest public intellectuals say. Let’s look at a run-of-the-mill political analysis, “Democratic candidates veer left, leaving behind successful midterm strategy“…

          If you really want Trump gone, or if you really want Democrats to control Congress, you have to care about this…

          Reply
      3. bud

        If you don’t see the problem with currently fashionable modes of addressing these problems, after reading the things I suggested and reading what I wrote, then I can’t explain it to you.
        -Brad

        Ok now I get it. I’m enlightened. Thank you Brad, you saved me from my wayward ways. I’m forever in your debt. If only I had known. And you once accused me of being condescending. Give me a ****ing break.

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Bud, I wrote the best words I could for explaining what I meant. Kristof and Brooks did, too, and they’re pretty good at this. Hey, they still get paid to do this, so that’s something…

          If I failed, blame me. But I did my best…

          Reply
          1. bud

            Well I will blame you damn it. You’ve written good stuff and I plan to point it out when you do. But this post is perhaps your worst in a long time.

            Reply
            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I think this post actually says more things that need saying than most things I put on the blog.

              It’s been awhile in the making. I’d been pondering the Brooks piece and the Invisibilia podcast for a couple of months, and the Kristof piece yesterday just pulled it together.

              We’re in serious danger of the essential elements of liberal democracy slipping away from us. People need to be conscious of that, and conscious that there’s nothing better coming to replace it…

              Reply
  3. JesseS

    “The kids” are in for the sad lesson that Utopian thinking never works out.

    Some years ago, a younger person and I were having a conversation about Nazi Germany. They asserted that the Nazis were somehow different. They were solely the product of white, antisemitic, imperialist Europe (yet also exclusively inspired by the US). My feelings were that anyone, regardless of their race, sex, gender or creed could become a “Nazi”. For me, it was what I had read over and over again from survivors: It could happen anywhere.

    At this point, the person I was speaking to kinda had a total melt down. There was no way it could happen anywhere and there was no way THEY could ever be a Nazi. Forget the Hutus and Tutsis or Pol Pot. “Nazis” have to be white men. It’s understandable. Most of the go-to historians before consensus history died all wrote before Mao, with a Eurocentric/”western” viewpoint, and by then history was totally weaponized. With no consensus, what can you expect?

    I can remember hearing the response “We have empathy now.” Like empathy had just been invented. They assumed that empathy was key to all and didn’t realize that every time a jury falsely accused a black man of crime it was because the prosecutor was successfully channeling the jury’s empathy. That was the moment I lost most of my hope for the future.

    Reply
    1. bud

      Bologna. Trump won the older voters. Hillary dominated the young. Need I say more about this condescending flaptrap about the young.

      Reply
    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Thanks, Jesse, I appreciate what you’re saying.

      Of course, there IS something especially German about the Nazis.

      I was really startled when I read “The Guns of August” and learned that the Germans were thinking a lot of that stuff long, long before Hitler..,.

      Reply
      1. Mark Stewart

        Rwandans, Burmese, Ottomans, Cambodians … should I go on (and this is just a start on other 20th century examples)?

        Reply
          1. JesseS

            Totalitarianism doesn’t need a specific ideology, neither does genocide. Hitler went right. Stalin went left. Pol Pot kinda went both ways.

            It’s when I hear “Stalin wasn’t a real Communist” that I want to start ripping the wallpaper off with my fingernails and turn into some screeching animal (who is somehow more incoherent than I usually am). It’s not like I’d get a pass if I said, “Oh, those folks during the Inquisition –they weren’t REAL Christians.”

            Reply
  4. Doug Ross

    A couple points:

    1. Based on my Twitter feed, it’s not just young people who think Stephens and Brooks are full of it. Plenty of people I would guess are in their 30’s and 40’s. There was a whole lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth across the board the past few days. Oh, wait, 40 is still young, right?

    2. Other than Kristof talking to his own daughter, how much personal interaction do you suppose Brooks, Stephens, and Kristof have with people more than 30 years younger than they are? Outside your family, Brad, how much of your time is spent talking politics with young people? (And not people on the James Smith campaign staff who are outliers). My guess is that Brooks & Company would be very similar in tone to older opinion writers back in the 60’s who thought those damn hippies were such self centered freaks. My point is their perspective on the world as it is comes from a very closed off bubble… one that is self-affirming…

    3. Do any of these guys actually believe they have the power and the right argument to change people’s minds? That would be the height of conceit. Like some 25 year old is going to read the Kristof piece, slap his forehead, and say “Wait, NOW I GET IT! I have to vote for Joe Biden because he’s the best answer to addressing the needs of this country!” It’s not happening. Best case scenario is the young folks who want Pete or Kamala or Cory or whoever else besides Joe will grumble and (if they show up) pull the lever halfheardtedly for Joe if he somehow survives the next 12 months on the campaign trail. There isn’t an opinion piece yet to be written that will energize the young voters.

    The smartest thing those three could do is pick another candidate besides Joe now while they still have a chance. Once Joe drops to second or third place, there’s going to be a whole lot introspection required to reconcile just how out of touch they are with the Democratic Party.

    Reply
    1. bud

      Yep Biden is losing ground in the polls. A CNN poll has him in free fall at 22%. Harris is up to 17%. Perhaps even a few old folks are tiring of Biden talking nostalgically of segregations from a bygone era.

      Reply
      1. Harry Harris

        Although I think the Biden comments, among other things were misused against him, I have seen other issues that have lowered my support for him. Based on his debate performance, I’m not sure he still has the “think on the feet” acumen needed to carry that torch he’s still clinging to – not as the party standard-bearer. If his depth doesn’t advance much beyond promoting his connection to Obama, I’m definitely out. I’ve gone from Biden-Booker to Booker-Harris or Buttigeig or Warren or Castro or Klobuchar. We need a candidate with solid positions and experience who will think on his/her feet, not pee on them.

        Reply
        1. bud

          The busing issue was extremely unpopular back in the 60s-70s, even in the black community. I remember it well. So it is a bit unfair to be so critical. However, as you point out Biden really has botched his response. And that really is the problem with Biden, he just isn’t sharp at all. Age has taken a toll. I remember his debate with Paul Ryan back in 2012. He was on his game that night. Last week, not so much.

          Reply
        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Biden aside, I’ve always thought people put WAY too much importance on debates and what they say about a potential president’s ability to “think on his feet.”

          Say a candidate is GREAT at “thinking on his feet” in a debate with the cameras and the lights and a stage full of people trying to trip him up, etc.

          And say he gets elected. This “think on your feet” thing is a skill he won’t fully use for another four years, until the next time he’s on a debate stage.

          Oh, he’ll use it to a certain extent during press availabilities, but that’s about it. Most decisions will be made in private with a bunch of people who work for him, not adversaries trying to take him down. There’s very little in the job of president that corresponds to the artificial environment of a campaign “debate”…

          Reply
        3. Brad Warthen Post author

          And Harry, I agree with you that “We need a candidate with solid positions and EXPERIENCE,” which leaves out most of the people you mention.

          It leaves you with MAYBE Klobuchar and Inslee.

          Of course, Warren and Sanders have EXPERIENCE, but they are also possibly the most polarizing two people in the field — not good general election material at all.

          I’d love to have a second, backup choice. But if Joe gets knocked out of it, I can’t see anyone else being the kind of candidate the country needs and will VOTE for…

          Reply
          1. Harry Harris

            Look closely at Booker. He has not only the resume; he has the guts to center his candidacy around grace and coming together, go toward what we need on gun control (bans, buybacks, and registration), and to support phasing-in single-payer and campaign reform. For housing reform, income and wealth inequality, and criminal justice he offers moderate, but difference-making proposals.

            Reply
  5. bud

    And by the way it was the young Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and other young Democrats in congress who found out that detainees at the border are forced to drink water out of toilets. Not Joe Biden. Not Bret Stephens. Not David Brooks. Frankly I’m sick and tired of hearing all this misguided criticism from Brooks and Stephens. If they want to be helpful then condemn the Republican Party in it’s entirety and not pretend there is anything worthwhile left of this tawdry criminal enterprise. Just look at all the Republicans in congress who are under indictment. Serial philanderer Congressman Duncan Hunter for campaign finance violations. Congressman Chris Collins for insider trading. GOP nominee for congress Mark Harris in NC was caught tampering with the voting process. Harris own son testified against him. Then of course there’s IA congressman and serial racist Steven King who was stripped of his congressional committee seats. And best of all the revolving door of Trump cabinet appointees in and out of the swamp. It’s clear that the young Democrats in congress are a refreshing breath of fresh air. Brooks and Stephens continue with their polluted and reckless false equivalency campaign. They are the real detriment to the norms of American society, not the young.

    Reply
      1. Barry

        Maybe so but I’ll take but Duncan “family values” Hunter’s behavior is flat out awful

        Multiple affairs using campaign money

        Lying about it and lying about it on campaign disclosure documents.

        Blaming his political opponents as if they forced him to cheat on his wife with multiple women.

        Lying about it again and publicly blaming his wife.

        Classy guy.

        Reply
        1. Doug Ross

          I don’t disagree. He should have been gone a long time ago. But Omar should as well. There are no “levels’ of being unethical. You are or you aren’t.

          Reply
    1. David T

      “it was the young Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and other young Democrats in congress who found out that detainees at the border are forced to drink water out of toilets.”

      Which has already been proven wrong, why does anyone bother listening to this nutjob? I hope she enjoys her last year in Congress, because I think everyone, including those that elected her, are tired of her ignorance.

      https://www.businessinsider.com/photo-hybrid-toilet-drinking-fountain-cbp-centers-2019-7

      Reply
      1. Doug Ross

        The smartest move Trump could make right now would be to offer to meet with AOC.. give her the perception of power so that Pelosi would have to continue to fight with her. Trump can’t lose in that scenario. If AOC refuses to meet, she comes off as only caring about the politics and not the solutions. If she meets with Trump and he comes out of the meeting and says how great she is and throws her some concession on the border, then Pelosi has a headache on her hands for the next 18 months.

        Reply
  6. Harry Harris

    Where to begin?
    For starters, those unempathetic, intolerant young people didn’t raise themselves. If you have a problem, dole-out some blame to the aging, all-wise group who raised them. As a 71 year old person who’s been “woke” since 1968, when I happened to be a young person, I see condemning tendencies among all ages – and have to face many of them in myself daily. I also see uplifting behaviors and attitudes along the same age continuum. I’ve witnessed a generation of world-changers who helped make a lot of progress sell out to a pervasive materialism that has poisoned the minds of generations that some want to label as Xers, and Y’s and millennials. I’ve seen gaining power corrupt many of the most idealistic and talented and lure them into lifestyles of entitlement and excuses. I’ve seen them pass it on to their own children. Most horrifying, I’ve battled with those same tendencies in myself, knowing better, but allowing only the small helpings of power I’ve had successfully corrupt.
    Even as a person who knows our need for and who constantly calls for a sense of community, I often join the dialectic. Though not wanting to advance polarization, sometimes I see it as the only means available to undo some injustice, and give victims (and there are victims) a better chance. More often than not, I side with the younger advocates – but never those who use or excuse violence.
    What Sir Brooks should try to understand is that acquiescence to a point of view he advocates doesn’t define reasonableness or effectiveness; it could be only one of several prudent approaches. His view may also be a heap of well-presented dung. What younger people may need to understand is the power of backlash against good, “progressive” developments. Writers and thinkers like David Brooks may be the least likely to convince them.
    If Democrats nominate a candidate who can advance a strong set of ideas for substantial change and sell those ideas, he or she will win – even if called the usual names by Republicans and their allies. If that candidate can also inspire altruism and hope among varied generations, the Republican fear machine will be crippled.

    Reply
  7. bud

    Let me just point out one thing about Brett Stephens. He was a huge advocate of the Iraq war. THAT alone destroys his credibility. He has none. Zero. Nada. So anything he writes criticizing anyone about anything MUST be taken within the context of his absolute horrible judgement in supporting that disaster.

    Reply
  8. Mr. Smith

    This post is an example of massive over-generalization driven by its own sort of “perspectivism.” In other words, it is what it criticizes and dabbles in polarization of its own, of a generational kind: Trust no one under 40, or maybe 50, or perhaps 60 – because their brains don’t work right.

    Reply
    1. bud

      Well said. I can only speak for myself but when I read Stephens NY Times column my blood started to boil. His lecturing style is really counterproductive to any merit he may have on the substance.

      Reply
  9. Mark Stewart

    So not that long ago “Progressivism” was the idealistic edge of “Liberalism” – or so I thought…

    Maybe the best way to reconcile these ideas would be to acknowledge that they are of the same basic thing instead of defining them as oppositional? That’s just my two cents; let’s let groups coalesce around their own self-styled identities without tossing them out of the civic society van. We can have conservative Liberals like Brad and progressive Liberals like Bud. Hey, we can even have Republican Liberals, and Progressive Republicans, too, on board!

    We need a big, inclusive tent to defeat the one urge that this country cannot abide – the small-minded, corrosive reactionary impulses of Trump and his zombie posse of doom. This country needs more leaders who can define the vast array of people across this nation as compatriots regardless of their individual differences of outlook, and we need those leaders to make clear to the vast majority the malignant myopia of the selfish, fearful few.

    Reply
    1. David T

      “the small-minded, corrosive reactionary impulses of Trump and his zombie posse of doom”

      Yet this country is doing better economically than it has in decades. The only people unhappy are those who voted for Hillary Clinton and celebrated her upcoming landslide victory on election night. Unemployment overall and minority unemployment are at record lows, industry is trickling back into the US and not to China and 3rd world countries. Trump isn’t trying to be other leader’s best friend and let them take advantage of him. If you cross him, he lets you know. He’s what this country needs, a leader. He’s not your warm and fuzzy, come give me a hug if your feelings are hurt type of leader. And unless the Democrats can figure out which of their two dozen candidates will bring him down he’ll be our leader for another four years.

      Reply
      1. Mark Stewart

        Yeah, well not much to say to that. Except…

        * When Obama was in office Trump supporters (and Trump) said the economy has nothing to do with the current president (that is generally a correct assessment btw).
        * Trump is an imbecile, a ignoramus and a narcissist – and also one heck of a con man. True facts.
        * High tariffs NEVER work. In fact, tariffs are simply taxation of ourselves. Again, it’s a real bright idea.
        * Every single political leader of standing on the world stage has taken advantage of Trump. Look it up.
        * Trump is a bully. Full stop. This doesn’t mean that he is tough, quite the opposite; it underlies his absolute weakness and susceptibility to childlike flattery.

        Trump is a cancer on America. If anyone needs just one example look at the 4th of July perversion Trump has twisted up.

        Trump is not a leader. He may have followers, but he has nowhere to lead them. I empathize with their plight, however, and stand ready to offer a helping hand to anyone trapped in the Trumpian quicksand.

        My derision is reserved for the Republican Party (and it’s elected officials) for the willingness to pretend Trump’s mental illness is normal politics and not the sad situation that it is. We are not in the normal ebb and flow of our two-party political system. We are facing an existential threat to our Constitutional Republic. The best case, long term result of this unfortunate episode is the high likelihood that the Republican Party is going to permanently tear itself apart. But maybe a reordering of our political landscape wouldn’t be the worst outcome – that would be a descent into dictatorship…

        Reply
        1. Doug Ross

          “We are facing an existential threat to our Constitutional Republic.”

          Haven’t you been saying that for 2.5 years? When do we stop facing it and it actually happens? In 2021 in Trump’s second term.

          The thing is everyone who thought Trump was going to be awful has to keep doubling and re-doubling down on that take or else admit they were wrong. It hasn’t been anywhere close to as bad as some people predicted. I travel all around the country and I just don’t see people on the streets, in the airports, anywhere looking as miserable as Trump haters would suggest it is.

          Reply
          1. Mark Stewart

            Doug, it has happened; we are in it.

            You make the same mistake common to a number of other people, you look around at the world before you and that’s what you “see.” I totally agree that things for most people are just fine, which was true even at the height of the last recession. But that’s not what I am talking about. Existential was a word I chose to use on purpose, it has a specific meaning.

            America has never faced this kind of assault on our core principals. I saw Vladimir Putin up close once; the man radiated evil and ruthlessness. I don’t see Donald Trump that way, I just see a mentally ill person who has two exceptional strengths – he is persistent and he is an image-maker. The real issue is what we allow to happen at his direction and in his name, the trampling of our norms, values, rights and principals – that’s the assault we enable Trump and his sycophants to perpetrate.

            There is no point in listing the individual Constitutional outrages for you, they would only be rebuffed with something about “term limits” or some other bugaboo, no?

            As we have long discussed, America has had a number of sub par Presidents, especially through the 1800s. But we have never had anyone anything like Trump. I don’t doubt that some people will be pleased to vote for Trump again in the next election. But if he wins we will have broken our country – not Trump, us. We make the existential Constitutional crisis – and we can, together, head it off.

            Reply
            1. David T

              I love it when people try to explain to me why my opinion is wrong and theirs is right. They try to convince me that their opinion is based on fact when it’s clearly based on their opinion or their twist of the facts. The same people are the types that look at someone like Bernie Sanders and see “leadership”.

              Reply
              1. Mark Stewart

                What gave you the impression I would try to convince you of anything?

                Nearly everything discussed on this blog is about opinion, perspective and outlook. The farther these diverge from truthfulness, the wider the spectrum of readers who disagree. That said, truth is not a popularity contest. Truthfulness has a lot in common with ethics and morality, and is of a different conception than “facts.”

                If I have any goal here on Brad’s blog other than to amuse my mind, broaden my perspective and to engage in the opportunity to thoughtfully consider alternate perspectives it would be to offer a pursuasive argument for others to consider; “convincing” anyone of anything is not even on my radar – and at this stage of my life I think that’s a fool’s errand anyway.

                Reply
            2. Doug Ross

              “which was true even at the height of the last recession. ”

              Seriously? If you think it’s as bad today from a country-wide psyche perspective, you are crazy. It was terrible then. People were miserable, afraid for their futures… it isn’t close to that now.

              Now, all we have are a very vocal minority of people who are outraged that Trump won and won’t stop until everyone else agrees with them. How is your life worse today than it was 2.5 years ago? Let’s not talk about existential, unmeasurable, unseen zeitgeist mumbo jumbo that you think you sense. You’re not the nation’s swami.

              The Watergate era was worse. The entire Bush second term was worse than the past 2.5 years and caused more long term global problems than Trump has. We survived those past bad Presidents and will survive Trump. If he makes it through one term and loses next year without anything else changing significantly in the next 18 months, then the Trump presidency will be remembered as nothing but a media circus.

              Reply
              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                “How is your life worse today than it was 2.5 years ago?”

                What a libertarian question. I can’t imagine even spending a moment thinking about such a thing.

                Of course, Doug dismisses the things that matter as “mumbo-jumbo.”

                The question is one or all of the following:

                • “Do we have the worst president in the history of the United States?”
                • “Is he undermining our relationships with the rest of the world?”
                • “Does he reject fundamental assumptions about what this country stands for, and encourage others to do so?”
                • “Does he make us ashamed to have our children see that we have chosen such a man to lead us?”
                • “Is our 243-year experiment in liberal democracy dying before our eyes?”
                • “What profound mental and spiritual sickness in our country caused people to vote for this man? How do we overcome that, and cause voters to have greater respect for the ‘better angels of our nature’ going forward, once this abomination is out of office?”

                If you wanted to make the very idea of America die, you would put someone like this in the White House. And that is infinitely more important than “how’s your personal life doing?”

                Reply
                1. bud

                  Brad I largely agree with you about Trump. But those bullet points really are nothing but highly subjective personal observations. Especially this: “Do we have the worst president in the history of the United States?”

                  I dunno, maybe. But at least offer something tangible to back up such a claim. Plenty of pro-Trump people would argue he’s one of the best presidents. Their opinion counts as much as yours without backup. You will never win an argument with unsubstantiated platitudes. Heck the whole caging kids and making people drink out of toilets goes a long way toward making him really a terrible president. But so did Dubya’s lying us into war.

              2. bud

                Seriously? If you think it’s as bad today from a country-wide psyche perspective, you are crazy.
                -Doug

                Crazy? Uh, not so much. From The Smithsonian:

                On average, life expectancy across the globe is steadily ticking upward—but the same can’t be said for the United States. Three reports newly published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlight a worrying downward trend in Americans’ average life expectancy, with the country’s ongoing drug crisis and climbing suicide rates contributing to a third straight year of decline.

                https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/us-life-expectancy-drops-third-year-row-reflecting-rising-drug-overdose-suicide-rates-180970942/

                Reply
                1. Doug Ross

                  So it’s a trend that started before Trump… during the Obama administration. Surely you don’t think all those drug overdoes are a result of Trump… They’re not.

        2. Barry

          I talked with a friend of mine this weekend who is a Trump supporter. He is a good, smart guy and admits he hsecond guesses himself constantly about Supporting Trump.

          We had a good conversation. I asked him if he thought Trump was intentionally pitting Americans against each other.

          He surprised me by saying he thought Trump’s actual goal was to create as much polarization between Americans as possible and he admitted that he thought Trump would ratchet it up next year even more. He also said he thought in the long run it would very much damage America (and admitted we are already there in many respects)

          Reply
          1. Doug Ross

            And I have multiple people on Facebook who responded to my post about supporting Tulsi Gabbard with clear explanations of why they will vote for Trump. These are regular people my age. Two from SC and the other from MA. One said she would never vote for a candidate who supports Medicare for All because her first year experience trying to deal with the administrators on a specific set of procedures has been worse than anything she experienced with private insurance.

            This is a typical point of view of these Trump voters when I mentioned watching the debates — how do Democrats flip someone with these opinions? Unlikely.

            Note – this was posted by a woman.

            “Interestingly, there were no American flags present on the stage during an event of potential candidates who want to represent America. Not one.
            When asked for a raise of hands who would provide free healthcare for illegals, every single one of them raised their hand. Who pays for that? Us. Raise taxes. How many Americans don’t have health insurance?
            They want to wipe out student debt. Who pays for that? Us. Raise taxes.
            They are anti ICE, anti police, anti gun. They said ICE needs an overhaul, that they should be more humanitarian. What are they, counselors? Have any of the candidates been to the border (where it wasn’t staged)? Why did Democrats support border security under Obama, but not now?
            Democrats aren’t pro-America. They are pro everyone-but-America. They are running on a Trump hate platform and promising a lot of free stuff. At whose expense?
            Harris is playing the race card at a time when employment is at an all time high for blacks.
            Can’t remember which one said the first thing they would do is get back into the Iran deal. The same deal where Obama (with Biden) gave pallets of money to Iran to build bombers that just took down our drone. We gave them the money to blow that up.
            Democrats have ignited and promoted civil unrest since day 1. Remember the riots? Remember the pink hat protesters whose leader was a woman who supports Shiria law.
            They are pro full term abortion.
            Democrats have done absolutely nothing for the US since Trump has been in office to move America forward. They wasted millions of dollars chasing a false allegations. Imagine if that money was used for something productive, like adoptions for the babies people want to abort, or putting the money into schools, or mental health.
            None mentioned bringing US manufacturing jobs back. I love it that things are once again made in the USA. Where is their support for that?
            President Trump doesn’t take a paycheck and look at all he has done for the US, while AOC, for example, just asked for a raise. She has done nothing.
            Trump gets my vote in 2020.”

            Reply
            1. Barry

              Medicare is very popular. My dad is as conservative as it gets and his experience with Medicare has been great. His words, not mine.

              I think most people on Medicare prefer it.

              No doubt most Trump supporters are going to vote for Trump. I don’t know anyone that would disagree with that fact.

              Democrats have to get their voters to the polls. Hillary did have more votes than Trump.

              So the focus has to be getting just a few more people to the polls in 3- 4 key states. Do that and Trump supporters can travel to Trump Tower on their yearly religious pilmigrage and Worship him there complete with hypocrites like Robert Jeffress and Jerry Falwell washing his feet and backside for him for the rest of their lives.

              Reply
      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yeah, the economic growth we’ve experienced since early in the Obama administration has continued, so he hasn’t succeeded in screwing THAT up.

        But I couldn’t care less. And I’ll never understand how anyone could excuse such a grossly unfit creature who every day further degrades the presidency just because they think the economy’s doing well. That floors me. If I had become a billionaire in the last two years and believed it was because of Trump’s policies, I’d still push with all my might to see him turned out of office as soon as possible.

        Oh, and this? “The only people unhappy are those who voted for Hillary Clinton and celebrated her upcoming landslide victory on election night.”

        That’s not true. I know it’s very important for Trump supporters to believe that, but it isn’t true.

        Reply
        1. Harry Harris

          Yes, but he and the Republicans are shifting it to an economy built on debt. Obama’s tenure decreased the deficit from the first (Bush budget) year from 1.2 T to under 500B, while allowing the gdp grew, unemployment was reduced by half, and the stock market more than recovered. Now the deficit has exploded based on the unnecessary and skewed tax cuts.

          Reply
            1. Harry Harris

              I read it. The article cites some interesting methodology and seems to present fact-based statements. I don’t see where it is contrary to what I stated.

              Reply
            2. Bob Amundson

              Great article! Yes, President Obama did increase the debt, which is a fiscal economic policy approach to help recover from a recession/depression.

              From the same website: Trump and the National Debt: Instead of Eliminating the Debt, Trump Will Add $8.3 Trillion.

              “During the 2016 presidential campaign, Republican candidate Donald Trump promised he would eliminate the nation’s debt in eight years. Instead, his budgets would add $9.1 trillion during that time. It would increase the U.S. debt to $29 trillion according to Trump’s budget estimates.”

              Basic fiscal economic policy indicates deficits should decrease when the economy is doing so well. Deficits are always a concern to me, but President Trump’s tax cuts are ill advised at best. I am an advocate of disruptive change, but not stupid, ill thought out disruptive change.

              Reply
              1. David T

                So when Obama did it, it’s “recession recovery”, when Trump does it, it’s “piling on debt”. Is that what you’re saying?

                Reply
                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  I think so.

                  Maybe it would make more sense to you if you remove the names and personalities from it.

                  Forget Obama and Trump, and look at the situations.

                  The stimulus and other spending at the time were in response to the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Current deficit spending is occurring within the context of a more than decade-long recovery — a time when a sensible person would be trying to pay down some of that debt incurred in the bad times…

                2. Bob Amundson

                  I suppose that’s what I’m saying, although my larger point is about sound economic policy. President Trump’s fiscal and monetary policy actions are non-traditional, yet so far there have been no obvious severe consequences. Historians will discuss whether President Obama and/or President Trump were responsible for this longest economic recovery. Right now, it appears the recovery clearly favors the “haves” versus the “have nots.”

                3. Brad Warthen Post author

                  “Historians will discuss whether President Obama and/or President Trump were responsible for this longest economic recovery.”

                  Historians may do that, but I will continue to be skeptical as to the degree they deserve credit or blame.

                  The thing is, Obama pretty much responded the way Bush was doing. Both did so from within the realm of consensus about sound economic policy — while Trump acts on his whim of the day.

                  And of course, the Bush/Obama approach gave us the populist backlash of the Tea Party and Trump and Bernie and Warren, etc….

  10. bud

    One more item of business before I leave this soul sucking post behind. Only say yes or no without elaboration. This is aimed mostly at Brad, Brooks and Brett: Would you vote for Elizabeth Warren against Trump if she is the Democratic nominee?

    Reply
    1. David T

      I wouldn’t vote for that American Indian Elizabeth Warren, oh wait, anymore than I’d vote for for that African American Kamala Harris, oh wait. This is nothing more than copycatting Rachel Dolezal.

      Reply
    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I suppose I’d have to. And then I’d hunker down and await the storm that would come with a President Warren.

      I’d probably oppose most things she’d try to do (she wouldn’t succeed in her wilder plans; I don’t think Doug has anything to worry about), and hope against hope that she hired a national security team that knows what it’s about (Gen. Mattis is available), since she seems uninterested in the world outside of ambitious domestic programs.

      It would be a miserable four years, although maybe not as awful as the constant partisan warfare we’d have had to endure if Hillary won, given the GOP’s deep and profound hatred of her. On the other hand, Hillary was qualified to deal with the national security stuff, and I feel fairly certain Warren is not.

      But we’d no longer have a pathologically lying, malevolent, vindictive sleazeball who deliberately undermines our fundamental institutions, moves like a bull in a china shop through our international relations and is a fanboy to dictators everywhere, a guy who spends every waking hour degrading the presidency, with every word and action.

      And that would be a plus…

      Reply
      1. Doug Ross

        I would suspect Warren would be Trump’s first choice for an opponent. Which states that are in play would go for her? Does she energize the black and Hispanic vote? Doubtful.

        Reply
  11. Doug T

    Chiming in, Other than my man Joe I would have a difficult time voting for anyone else other than maybe Bennett. I would probably stay home.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      If Joe isn’t the Democratic nominee, the only hope I see for the country is for someone to mount a strong third-party campaign — one that can attract traditional Republicans and independents who lean Republican.

      I have no idea who in the world that would be…

      Reply
      1. Harry Harris

        You might want to expand your knowledge of other candidates, not just go off your hunches and caricatures you’ve seen. There’s a good spectrum of candidates among the Democrats. Joe needs to pick up his game considerably to lift my confidence level again. He can start by dropping the reliance on “Obama and Me ” and get better-versed on some policies as well as developing the ones he’s mentioned in more detail.

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Actually he doesn’t usually say “Obama and me.” He says something more like “My buddy Barack and me.” :)

          Oh, I’ve been paying attention to the candidates. And why? Because I don’t like having everything in one basket. As much as I like Joe, I’d really like a backup plan, because all sorts of things can go wrong when you start out as such a dominant front-runner this early.

          But I haven’t run across anyone who fits the bill.

          This isn’t because of “hunches and caricatures.” It’s based on the fact that no one possesses certain attributes that I consider to be prerequisites — such as having been on the national stage long enough to be tested, and for us to make informed judgments about their performances.

          Warren and Sanders have been on the national stage long enough for such judgments, and on the whole the judgments they have prompted are not positive ones.

          Buttigieg and maybe Booker have some good qualities, but I haven’t seen enough. And while Buttigieg is perhaps the MOST impressive candidate in personal appearances, his resume is WAY too thin. Booker, at least, is a U.S. senator.

          In between I’d put Klobuchar and Inslee — solid resumes, and I’m seeing some good things… but I haven’t seen nearly enough.

          Joe’s ready for the job. I know that. I can’t say that with confidence about anyone else…

          Reply
          1. Harry Harris

            I’m convinced Biden is ready for the job; I’m just not sure he’s ready for the campaign. If he runs as lame a campaign as Hillary did, he could lose even to Trump, but I don’t think he’d even get the nomination. I’ve been a follower since the mid 90’s and met him twice in person. One on one, he is a good listener, and will engage even a small fish like me. I’m becoming convinced he and his staff are not preparing well enough to handle the inevitable criticism from rival candidates and the pundits out to do him harm.

            Reply
            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              “I’m becoming convinced he and his staff are not preparing well enough to handle the inevitable criticism from rival candidates…”

              That’s the thing… You can’t prepare for the thing that happened in the debate with Kamala Harris. There’s no way for an old white man to respond to, “Well, I was a little black girl, and I was bused, therefore…”

              That’s because she’s playing by the new rules, part of this generational shift in cognition I’m talking about. It’s not about, “Was federally-ordered busing an effective and fair means of achieving integration?” It’s “What group do you belong to, and does the experience of that group make what you have to say more legitimate?”

              In her case, of course, it’s also about PERSONAL experience more than group experience. But does the experience of a child being bused have more force than that of someone who was an adult and wrestling with the overall issue at the time? To many — especially the younger people on the left — it does.

              This gets more interesting when you dissect what was SAID, or actually how little was said. Here’s what Kamala Harris said:

              But, I also believe—and it’s personal. And I — I was actually very — it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on segregation of race in this country. And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose bussing. And you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bussed to school every day and that little girl was me. So, I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among democrats. We have to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly. As attorney general of California, I was very proud to put in place a — a requirement that all my special agents would wear body cameras and keep those cameras on….

              (We’ll forgive the NYT for repeatedly misspelling “busing” in their transcript.)

              Do you notice that at no point does she argue that busing was a good thing, and that she knows that because she was bused? No, she just says she was bused. She just establishes HER privilege to speak authoritatively on the subject, and does not offer an opinion as to whether it was good or bad for her and other kids to have that experience. And then she moves on to body cameras. (The transition seems jarring, but I think I know why she saw a connection: “Don’t debate! Act!”)

              Later, she implies that busing must have been good because she demands that Joe admit he was wrong to oppose busing. To which he responds that he opposed federally mandated busing. (The busing Kamala Harris experienced happened on the initiative of the local school board.)

              Basically, the two senators were not involved in a policy debate. In fact, she said herself that “it cannot be an intellectual debate.” And it wasn’t. She launched a big emotional torpedo — little girl of color vs. white man who hung out with segregationists!

              And she won the point — in fact was widely said to have won the debate — on that basis. She blew observers away! But what did she win? Where was the policy argument, beyond the huge implication that Joe was somehow opposed to integration, he and his segregationist buddies (the fact that she had just said “I do not believe you are a racist” notwithstanding?

              Now what, exactly, is the prepared response to a broadside like that? He was prepared to talk about the segregationists business, and he tried trotting that out, but hey — it was the wrong answer to what happened.

              This is likely to happen again, because Joe is an old white man and there’s no way he can change that fact. There are many “legitimacy of my experience”-type attacks that can be launched at him, if his opponents are inclined to do so. And what is the effective response?

              Well, he’ll be ready for this precise thing next time. But next time, it will probably take some different form….

              Reply
              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Or, to make it all much simpler, how does a grown man answer the suggestion that a “little girl” found his comments “hurtful?” Well, he can’t. He’s lost the point right there…

                Reply
              2. bud

                You really don’t get it do you? Biden is just way out of touch with the 21st century. He will never make an effective leader because he doesn’t appreciate that he lives in a different time. We’re not fighting the cold war anymore. We’re not fighting for desegregation of schools. We’ve move beyond that at Biden simply has not caught up. This campaign is about a far more nuanced world where injustice is subtle and beneath the surface. Biden comes across as a crotchety old man who wants to fight the cold war and pretend he’s dealing with openly bigoted old white men. It’s amazing he even holds sway to the extent that he does in 2019. I guess there are plenty of old people who long for the good old days. But it’s time to move forward. Time to address new challenges. Biden can never do that. Heck I’m starting to wonder whether Biden can stand on the debate stage without having to take a potty break every 10 minutes. He just comes across as that old, tone death and clueless. Maybe he will win the primary and the election. But he has very little chance of being a good POTUS.

                Reply
                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  “Biden is just way out of touch with the 21st century.”

                  Yeah, I agree. The 21st century is pretty screwed up. We don’t have to look any farther than the 2016 election to understand that. I appreciate that Joe is willing to step out there and take all this abuse in order to try to restore some sanity to the country.

                  Which, of course, is his main message. And it’s the right one…

              3. Mr. Smith

                “Was federally-ordered busing an effective and fair means of achieving integration?”

                As one who lived through it, busing was the ONLY way of achieving desegregation. That’s the subtext to what Harris was saying. Her personalization of the issue was meant to lend her credibility — in other words: for her it’s not merely an abstract concept. She wasn’t playing identity politics, as you’re making it out to be. I know you want to bend things to fit that mold – especially if it works to Biden’s advantage. But that’s just wrong. And on the matter of busing, so was he. He needs to admit as much, rather than playing the dodge continuing to insist on his righteousness.

                Quote from 1975 Biden: “The new integration plans being offered are really just quota systems to assure a certain number of blacks, Chicanos, or whatever in each school. That, to me, is the most racist concept you can come up with. What it says is, ‘In order for your child with curly black hair, brown eyes, and dark skin to be able to learn anything, he needs to sit next to my blond-haired, blue-eyed son.’ That’s racist!”

                A southern segregationist could’ve said something quite similar at the time. Biden in 1975 was falling short of Judge Watties Waring’s realization – from 20 years earlier! — that “segregation is per se inequality.” It’s disappointing that we have to revisit this debate all over again now, over 40 years later. But apparently we do.

                Reply
          2. Mr. Smith

            1) Retail politics counts for next to nothing at the national level. Biden may be very personable, but being good at listening face-to-face will in general get you ONE additional vote. 99.9% of voters will never have a one-on-one encounter.

            2) More importantly, Clinton lost largely because of the enthusiasm gap. I can easily see Biden falling into the same electoral hole – with the same outcome.

            Reply
  12. Doug Ross

    From the CNN interview with Joe Biden:

    BIDEN: “Look at what’s happening with Putin. While Putin is trying to undo our elections, he is undoing elections in Europe. Look at what’s happening in Hungary, look what’s happening in Poland, look what’s happening. You think that would happen on my watch or Barack’s watch? You can’t answer that, but I promise it wouldn’t have, and it didn’t.”

    Glad we have that settled finally…

    Reply

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