More Unsolicited Advice From New York Magazine

I’m a digital subscriber to New York Magazine. Their cultural coverage is superb. I have mixed feelings, however, about the Intelligencer section and the pundits who write for it. Earlier this week I dunked on Jonathan Chait. My colleague Jamie O called him a dipshit centrist in July. This time, my ire is focused not on Chait but on his colleague Eric Levitz who offered this piece of unsolicited advice: The Case for Biden To Drop Kamala Harris.

Levitz has a bad case of a malady that’s reached epidemic proportions among squeamish center-left pundits. Let’s call it the Joe Biden is too damn old fever. His cure is an odd one: Dump Kamala. His logic, such as it is, escapes me. Will dumping the Veep make the president younger?

Levitz’s case for dumping Harris is based on recent polls:

“… most Democratic operatives believe that sticking with Biden is the party’s best option. And it’s hard to argue with this assessment for a simple reason: However bad Biden’s numbers are, Vice-President Kamala Harris’s look worse. A CBS News–YouGov poll released last week found 42 percent of Americans saying that the job Harris is doing makes them think worse of the Biden administration, compared to just 18 percent who said it makes them feel better about the White House. Among independents, 48 percent said worse and only 9 percent better. Even among Democrats, only 41 percent said Harris made them think better of the administration. At the same time, only 30 percent of Democrats said that they felt “enthusiastic” about Harris being Biden’s running mate.”

Levitz goes on to damn POTUS with faint praise:

There is little doubt that prejudicial conceptions of race and gender have some bearing on her unpopularity. But this reality does nothing to reduce the hazards of running a broadly unappealing candidate against Donald Trump. Nevertheless, were Biden to step down, Harris would become the Democratic front-runner. Biden’s own election testifies to the power of vice-presidential bona fides in a Democratic primary. And the sense that the nomination rightfully belongs to Harris would only be further accentuated by her status as the Oval Office’s sitting heir apparent.

Yet her conspicuous weaknesses would ensure a contested primary. Therefore, the end result of Biden stepping down would be a long, divisive intraparty contest that would quite likely yield a nominee even more unpopular than Biden. Given this outlook, the Democrats are well advised to stick with the incumbent president who’s already proven capable of defeating Trump, his advanced age notwithstanding.

This argument is based on a fallacy that pundits should stop advancing. People vote for the top of the ticket, not their second banana.

I remember pundits urging Poppy Bush to dump J. Danforth Quayle in advance of the 1992 election. As a former Veep, Bush understood that Quayle was irrelevant to his political prospects. It was up to him to win or lose the election. He lost because of a recession: dumping J. Danforth wouldn’t have made a damn bit of difference.

Levitz’s entire column shows the flaws of poll based analysis. He grudgingly admits that dumping Harris could damage the ticket with Black women, but he relies on polling data to escape the corner he painted himself into.

Repeat after me: Polls are snapshots in time.

The Conventional Wisdom is a powerful thing. It causes otherwise sensible people to run with the journalistic pack and offer foolish unsolicited advice. We’re 417 days away from the next election. That’s a fact that dropping Vice President Harris from the ticket won’t change. Pundits and the general public would be wise to focus on Joe Biden’s record, not his age. That’s what really matters, not the polls.

While I’m dunking on New York Magazine, I can’t resist mentioning another dumb item from the Intelligencer. They dispatched Shawn McCreesh to New Orleans to interview Walter Isaacson about his Elon Musk biography. In his piece, McCreesh indulges in the sort of cliched thinking that drives New Orleanians crazy.

Before mocking McCreesh, a word about Walter Isaacson. I’m acquainted with Walter. When I had my shop in the Quarter, Walter was a customer and a chatty one at that. He’s a warm and friendly man as well as an excellent listener. Much of  Walter’s success as a journalist is based on listening. That’s not something Shawn McCreesh does well. Sheesh, McCreesh.

Let’s roll out the quotes:

“Isaacson, who at 71 still retains a touch of his genteel Louisiana drawl…”

Isaacson grew up in Broadmoor, a middle class neighborhood in Uptown New Orleans not far from Adrastos World HQ. New Orleanians do not have drawls. The local accent is closer to Brooklyn than Birmingham. Walter is indeed genteel, but he speaks standard American English without a trace of a “genteel Louisiana drawl” whatever the hell that means.

The next passage pissed off many New Orleanians of my acquaintance:

“Also at our table is a prim, polite, and politically connected uptown New Orleans woman in a floral dress whose name is Anne Milling. “A real steel magnolia,” Isaacson calls her. She tells him she’s not so sure about his latest subject. “I just don’t like his values,” she says with exquisite disdain.

“You may not like certain aspects of what he tweets,” Isaacson tells her, “but he has sent up this year so far more mass to orbit than all countries and all companies combined. He has created a car company that’s worth as much as all nine other car companies combined.”

“That’s great,” she shoots back. “I admire that, Walter, but now I’ll teyyeh what! His values are not my values, so theyyeh go!”

“But have you gotten a rocket to Mars?” he asks.

“I don’t give a hoot about a rocket tah’ Mahhs!”

First of all, dialect humor is for dipshits. It may work in sketch comedy but on the page or screen it comes off as shallow and bigoted.

More importantly, like Walter Isaacson, Anne Milling does NOT have a “genteel Louisiana drawl.”

Milling is a local legend for her good works and activism. She was in the forefront of lobbying efforts to secure funding for rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. McCreesh makes this accomplished and intelligent woman sound like a dippy Southern belle. The only dipshit at that table was Shawn McCreesh. Sheesh, McCreesh.

In the first bad New York Magazine piece, Eric Levitz is overly reliant on polls. At least he did some research. His colleague Shawn McCreesh did none.

Repeat after me: Dialect humor is for dipshits.

In addition to writing for New York Magazine, Levtiz and McCreesh have something else in common: fealty to the Conventional Wisdom. They run with the journalistic pack instead of thinking for themselves.

The last word goes to Bad Company:

2 thoughts on “More Unsolicited Advice From New York Magazine

  1. Posters testing biden’s popularity needs to start excluding people who watch Fox, newsmax, and whatever else is still out there. Is the onanism Network still on? These people are never going to vote for anyone but Trump so why should we care about their opinions?

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