90% of what goes on at The New Yorker can be explained by Vulgar Marxism

On Tuesday night, Alexandra Schwartz, a critic at The New Yorkerposted a piece criticizing the young supporters of Bernie Sanders. Ordinarily, I’d be mildly irritated by an article titled “Should Millennials Get Over Bernie Sanders?” In this instance, I’m grateful. It clarifies the dividing line between Sanders’s supporters in the electorate and the liberal journalists who can’t abide them.

First, some context. Exit polls from Iowa, according to Vox, show that “Sanders absolutely dominated young adult voters, in a way that even Barack Obama couldn’t in 2008.” Eighty-four percent of voters under 30, and 58% of voters between 30 and 44, cast their ballots for Sanders. More generally, as countless articles have noted, younger voters are shifting left, embracing ancient taboos like socialism and other heresies.

Schwartz finds this all puzzling:

Bernie would not be pressing Hillary without the support of the youth of America, a fact that I—a voter north of twenty-five, south of thirty—have pondered over the past few weeks with increasing perplexity.

Why are young people, she asks, “rallying behind the candidate who has far and away the most shambolic presentation of anyone on either side of this crazy race?”

A second’s Google search turns up an answer:

The youngest voting generation today is the most liberal bloc in a long, long time for three reasons.

First, they’re young and poor, and young, poor people are historically more liberal. Second, they’re historically non-white. Non-white Americans are historically liberal, too. Third, their white demo is historically liberal compared to older white voters, as Jon Chait has pointed out. It all adds up to one cresting blue wave. For now.

The poorer they are, says Vox‘s Dylan Matthews, the more likely millennials are to support a government-guaranteed living wage, the redistribution of wealth, and an expanded safety net.

It’s not just a function of income, Matthews adds. It’s also a question of race and life experiences. Non-white millennials who’ve been discriminated against—whether for reasons of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation—prefer socialism to capitalism and favor an economically egalitarian society over a competitive, meritocratic society.

That’s why young people are rallying to Sanders: no other candidate has made economic inequality, the growing divide between the haves and have-nots, so central to his or her campaign.

Schwartz won’t have it.

The obsession with the banks and the bailout is itself phrased in weirdly retro terms, the stuff of an invitation to a 2008-election theme party. As my colleague Ben Wallace-Wells points out, we voters under thirty have come of political age during the economic recovery under President Obama. When I graduated from college, unemployment was close to ten per cent; it’s now at five. Sanders’s attention to socioeconomic justice is stirring and necessary, but when his campaign tweets that it’s “high time we stopped bailing out Wall Street and started repairing Main Street,” you have to wonder why his youngest supporters, so attuned to staleness in all things cultural, are letting him get away with political rhetoric that would have seemed old even in 2012.

This past year alone, the unemployment rate among 16-24 year-old’s has toggled between 9 and 19%. Employment rates for 25-54 year-old’s have yet to recover to their pre-recession levels.

Nearly 70% of college graduates carry, on average, a student loan debt of $29,000. According to Mike Konczal, the student debt crisis is “a slow moving disaster,” which especially affects black and poorer voters.

Black students disproportionately rely on student loans for college access; according to the Urban Institute, 42 percent of African Americans ages twenty-five to fifty-five have student loans, compared to 28 percent of whites. Black families carry a student loan debt that is 28 percent higher than that of white families….

In order to manage these debt burdens, students have been drawing out their student loan payments over an even longer period of time, from an average of 7.4 years in 1992 to 13.4 years today. Only the elite avoid this burden. According to the Federal Reserve, those in the bottom 95 percent of households have seen their student-debt-to-income ratio skyrocket since 1995. This is especially true for those in the bottom 50 percent, whose education debt has more than doubled—from 26 percent of yearly income to 58 percent.

Many young people graduate today, buried in debt, without much prospect of digging themselves out.

But all of this flies past the 2014 recipient of the National Book Critics Circle’s Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. Schwartz’s attentions are focused elsewhere.

Like all young people, she says, the millennial voter has a longing for “purity,” and Sanders, with his refusal to compromise, seems pure.

Bernie’s attractiveness as a candidate relies on the premise of purity—a political value as ancient as politics itself….The belief in the possibility of true purity might be a delusion for most voters, but it’s a privilege of youth, the province of people for whom the thrill of theory hasn’t yet given way to the comparative disappointment of practice.

It’s an eccentric kind of purist who manages to stick it out in the grubby world of electoral politics for four decades, working his way up from managing the potholes of a small city to servicing constituents in the House of Representatives to championing their interests in the Senate.

It’s an eccentric kind of purist who launches himself to a leading position as the potential head of what Kevin Phillips once called the “world’s second most enthusiastic capitalist party.” (This last achievement leads Schwartz to some cognitive dissonance: If he were truly pure, she wonders, wouldn’t he “run as an independent”? Perhaps. Which may be an indication that neither he nor his followers think of him or themselves as so pure.)

No matter. Schwartz knows that her fellow millennials have a penchant for purity—and “historical fetishism.”

I sense a whiff of historical fetishism to the young love for Bernie, a yearning for an imaginary time of simpler, more straightforward politics that aligns with other millennial tendencies toward false nostalgia for past purity, in fashion or food, for instance.

It’s an odd sort of charge coming from someone who can’t explain her youthful enthusiasm for Obama in 2008 without dipping her hand into a till of clichés from the French Revolution:

It’s a rite of passage into political adulthood, when the contours of the world seem sharper than they may ever be again, and the notion of the correspondence between the politician one votes for and the one who arrives in office is still intact—that moment of “very heaven,” as Wordsworth’s famous line about witnessing the start of the French Revolution as a young man has it.

The college students and recent graduates who fervently support Bernie are enjoying their own moment of heaven, inevitably brief. I say this in spiritual solidarity. My own phase of very-heaven fell during the first campaign of Barack Obama….

It’s doubly odd coming from someone who wishes to present herself as older, wiser, and world-wearier than her cohort. There is, after all, only one vantage from which the events of 2008 can seem, in 2016, to be “retro”: that of an adolescent.

And trebly odd when you consider that the only fetish on display in this article is the author’s own:

But Obama as a candidate may be as close as many of us will ever come to a twenty-something’s ideal politician—the sheer force of that fluid, academically honed intelligence! The nuance and honesty of the race speech! The dancing!—and a comparison of the two on that count yields something very odd. Bernie’s crankiness to Obama’s cool, his age to Obama’s freshness, his nagging to Obama’s rhetorical deftness, his hokiness to Obama’s humor, his gout to Obama’s jump shot: all make for a strangely conservative vision of a youth idol. (Then there’s the awkward fact of the most diverse generation of voters in the country’s history rallying behind another white guy.)

These are the words and phrases Schwartz uses to describe a black president: sheer force, fluid, honed, the jump shot, the dancing. The dancing! Not to mention the unmastered revulsion to age itself (that mention of gout), which seems to drive so much of this piece.

But that’s all incidental. What really strikes the reader is just how removed Schwartz is from the experiences of her generation, how utterly clueless she is about the economic hardships so many young men and women face today.

It’s true that Schwartz graduated from the tony Brearley School in Manhattan (annual tuition: $43,000) in 2005 and Yale (annual tuition, fees, and costs: $65,000) in 2009, whereupon, after a few detours, she landed a spot at The New Yorker, from which she reports on Paris (cost: priceless).

But does she have no friends or relatives who are struggling with student debt, low-paying or nonexistent jobs? Has she not read an American newspaper or magazine in the last twelve months? Is the cognitive divide between the have’s and the have-not’s that stark, that extreme?

Whatever the case may be, the Sanders campaign has brought that divide to light. We officially live in a world, to paraphrase Bob Fitch, where 90% of what goes on at The New Yorker can be explained by vulgar Marxism.


  1. David Lewis February 4, 2016 at 9:58 pm | #

    I was just wondering why a large proportion of New Yorker articles recently seem to be about rich people. You may just have explained it.

    • realfakename February 6, 2016 at 1:23 pm | #

      The New Yorker’s target audience is the affluent and those temporarily embarrassed millionaires who wish they were affluent. It is a publication by and for the rich.

    • fakefakename February 7, 2016 at 9:26 am | #

      Well, not only rich people, but the personal “journey” of rich people– the one and true proper lens to view all events.
      Anyway, what do you expect of a writer for whom “flexible labor markets” means getting your employer to send you to Paris.

  2. realthog February 4, 2016 at 10:00 pm | #

    What a stupendous piece of rebuttal — a joy to read. Many thanks.

    • Michael DeMarco February 23, 2016 at 11:26 am | #

      Yes! I followed it to the end and that in itself is amazing.

  3. ronp February 4, 2016 at 10:04 pm | #

    Good post, if a little too harsh on Ms. Schwartz, (she did not choose her rich parents and likely worked pretty hard to enter those pricey schools).

    We need to solve the student loan debt issue and I think either Bernie or Hillary will make more progress on that than any of the lunatic Republicans.

    Politically I like Bernie better, but I still want a woman President this year. She will be as liberal and effective as Obama and that is fine by me.

    I wish the left could capture the imagination of all young people. Lots of rural poor whites out there who could be really helped by progressive policies…

    • Frank February 4, 2016 at 10:26 pm | #

      Perhaps she should have worked equally hard to understand any of those people about whom she wrote. heck, I’d take half as hard.

    • Bill Kerr February 5, 2016 at 12:11 am | #

      With all respect, I think whether or not a candidate flags the rights of women and gender equality should be judged by their policies and not their gender. Women are paid on average 30% less and there’s no way to challenge that without addressing the issue of class in America. Hilary comes from a long political dynasty that has been in the Whitehouse for more than 20 years and she is therefore inseparable from elite (patriarchal) interests. She voted for the Iraq war in which a million Iraqis died, hundreds of thousands of which were innocent civilian women. Bernie’s record on issues regarding equal pay – whether you’re a woman or a ethnic minority – is spotless. Hilary has proved herself to be in bed with Wall Street and the corporate forces which are destroying America, women and ethnic minorities the most.

      • DiTurno February 5, 2016 at 11:56 pm | #

        Hillary comes from “a long political dynasty?” Huh. I must not understand what the words “long” or “dynasty” mean.

        • Molly Cruz February 8, 2016 at 10:30 am | #

          Yeah; well here in wet behind the ears America (the US) a decade is a century. A Dynasty is a generation, a fad lasts two days, a rite two generations, a religion a week to express itself, another week to fall to ruins; a film star has the best chance to endure, thanks to the media. We’d be better off just enthroning Obama; letting his gorgeous daughters reign forever; and assigning the real work to underlings in Congress and giving up on this President thing for good. It’s a waste.

          • Michael DeMarco February 23, 2016 at 11:29 am | #

            What a ramble! Please sit down and collect yourself then reread your post for content and meaning. Good luck.

    • Lauren February 5, 2016 at 9:38 am | #

      “likely worked pretty hard to enter those pricey schools.” Oh really? Lots of lower income students work just as hard, if not harder, and can’t ever get into those pricey schools. Her privileged background enabled her to get into those pricey schools quite easily.

    • kecheen1 February 5, 2016 at 1:59 pm | #

      “if a little too harsh on Ms. Schwartz, (she did not choose her rich parents and likely worked pretty hard to enter those pricey schools).” You can’t be serious. Having attended one of those pricey schools as a graduate student I can tell you that if you have the money and will pay the tuition, they will let you in.

    • Ellie Kesselman February 6, 2016 at 5:01 am | #

      What?! Why do you believe Obama was “liberal and effective”? I don’t want a bad president just because she is female. Bernie could be a good president, while managing to avoid the toxic pseudo-liberalism (neoliberalism?) of the folks who write for The New Yorker. My odious cousin Adam Gopnick was their man in Paris, no doubt Ms. Schwartz’s predecessor, and just as awful.

      Argue with Republican ideas, don’t call them lunatics.

      In fact, the left IS capturing the imagination of all young people. This includes poor rural AND urban whites. Who do you think supports Bernie? It isn’t just people of color you know.

    • good2go February 6, 2016 at 3:13 pm | #

      “…she did not choose her rich parents and likely worked pretty hard to enter those pricey schools.” Oh, like George W. Bush, who couldn’t get into the University of Texas? If you’re a legacy, or have the money, you get in. My father was a Yalie and I was invited to attend without a glance at my grades.

  4. stevelaudig February 4, 2016 at 10:05 pm | #

    Alexandra is now on my “don’t bother to read list” as it clear there’s no connection between her and most of the reality that is out there now. she joins politico, george stephanopolous [sp?]. Hell, George Will seems “in tune” compared to her.

  5. sparrow February 4, 2016 at 10:09 pm | #

    Agreed. A joy to read.

  6. Donna Newman February 4, 2016 at 10:15 pm | #

    More proof, as if we needed it, that the problems we have right now stem from class differences more than anything else. You were a lot kinder to the author of the piece than I would have been – how callously dismissive, not to mention ignorant, she is of the struggles her less advantaged peers are dealing with. If she managed to get a clue, she might actually figure out why they are flocking to Bernie Sanders and his message about a rigged economy, the obscenity of the student debt crisis and proposal for free public college, a jobs bill that puts people to work and fixes a neglected and broken infrastructure, and on and on and on.

  7. Roqeuntin February 4, 2016 at 10:42 pm | #

    During this whole campaign, the attitude and coverage from the supposedly “liberal” media outlets has ranged from bad to downright shameful. That quote about vulgar Marxism is dead on though. Just as the bourgeoisie monopolizes production of commodities, so too do they monopolize the production of ideas. Marx was at his best in The German Ideology, even if I’ve only read the 60 page truncated version. “Bourgeois liberalism” has never been a more appropriate term.

    Also, with the increasing polarization of wealth, the further segregation of society based on income levels, the less the very wealthy will interact with anyone else. They do precious little of it now, but it’ll only get worse if nothing changes. We really are treading close to neo-feudal territory, with an increasingly detached aristocracy and nobility exerting increasingly corrupt control over the rest of the population. This isn’t going to end well, a point so obvious I don’t need to throw out historical examples to prove it. That’s one of the reasons I feel so strongly Sanders needs to get elected. We aren’t going to have too many more opportunities to try and fix this within the system. Nothing outrageous will happen if Hillary gets elected, but that’s the entire problem. Nothing will change. She’ll be like Brezhnev was to the USSR. Just pull up the curtains and pretend everything is okay while the system rots from the inside out.

    Recent events in Flint also make it clear that there are forces at work so indifferent to human suffering that they will poison the drinking waters to save a few bucks and then attempt to keep charging people for the privilege after the fact. They don’t give half a shit about us. There are people just waiting, itching to start fracking in upstate New York, just begging for the chance. All it’ll take to make that happen are a few bad election cycles. We aren’t as far removed from Flint as we’d like to think.

  8. Jim Pivonka February 4, 2016 at 10:54 pm | #

    Foreign and war policy.
    I was born in 1938. Started school in a one room one teacher twelve kids school and learned to read by the light of kerosene and gas lamps. I’m a feminist. A strong. committed feminist. I’m not 23, and I support Sanders. He’s right about the banks, the economy, educational opportunity (student debt), and disastrous maldistribution of wealth and income. He speaks of these things in a way which tells me he understands the magnitude of the issues and is committed to addressing them.
    But that’s not it. ‘It’ is Clinton’s foreign and war policy. I know her history and her policy. I oppose it, and her, as I oppose all the neoconservative, exceptionalist, New American Century believing candidates.

    • cynicalatheist February 5, 2016 at 8:30 am | #

      Great reminder Jim.

      • Judith Weiss February 6, 2016 at 9:07 am | #

        There is,however, a problem with Sanders’s foreign policy. He has said he agrees with HRC on the threat from Putin, he did not oppose the attack on Libya, he is tepid in Syria and Iran, mute on Gaza and the settlements, and he has not stepped up to criticize the MIC, which drives the federal budget and which would make his domestic plans almost impossible to achieve. We should ask now whom he would rely on as foreign policy advisors. Only if he committed to the likes of Phyllis Bennis can he be trusted in that area. But if he is NOT the dem candidate those who mistrust the establishment will stay away while the repubs muster evangelicals, sexists, racists and useful idiots of corporate America. The future of the SCOTUS is in play. Citizens United would not have come to pass,perhaps, if Gore had fought harder in 2000… we’ll never know. But this time, the numbers of voters will be crucial, and HRC might not be able to draw the disaffected ad Sanders can.

  9. Darryl Cox February 4, 2016 at 11:20 pm | #

    Excellent reply to someone who was born midway between third base and home plate and seems to find criticism of the 2008 bank bailout vulgar and out of place. I gave up on the New Yorker in 2014 when one of its writers Adam Gopnik declared that Duke Ellington wasn’t a very good piano player and his best recording was made on a winter’s night in a North Dakota dance hall in 1937. Yes, critics are entitled to their opinions but I don’t have to pay to for their right to be stupid.

    • Larry Houghteling February 5, 2016 at 7:59 am | #

      Of course you’re mostly right, Darryl, and you too, Corey. The New Yorker is catnip to us vulgar marxists. Now it’s true that I do read the New Yorker, sorta undiligently, and that I think some of the articles and a lot of the reviews are okay, especially Anthony Lane’s film stuff. But there is a “Why does this all have to be so yucky?” tone to a lot of what appears in the magazine that becomes oppressive quickly.

      But — and this is my point, Darryl; I’m looking at you, buddy — that Ellington recording from Fargo is very good. I certainly can’t concur with the soi-disant-erudite Adam Gopnik’s opinion of Mr. Ellington’s piano-playing skills, and calling that North Dakota concert their “best recording” is straight out of Good Housekeeping. But, still, it’s an acceptably good recording of a terrific performance.

      • Paisley Currah February 5, 2016 at 9:25 am | #

        But Anthony Lane loses it when he strays into political writing. Check out his pan of Jeremy Corbyn: “There is a cruel caricature, hard to erase from the popular imagination, that depicts the archetypal resident of the British far left: a bearded, bicycle-riding, teetotal vegetarian from Islington, in north London. The image is lazy and unjust; in Corbyn’s case, unfortunately, it also happens to be true. Since 1983, he has been the Member of Parliament for Islington North. He owns no car. He was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Stop the War coalition against the invasion of Iraq. His natural weapons are the banner, the bullhorn, and the protest march. He has never been a minister, or a shadow minister. What he has been, persistently, is a pain in the neck, or, at any rate, a thorn in the side.”

        This marxist is just too vulgar, hence the New Yorker’s vulgar marxism.


      • Darryl Cox February 5, 2016 at 10:24 am | #

        The North Dakota recording is very good but I believe you are overlooking Gopnik’s sly insult. If Ellington was not a very good piano player and he almost certainly was playing the piano on the date in question the inference is that most of Ellington’s recordings were hampered by his less than mediocre contribution at the keyboard. Imagine if someone said that “Kind of Blue” was the best album Miles Davis ever recorded but added that Miles was not a particularly good trumpet player.

    • Ellie Kesselman February 6, 2016 at 5:11 am | #

      Wow, I mentioned Adam Gopnick too, in my prior comment responding to someone else! Adam Gopnick is my cousin. I loathe his writing. Also, neither he nor his side of the family will have anything to do with his working class Kesselman cousins like me, who reside and toil in flyover states. Adam was the New Yorker’s Paris correspondent for years, prior to Ms. Schwartz’s claiming that reporting beat.

      • Darryl Cox February 6, 2016 at 11:24 am | #

        Causal lines run all through the universe. I guess your cousin is too busy plunking on that grand piano in his living room to touch bases with his relatives. I feel for you. I literally have scores and scores of maternal and paternal cousins and we all know each other.

        • Ellie Kesselman February 6, 2016 at 1:49 pm | #

          Thank you, Darryl. You are kind for replying. I didn’t even spell Adam’s last name correctly, but that was because I don’t like The New Yorker anymore.

          • fakefakename February 7, 2016 at 10:44 am | #

            I don’t believe I have ever read anything he has written in the New Yorker, but I did read his intro to a collection of Guy de Maupassant stories and I wanted to throw the book across the room! I just kept thinking “How does someone get it all so wrong?”.

      • L Bouilhet February 6, 2016 at 6:29 pm | #

        Perhaps if you could be bothered to spell his name correctly… Or is it that Gopnik changed the spelling of his name in order to distance himself even further from his blue collar roots? Class traitor!

        • Ellie Kesselman February 7, 2016 at 2:14 am | #

          He changed his name. Our great-grandmother Dora Kesselman married Louis Gopnick, according to US Census records and family history. In the 1950s, Adam’s branch of the family changed it to Gopnik, maybe to look less Jewish, I’m not sure.

          Good point though 😉

  10. Alisa February 4, 2016 at 11:43 pm | #

    Right on, Corie! Plus anyone who sounds –I mean the literal sound–accent, cadence –like Bernie is no plain old white guy!

  11. Benjamin David Steele February 5, 2016 at 12:11 am | #

    “Eighty-four percent of voters under 30, and 58% of voters between 30 and 44, cast their ballots for Sanders.”

    I just turned 40 a short while ago. And, being in Iowa, I caucused for Sanders. I know several people a bit older than me that also caucused for him.

    The majority of voters between 30 and 44 are no spring chickens. I’m old enough to remember sitting in the front row at a speech Reagan gave during his presidency, albeit I was a mere cub scout at the time. Many of us Sanders supporters remember the Cold War, all the endless rhetoric. We’ve heard it for decades and we’re tired of the same ol’ BS.

    I have friends and family members around my age who still haven’t paid off their college debts. My closest friend from childhood just paid off his college debt this month, some 14 years after he graduated. My oldest brother is still working off his college debt, while my other brother just returned to school to start a new career.

    Even having a college education doesn’t guarantee anything. Most people I know with college educations work jobs that have nothing to do with their degrees. One friend is a bus driver for the city, another is a baker for a local co-op, etc. None of my friends are poor, but hardly middle class and upwardly mobile. They just do whatever work they can get to pay the bills and maybe put a little bit away in savings.

    My friends are mostly older too. They had the benefit of finding their place in the world before the 2008 recession. Unemployment rate for GenXers first entering the workforce was higher than previous generations, but it was never as bad as it is now for Millennials. These economic problems have been developing for decades. It’s just now they’ve gotten so bad they can no longer be ignored by mainstream media and Washington politicians.

    Obviously, there is good reason the young are supporting Sanders. This age difference was obvious at the caucus. All of the oldest people I saw were in the Hillary Clinton group. This included some senior citizens who in a town like this probably aren’t living in old age impoverishment. The polls do show those who don’t see inequality as an issue tend to support Clinton, and the reason it isn’t an issue for them is because it isn’t personal. They simply can’t comprehend why those of less economic advantage are so upset with the status quo.

  12. Tyler C February 5, 2016 at 12:51 am | #

    I went to a state university and graduated with 70,000 in debt. I have extremely marketable degrees and feel absolutely paralyzed to do anything other than work at a job that I do not like because my bills are constantly hanging over my head. I’m pretty sure that most of my friends are worse off than I am.

    • NattyB February 6, 2016 at 9:49 am | #

      Graduated with over $200K here. It’s miserable. Finally starting a family but my debt is still over $100K (I make a lot but the salary (and the hours) are not sustainable over the long term). It’s amazing how higher ed is such a class divider.

      Over half of my colleagues, didn’t have to pay for school (95% had parents pay, 5%, bless them, scholarship based on need or merit) or were heavily subsidized. They’re clueless as to why I’d support Sanders. While they’re getting mortgages, I’m just trying to pay down my debt. I’m in the top 5% of income but have a net worth (due to my crushing student debt load) in the red.

      I’m with you man. If I didn’t have this crushing debt load, I’d gladly – GLADLY — be paid about 1/2 of my salary for something more fulfilling. So yes, I’m very well compensated, but share your feeling of being trapped.

      Schwartz’s privilege and cluelessness is infuriating. Some real Marie Antoinette type shit right there.

  13. René Spencer Saller February 5, 2016 at 1:00 am | #

    Thank you for this. I was incandescent with rage after I read Ms. Schwartz’s piece, so much so that I wrote my first-ever letter to The New Yorker. I include it here, since I’m reasonably sure they won’t print it.

    I have subscribed to The New Yorker for many years–almost as long, in fact, as Alexandra Schwartz has been alive–and I have never read anything as absurd, offensive, and out of touch as Ms. Schwartz’s idle speculations about the appeal of Bernie Sanders (“Should Millennials Get Over Bernie Sanders?”). Although Ms. Schwartz obviously has the right to support the presidential candidate whom she prefers, it astonishes me that she has the gall to condescend to those of us who don’t share her preference for Hillary Clinton. Perhaps it wouldn’t occur to Ms. Schwartz–a graduate of Brearly and Yale, someone whose father is a prominent attorney, someone who can afford to live and work in Paris and New York, two of the most expensive cities in the world–that many of her peers aren’t doing quite as well as she imagines. Now that she has recovered from her youthful crush on Obama (her conceit, not mine) and matured enough to understand how the real world works, it might behoove her to do some research into the reasons that so many of us don’t blithely embrace the gospel of neoliberalism. Once she removes the blinders of class privilege, she might be surprised to learn that the unemployment rate for Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 fluctuates between 9% and 19%, and that employment rates for Americans between the ages of 25 and 54 have yet to recover to their pre-recession levels. Nearly 70% of college graduates carry, on average, a debt load of $29,000.

    I’m considerably older than your worldly-wise staff writer, and I support Bernie Sanders because he’s the only candidate who seems to understand why so many of us are no longer satisfied with the status quo. As the daughter of a public schoolteacher and a social worker, I went to public schools until college, and I barely scraped together enough money from need-based grants and loans, academic scholarships, and entry-level jobs to pay the tuition at the private university I attended. Today, as a married woman in my 40s, I’m lucky enough to have medical insurance, but the premiums, co-pays, and prescription drug costs go up every year while my wages remain stagnant. I suppose it’s fortunate that I can continue paying for a magazine that is so obviously targeted to a different demographic (judging by the advertisements for watches that cost more than I earn in a year), but I resent being chastised by a callow rich girl because I don’t share her enthusiasm for yet another Wall Street-funded presidential candidate.

    What Ms. Schwartz fails to realize is that many of us–yes, even those of us who subscribe to The New Yorker–have compelling reasons to be angry about the corrosive effects of late capitalism. She’s lucky, I suppose, not to know any of us.

    Rene S. Saller

    • dank February 5, 2016 at 1:47 pm | #

      Thank you Rene!

    • jigje February 5, 2016 at 2:02 pm | #

      Wow, René, wonderfully and forcefully said! I sincerely hope that your letter reaches Ms. Schwartz’ desk and that she reads it. What an eye-opener it could potentially be for her.

    • Jimmy February 5, 2016 at 9:33 pm | #

      Shots fired!

  14. Nqabutho February 5, 2016 at 2:00 am | #

    No need even to resort to the ad hominem, since there is no evidence there of any real thought, only superficial journalistic twaddle. This person needs to do some reading, take a course…. She could reflect a while on this prior puzzle she has: “Why am I so revulsed by Bernie Sanders’ younger supporters?”

  15. chris February 5, 2016 at 8:48 am | #

    Spot on. thank you. Tired of hearing about how Bernie is unrealistic from rich people.

  16. Larry Powell February 5, 2016 at 9:22 am | #

    I don’t get this column at all. Immediately it is pointed that the young are very liberal, non-white, and poor. How many non-white, poor people do you see at Bernie’s rallies. Practically none (unless you think the media is deliberately hiding them.) There is nothing wrong with idealism, but what I don’t see is any movement backing up Bernie, as if Bernie is going to get in office and change everything. Bernie’s people aren’t out in the streets. They pale in comparison to the Occupy movement which eventually fizzled. It’s fine to have ideals, but what strikes me about the USA today is that progressives are REALLY on the defensive against a repulsive, hateful right wing, which is exercising more power and needs to be defeated. Sometimes the step going forward is defeating the right. All your ideals mean nothing if the Republicans grab the Presidency.

    • Lauren February 5, 2016 at 9:45 am | #

      “All your ideals mean nothing if the Republicans grab the Presidency.” – True, which is why Hillary Clinton would a very risky choice since she does quite badly in all polls against all GOP candidates. Her unfavorable ratings in the general population are very high–and Sanders is well liked even among Republicans. So nominating Hillary Clinton gives the GOP a great chance to take the White House.

      • jonnybutter February 5, 2016 at 3:35 pm | #

        In fact, I assume you’ve all seen this poll, but just in case, a new poll shows HRC and Sanders in a virtual tie nationally. It’s a huge swing in just a few days, so we will have to see if it’s just a blippy thing or not. But it’s not out of the question.

        • jonnybutter February 5, 2016 at 6:07 pm | #

          Woopsie, here’s another one since IA: Clinton 44% Sanders 43% +/- 5 points

      • Ellie Kesselman February 6, 2016 at 5:15 am | #

        Sanders is respected by many Republicans because Sanders has personal integrity and authenticity. What’s not to like there? The same cannot be said of Hillary. (There is no reason to elect a woman just because she is a woman. If that were the case, why not Carly Fiorina? Fiorina is clearly unsuitable for public office, despite being female.)

  17. Louise Bernikow February 5, 2016 at 10:13 am | #

    Oh so dead on. Will you marry me?
    But– how on earth is this Marxism, vulgar or not, it’s pure elitism to my ears…

    • Troy Nichols February 5, 2016 at 7:53 pm | #

      “Vulgar Marxism” usually means some kind of hasty or knee-jerk Marxist analysis. Like, “Writers at The New Yorker pump out bad takes like this because they enjoy much class privilege and are very disconnected.” (which happens to be totally correct).

      I think it’s a nod to Bob Fitch who said something like “Vulgar Marxism explains 90% of what goes on in the world.”

  18. Evan Neely February 5, 2016 at 10:37 am | #

    Thank you for this article. One thing I object to, though, and I’m not sure if you were really placing this between unwritten scare quotes, is the reference to competitive societies as “meritocratic.” This term not only provides an explicitly positive evaluation of how goods are distributed (according to worthiness) but obfuscates the way that worthiness is determined – as if it’s the merit itself that is somehow determining the allocation of social goods, and not the class of people with positions that allow them to determine what is and isn’t meritorious, and then allocating goods along those lines – in short, picking the people they like and telling the rest to screw off.

    I know it’s a bit nitpicky, but it’s a word whose public use annoys me as much as “libertarian” when we all mean “propertarian.”

    • ed cummings February 5, 2016 at 12:37 pm | #

      +1. Well said.

  19. Stephen Zielinski February 5, 2016 at 10:43 am | #

    A return to New Deal/Great Society policies would be a welcomed respite from the savagery that has defined American economic policy since the demise of our last liberal president, Richard Nixon. Having made that obvious point, I should also note that Sanders remains a lesser evil choice for president. The reason? He’s soft on the empire (militarism). An American who colludes with or participates in the security-surveillance apparatus and the empire chooses a pure evil. Thus Sanders is a lesser evil.

    Of course, even if we suspend judgment of Sanders’ imperial commitments, we are left with another problem, namely: Can a president implement New Deal-Great Society reform programs? I would say he or she cannot. First, the party duopoly system would have to commit itself to this program. It would need to replace the neoliberal consensus with a lukewarm social democratic consensus. Second, it’s federal government would have to commit itself to disciplining capital, a difficult task to complete. Third, it would need to have a supermajority supporting these reforms. And, fourth, any reform program that annoys the oligarchs would also need the support of the security-surveillance apparatus.

    Would Sanders manage all of this? Would any candidate?

    Ms. Schwartz is a dismissible fool. But foolishness is common, and thus a component of our predicament.

    • freegirard February 5, 2016 at 6:02 pm | #

      There is certainly a need for a return to the ideals of the New Deal/Great Society,and the inherent violence against the poor minorities and middle class that the removal of those programs safety net created.
      But equally important is the full adoption of FDR’s Second Bill of Economic Rights. We cannot afford to simply return to the status quo ante Reagan (or ante Carter or Ford for that matter), we must advance towards the future, rather than travel into the past the way we have for the last 40 years.

  20. Brandon February 5, 2016 at 11:00 am | #

    I just wanted to jump in and say that this was very good. But as part of the economic hardship analysis of the Millennial generation you detailed so well, I think it is also important to add a few more important and relevant details. And that primarily is that the Millennial generation has done everything by the book, done what they were told and now must feel betrayed that there was in the end no reward. As the data goes: this generation used less drugs, had fewer teenage pregnancies, higher educational attainment, higher rates of volunteerism, etc than prior generations. At the end of it all, at the end of doing everything right they enter the workforce just as everything is more stacked against them than any prior generation (higher tuition costs leading to higher student debt, fewer entry level jobs with career progression at a reasonable pay, higher housing costs). “The American Dream” is not only gone for them, they are staring into the barrel of obliteration. They know the system is rigged and unfair, because they have seen it with their own eyes, and understand the importance of key differentiation between classmates such as parents who can afford to pay living expenses for unpaid internships and at the next level, connected parents who can make calls to arrange internships. As the class divisions have become more stark and the concept of “fractal inequality” has entered the lexicon, I do think it is too much to expect of a well heeled prep school and ivy grad, as potentially the recipient of this privilege, to properly understand it.

    • NattyB February 6, 2016 at 9:58 am | #

      Bingo. And the A. Schwartz’s of our generation are completely, utterly and totally oblivious to just how so many of her generation are unjustly suffering. Oh, the American Dream is working out just fine for her, as the Dream exists only for people of her Class.

      It’s a giant scam. Study hard, get good grades, get that job, work hard, go to Disney World every other year, start a family. PPfffftttt.

  21. Elizabeth February 5, 2016 at 1:00 pm | #

    One glaring point that is missing in this rebuttal and in Schwartz piece is what is central to Sanders message and those I know who support him. His message is often “Not me, us” and that we are all in this boat together. I for one support Sanders not because I’m poor or have large debt, but because I want to move our country beyond self centered policies. Voting for a candidate based on the needs we have in the next four years is short sighted, and has so far drug us downward as a nation. Those writing against Sanders seems to miss this point, even though a lot of millennial surveys reveal a lack of interest in careers without a social benefit.

  22. Mushin February 5, 2016 at 1:52 pm | #

    Politics is a social business P2P conversation to design solutions to our mutual permanent human concerns as human beings. Bernie’s historic record has consistently voiced a radical disruptive renaissance in American politics based in the inherent social goodness of citizenry versus power of elite forces in governance, corporations or media’s enlightened entertainment. The shock and awe in this movement is grass toots saying enough is enough, stop it.

    I am completely committed to an intergeneration unified vision of political activities in American political discourse. I am not prejudice and can’t stand Republicans or Democrats. I submit that the millennial generation worldwide are lost in this current denial of science and confusion in deep rooted humanness where the political rhetoric has dehumanized appreciative inquiry and dialog.

    Regardless of who is elected in America and takes office in 2017 the untouchable 3rd rail in America politics will be addressed because its impossible to kick the can down the road another day. The Baby Boomer’s demographics are meeting the millennial ingenuity. Millennials need our encouragement as founder’s of a third wave renaissance conserving our humanness in the 21st Century.

    Bernie Sanders as an elder statesman offers a voice beyond loss stable states in institutional discourses and courageously offering the millennial generation a future partnership by enacting an embodied approach in political participative democracy.

    As for Hillary Clinton Dynasty my concern is the historic political baggage of personal animosities in her so called fighting the Republican’s only depends the polarization in the American discourse. The Clinton’s have created a level of distrust within the electorate that siphons off creative attention to defending the old establishment in the democratic party. As an independent Bernie is offering a bridge of clarity not necessarily purity in ideology. Rather, a fundamental human relativity P2P that social democracy is based in trusting self-governance, interdependencies, integration of human commitments in designing a future world together. As an American I say that is a radical notion. Hillary’s campaign focuses on “I” and Bernie’s campaign focuses on “we” including our children and grand children.

    Pretty cool breakthrough in American politics that is occuring as a grass root movement and disrupting the status quo establishment inviting everyone to get involved in ownership designing a future together.

    Good stuff in the comments.

  23. jigje February 5, 2016 at 2:07 pm | #

    A wonderfully trenchant rebuttal, Corey! Well said! Kudos to you!

  24. Greg Brown February 5, 2016 at 2:21 pm | #

    Do we actually have a ” competitive, meritocratic society”? I rather think not. We have a system of competition among the rentiers, and government socialism for the rich to soften the blows of an ungoverned system, but for everyone else we have a rigged system. The wealthy have more to begin with and then they have more boon thrown on top–lower interest rates, insider deals. It costs more to be poor. That’s not competitive, and certainly not based on merit.

  25. Samuel February 5, 2016 at 2:45 pm | #

    All discussion of idealogical purity or youthful devotion to the seventy-five year old socialist from Vermont, aside, there is an electability issue.
    Polls reflect Clinton’s standing after decades of rightwing, and now leftwing, pummeling, while Sanders’ current standing is reflective of a man who has been below the radar for almost all his political career.
    Were he to get the nomination, he would be subjected to a wholesale attack, the likes of which he has never experienced.
    When that happens, Sanders’ seeming strength against potential Republican opponents is sure to diminish.
    For the time being, during the heated Democratic Primary, Karl Rove is content to campaign for Sanders, but that is sure to change if he succeeds in knocking off Hillary.

    • Jimmy February 5, 2016 at 9:39 pm | #

      I understand your point & don’t dismiss it out of hand. But…here are a few candidates centrist Dems told me I had to hold my nose & vote for because they were electable: Humphrey, Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry.

      Furthermore, I’d be much happier w/ a Dem in office than an R, but can any Dem say that s/he’s *eager* for another 8 years of triangulation & capitulation ?

    • FH February 6, 2016 at 1:45 am | #

      This whole line of reasoning is very questionable for anyone who is genuine concerned about the issues Sanders stands for. What we are talking about is a risk. The question is whether important political gains are worth taking risks over. People die in revolutions in order for political gains. We have very little information to go on about which candidate is more electable–but we are continually being told that any risk whatsoever is utterly unacceptable. That’s simply absurd from a political standpoint for anyone who approves of any type of revolution whatsoever. Even if you think *only* the American revolution was a good idea you might want to reject this line of reasoning.

      I can’t quantify the risk but for each person it is quite low. But letting corporations have this level of control over our political system is in fact *enormously* risky. The type of economic collapse that resulted from neoliberal policies that Bill Clinton supported is *enormously* risky. Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy is also risky in certain respects–mostly for non-Americans. I think the risk taken by voting for Sanders in the primary is a reasonable risk and anyone who supports his policies can defend taking such a risk.

      • Ellie Kesselman February 6, 2016 at 1:58 pm | #

        Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy is risky for Americans too, in multiple ways. Well, it is risky for the majority of Americans who do not benefit at the highest levels from corporate best interests. This includes Americans who are members of the U.S. armed services, who have been dying in foreign wars for the past decade without a break.

    • Ellie Kesselman February 6, 2016 at 2:06 pm | #

      Samuel, allies are important. Bernie Sanders has allies among the Republicans in Congress. He voted for the same things that some of they did, e.g. Veterans Affairs. Bernie had concerns regarding sovereignty and fairness to American workers regarding so called free trade agreements, and he worked together with legislators such as Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions in expressing these concerns. Hillary is a far easier target for attack by the right, as she glided from one coronation to another, than Bernie, who has a substantive record of hard work, all accomplished through his own initiative.

  26. FH February 5, 2016 at 4:16 pm | #

    This is helpful. Nearly every article about Sanders takes a similar tack. They describe proposals for policies that either existed in the past in the US or were on the Democratic Party’s wish list for decades as TOTAL HIPPIE INSANITY. They describe someone with decades in public office as ‘inexperienced’ or close to unhinged. I’d been thinking they are simply captive to a certain paradigm of politics and Sanders is outside that paradigm. (In fact, Obama was outside it–a bit–l and it was very difficult for the mainstream media to comprehend the response to him for a long time.)

    The crucial element of this paradigm is that resignation to a significant level of corporate control over the political system is absolutely necessary to be a serious person.

    “The obsession with the banks and the bailout is itself phrased in weirdly retro terms.” This sentence is utterly bizarre. But what she means is that any real critique or resistance to corporatism is retro–because the paradigm changed with Reagan and Bill Clinton solidified it.

    What they don’t get is that the paradigm is changing. Even Trump uses anti-corporate language and rails about the bailout. The whole Tea Party thing started as a response to the banks and the bailouts. The right is still riding that wave of economic discontent. It’s unbelievable how few at the New Yorker or the Times, etc. understand this. (Somehow Trump knows to channel economic anxiety without relating to it–con men always know how to suss out and play to the fears and desires of their marks.)

    This post is a helpful reminder that the disconnect is also explained by social position and class.

    Her tone reminds me so much of Tad Friend’s New Yorker article on the fight against privatization for the UC. He found the Berkeley students’ emotional intensity about their educational future absurd and ridiculous–the ‘crazy hippie’ interpretation once again. Tad Friend’s class background was almost palpable in the article but I thought ‘could his mild contempt for those struggling to preserve the last vestiges of the great public universities be explained in such an obvious way’? In theory, I don’t approve of such simplistic biographical explanations for people’s views. But when the real political stakes are so obviously high for so many people–and those people present clear and defensible reasons–but a journalist is bizarrely incapable of engaging with any of that–it’s hard to find another explanation.

  27. Larry Powell February 5, 2016 at 8:23 pm | #

    I really agree with Samuel. I commented earlier, but people keep missing the point. This is not about a brave new world; this is about saving the world we have:
    1. In the 65 years I have been on this earth this seems to be the most right wing Supreme Court since I was born.
    2. Roe V Wade is under serious attack. The right to choose will be eliminated by the Republicans.
    3. There is no one in either the Clinton or Sanders campaign who stands up loudly for Black Lives Matter. We are an apartheid society. Neither Democratic rivals have seriously addressed this. The Republicans have: put Black people in jail, keep them segregated, shoot them dead.
    4. Every single Republican is strongly attacking the social safety net: they want to eliminate social security, Medicare and cut back on health insurance for everyone; they want this society to belong to the 1% White winners and will happily drag along a lot of poor, white racists with them.
    5. The Republicans want to cancel all civil liberties for all LGBT people.
    6. The Republicans demonize all immigrants of color to play to a scared, increasingly impoverished white right wing base. It is anti-American.
    7. Republican candidates are openly saying that the belief in a Christian God comes before the Constitution. Excuse me!?!
    8. The liberal/progressive elements of our society have little to no mass movements. The right wing has evangelicals, haters, and racist occupiers. And they are in motion.
    9. The Republicans control the House of Representatives and a lot of state legislatures and governorships.
    10. When it comes to militarism Hillary Clinton was dead wrong about Iraq and still is (she never repudiated her stand.) And Obama continued and expanded Bush’s drone program. Obama is no better than Clinton. Bernie has got problems with the Brady bill.
    11. Meaning no one’s perfect. (Paul Krugman and Corey Robin should stop peeing on each other.) And Alexandra Schwartz is entitled to her opinion as is everyone else.

    Bottom line; progressives need a flawed, electable candidate to at least keep the Presidency out of the hands of the right wing. What if we wake up the day after election day and a Republican is President?!

    • Ellie Kesselman February 6, 2016 at 2:12 pm | #

      If we wake up the day after the election and have Hillary as President, I don’t think she would be distinguishable from most of the Republicans. She is not substantively different. She is older and wealthier than most, but that is it. Hillary is a corporatist just as most of the Republicans are.

      By the way, we are NOT an apartheid society!

  28. Jimmy February 5, 2016 at 9:29 pm | #

    There is no nonsense like the nonsense from over-educated Ivy League journos at the point where they know they feel the career need to be taken seriously by the east side crowd to which they aspire. This “purity” blather is a time-honored trope. I’m also getting tired of hearing from these flyweights that Bernie’s supporters are misogynist; if Liz Warren was running instead of Bernie, Hillary would back on the speaking circuit already.

  29. Mike Bloxham February 6, 2016 at 1:27 am | #


  30. Izzydoesit February 6, 2016 at 3:51 am | #

    After reading this and the comments, I feel as though I just drank an antidote to a very nasty poison…the poison of vulgar Marxism!

  31. bjk February 6, 2016 at 1:51 pm | #

    Nobody knows what a till is.

  32. John Doe February 6, 2016 at 3:20 pm | #

    Bernie is “shambolic”; that’s a criticism? One of the main reasons for Bernie’s appeal is precisely because he isn’t a blow-dried, well-coiffed, focus group driven, stage managed politician like most of his rivals. He’s the real deal. If you’ve ever had a chance to talk with him that is very clear.

  33. Andrew February 6, 2016 at 3:37 pm | #

    You’re over analyzing things. I run my own business, make six figures, have zero debt, but I support Sanders. Not because I’m a poor liberal, but because I judge character over promises.

    I also supported Ron Paul. Even though he wanted to cut almost every Govt. program. Which is nothing more than Govt. waste.

    Ron Paul supporters are flocking to Bernie Sanders. Ron Paul was the reason for the Tea Party movement which has since been hijacked by the Republican, trying to ride on Paul’s popularity.

  34. Gregor Macdonald February 6, 2016 at 4:36 pm | #

    Mostly valid points here but you play to human social bias, and diminish your argument, by highlighting the writer’s personal biography. Brearley and Yale are just novelties. They only seem like they drive the prose of Alexandra Schwartz because you have formed that pattern, on your own. In truth, Schwartz could have attended a nondescript British university, moved to the US, and offered the exact same perspective. That said, I did enjoy your well written retort, and regard it as very on point.

  35. James Bruggreman February 6, 2016 at 8:05 pm | #

    It comes down to this: What have the Clintons done for my family and my daughters? The older with enormous medical school bills and the other-a college graduate- working a minimum wage job. I don’t expect much when and if she wins the presidency. And, as a friend said about Chelsea Clinton during a recent conversation among friends at the Owl Bar: “Someone needs to tell that lying little sack of shit to shut up!” But, then again, he’s the rude boy.

  36. Benjamin David Steele February 6, 2016 at 8:20 pm | #

    I was looking at some data, mostly from Pew. I wanted write about what is going on at a more fundamental level of demographics and public opinion.

    Pew has great data for this purpose. I particularly love there Beyond Red vs. Blue survey, as it is done regularly and is extensive. But I was also reminded of some Pew data from 2011 and 2010.

    Americans were already showing increasing support toward ‘socialism’ back then. It’s not as if Sanders rhetoric comes out of no where. He probably was paying attention to that Pew poll. I always wonder why so few do pay attention to it. Pew is a mainstream source that is reliable and has no clear bias.

    Along with other data, I finally finished my post about it all:


  37. Pam February 7, 2016 at 8:42 am | #

    Young people (and many others) embrace Bernie’s promise to go after the banks (even years later) because nothing was ever done about them. They are just as big as before, no one who perpetuated the fraud has gone to jail, and everyone (including the economy) is still suffering from it while bank CEO’s continue to get paid millions of dollars.

  38. danbednarz February 7, 2016 at 9:44 am | #

    great comments re class conflict and elite ideology. I’d also note that the author’s reference to Obama’s dancing is indicative of her shallowness. I saw Obama dance on Ellen Degereris and I note -having grown up in 1960s Detroit- that he “dances like a white boy.”

    • Quentin February 7, 2016 at 5:33 pm | #


  39. Fred Grosso February 7, 2016 at 10:24 am | #

    when does the revolution start?

    • Samuel February 23, 2016 at 4:19 pm | #

      Probably, never, depending on your definition of revolution.

      Meanwhile, if it becomes a Hillary vs The Donald general election, I presume that Bernie will unequivocally endorse Hillary and urge his legions of Berniacs to get out and vote for her.

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