Tuesday, November 12, 2013


There's a good chance you've already read the appalling thing Richard Cohen wrote today in his Washington Post column. Arguing that Iowa caucus voters and other members of the GOP base are unlikely to warm to Chris Christie in 2016, Cohen looked to New York City in order to explain his point:
Today's GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled -- about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York -- a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?)
There are a lot of people on Twitter and elsewhere right now calling on the Post to fire Cohen, for this and other awful things he's written over the years. While I'd love to see him canned and unable to find work, I know that his dismissal by the Post would be followed by days of right-wing self-righteousness about the jackbooted, totalitarian nature of "political correctness," and I know that some part of the Murdoch empire would immediately hire Cohen, at a considerable increase over his current salary, just to piss liberals off. (Recall the big raise Fox gave Juan Williams after NPR let him go.) So I'm not going to join the outrage chorus. What's the point?


Defenders will argue that Cohen didn't say he shares this, um, gastric response to interracial marriages and lesbianism -- he ascribed it to others.

But that reminds me of what I've read about the "Bradley effect" -- the tendency of white voters to tell pollsters that they're voting for a non-white candidate they don't actually support -- and how survey companies have learned to detect it and eliminate it from their results. A blogger here writes about Sasha Issenberg's book on the Obama campaign machine, and notes how Team Obama detected the Bradley effect, a technique I know other pollsters have used:
Issenberg notes that the Obama campaign in 2008 made specific changes to its polling practices and resulting predictive models to avoid what is known as the Bradley Effect, where a voter will tell a pollster s/he will vote for a minority candidate (or is undecided) when in fact the voter ends up voting for the white candidate because of race. The candidate can appear ahead in the polls but still come up short at the polling place.

... Identifying these voters turned out to be remarkably simple. According to Issenberg, the pollsters began to ask, "Do you think your neighbors would be willing to vote for an African-American president?" It turned out that most of the time, behavior attributed to "the neighbors" was really the voter's own, even if they couldn't admit it.
That's what Cohen is doing in today's column -- he's saying "the neighbors" gag when they think about Bill de Blasio and his black ex-lesbian wife. Obviously, that's not what he means.


I haven't seen much reaction to Cohen's column on the right, but I must admit that this Lucianne.com commenter is somewhat less than persuasive:

You had me going there, nvr4get911, until the last couple of words.


Victor said...

Yeah, and that's one of the problems with today's MSM - if you fail "Liberalism" (and, for FSM knows what reason - except maybe for some of Cohen's columns from the late 70's - he's been placed in there), FOX, or Wingnut Welfare, will reward you!

But, if you fail CONSERVATISM, you are screwed!

At best, if you fuck-up - and plagiarize like Rand Paul did - you'll end up at MotherTucker's or (Not at all, and never was) Breitbart's combo's of internet outhouses and mental asylums.

Pete said...

There is speculation that Cohen is angling for a buyout. Don't bother, I say, just spike his scribblings. Pay him until his contract expires but don't publish a word. And refuse to comment. I know, I know, Bezos is gonna listen to my advice ... Say goodnight, Richard.

Tom Hilton said...

Yeah, Cohen's professed fear of black males like Trayvon Martin (for example) makes his denial of racism not terribly convincing.

Luigi said...

My vote preference would be discounted by the Bradley Effect Question. I've voted for Obama twice. But I know my Republican neighbor would never vote for a minority or a female (and she is one!)

Kathy said...

Luigi, I was thinking the same thing. I voted for Obama as well, but I live in a very Republican part of a very red state. My neighbors' preferences definitely are not my own.

Ten Bears said...

I voted for the woman twice now, but I'll not vote for Hillary. The Rodham family is every bit dynastic, old school Robber Baron as the Bush or Rockefeller.

All that hopey changy stuff was too good to be true. And "America" ended with the appointment by an ideologically stacked activist court of the scion of daid dynastic old school Robber Barons with limited intelect, less education and no practical experience to the highest office of the land.

No fear.