Robert Draper’s cover story for New York Times Magazine has gotten quite a reaction — and not just because he quoted former MTV VJ and current Fox Business host Kennedy comparing Ron Paul to Nirvana.
The piece — which asks in the headline if the “Libertarian Moment” is finally upon us — has inspired a slew of rebuttals from various political commentators, including two from New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait.
In his second, published Wednesday morning, Chait once again took an axe to the central premise of Draper’s story: that younger voters are leaning libertarian.
To support this point, Draper noted that “a recent poll confirmed that fully half of voters between ages 18 and 29 are unwedded to either party.” He also quoted Emily Ekins, the polling director at the libertarian Reason Foundation, who asserted that “we’re seeing a newer dimension emerge where [young voters] agree with Democrats on social issues, and on economic issues lean more to the right.”
Chait called hogwash on both points, writing that lack of party identification isn’t really an indicator of voting patterns and that other polling has found young voters quite supportive of liberal economic policies.
An exhaustive survey released earlier this year from Pew Research Center showed that Millennials, unlike older generations, prefer a larger government that should provide more services. But Draper didn’t include that poll in his piece.
Instead, he touched on Ekins’s own survey of Millennial voters, which Chait said amounted to “advocacy polling.” Ekins penned her own rebuttal to Chait last week, pointing out that most of Reason’s polls are conducted by the same company that does Pew’s surveys. She also noted that her poll found wide support among young people for liberal policies such as raising the minimum wage and government-provided health care.
But those findings make her argument — that young people are drifting to the right on economics — all the more perplexing, prompting Chait to suggest that Draper was duped by the libertarians interviewed for his story.
In an email to TPM (posted below) on Wednesday, Draper insisted that was not the case.
“Anyone who thinks the story amounts to a rallying cry for libertarians did not read it all the way through and is misinterpreting my journalistic approach as a posture of sympathy,” Draper wrote.
He added parenthetically: “(By the same standard, my stories on Sarah Palin, Valerie Jarrett, Kevin McCarthy and Priorities USA could be viewed as sympathetic because they didn’t seek to ridicule or condemn the subject matter.)”
Draper said “protestations” of the piece from Chait and former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum were “100% unsurprising” given their “longstanding disdain of libertarians.”
Hi Tom–I’ve pretty much said all I think I need to on this subject via Twitter, both to Chait & to Frum (who have in common their longstanding disdain of libertarians, making their protestations 100% unsurprising). It’s a misreading of the poll I cite to say (as Chait has) that it’s advocacy-based, given that both the questions and the polling methodology employed by pollster Emily Ekins came from Pew. Anyone who thinks the story amounts to a rallying cry for libertarians did not read it all the way through and is misinterpreting my journalistic approach as a posture of sympathy. (By the same standard, my stories on Sarah Palin, Valerie Jarrett, Kevin McCarthy and Priorities USA could be viewed as sympathetic because they didn’t seek to ridicule or condemn the subject matter.) You might want to read Ben Domenech’s piece today in The Federalist on this subject. Though my story’s point of departure was the notion (promulgated by Nick Gillespie and others) that we’re in a libertarian “moment,” Domenech’s point–that however you want to characterize this moment, what it presents is a libertarian “opportunity”–seems salient. In any event, the larger and more interesting question the piece wrestles with is whether libertarians and Republicans can, via Rand Paul, exploit whatever this moment happens to be. Is this a good moment to examine that question? I think it is. Thanks, Robert