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How Trump gets away with being so old

Of all the themes of the 2024 campaign, perhaps none is as recurrent, delicate, and sticky as the topic of President Joe Biden’s age. He’s 81. It’s top of mind for many American voters. It’s a go-to topic of discussion whenever Biden makes a public appearance…

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Of all the themes of the 2024 campaign, perhaps none is as recurrent, delicate, and sticky as the topic of President Joe Biden’s age. He’s 81. It’s top of mind for many American voters. It’s a go-to topic of discussion whenever Biden makes a public appearance or address. And it’s received its fair share of coverage in the mainstream political press, especially the New York Times. But Donald Trump is pretty old too. He turned 78 on Friday. Until Biden was elected, Trump held the record for the oldest person elected to the presidency. And he has a long track record of flubs, gaffes, and perplexing mannerisms that mirror many of Biden’s concern-inspiring moments. And yet, American voters across the political spectrum do not seem as concerned about Trump’s age as they are with Biden’s. Just three years separate them, but across just about every poll that asks voters whether they are concerned, a consistent gap appears in public opinion. Take the New York Times/Siena College poll released in March. When asked whether Trump and Biden were “just too old to be an effective president,” 42 percent of respondents said they either “strongly” or “somewhat” agreed that was the case with Trump. Nearly three-quarters — 73 percent of respondents — said the same about Biden. It’s a dynamic that, understandably, frustrates Democrats immensely. They argue that the three-year age gap between Trump and Biden is being held up as equally damaging as the fact that Trump is an extremist who tried to steal the last presidential election. But this raises an obvious question: Why? Why does the public seem captivated by Biden’s age, but rarely talks about Trump’s? This is one of those questions that’s hard to answer quantitatively, but I think it can be boiled down to a few theories. Some of it can be explained through the nature of who Trump is, some through some media criticism, and some of it by just looking at the two men. Theory 1: Trump’s age is already baked into the public’s perceptions of him After nearly a decade of Donald Trump playing a central role in our politics, opinions about him as a person have crystallized in the minds of many Americans — and he hasn’t really changed that much over those years. Perhaps we’ve gotten used to his antics and verbal tics — the outbursts and bits, the weird capitalization in tweets, the random intonations of his speech, the plethora of run-on sentences. We’ve seen that all before in two presidential campaigns. Why would we begin to think differently about all that now? So when he mixes up the names of cities he’s in, when he mispronounces “Hamas” as “hummus,” and when he mistakenly refers to the prime minister of Hungary as being the president of Turkey, it’s not a matter of Trump being old, but of Trump being weird. The same isn’t as true for Biden — who many millennials and Gen Xers can remember as a sharp, off-the-cuff everyman politician whose retail politics and banter were a hallmark of the Obama years. Even the Biden of the 2020 primary season seemed a touch more spry than the president running for reelection today. And the public has gotten to know a different kind of Biden during his presidency. Additionally, partisanship is one hell of a drug — particularly when it comes to Trump. If you dislike Trump, odds are that him being old and behaving erratically in public addresses are not tipping-point factors in deciding whether you start to like him or begin to worry less about him. His age isn’t the thing that is driving you away from him or the main reason you can’t support him — everything else about him (his authoritarian tendencies, his policy positions, the company he keeps) is. At the same time, if you really like Trump, his age and how that shows up in his peculiar mannerisms are probably not that relevant to your decision to support him in 2024, or the thing you want to discuss when explaining, describing, or justifying the reason you still back him. His accomplishments in office, the tear-it-all-down movement he represents, and his promises for a second term are. Pew Research’s public surveys provide some additional proof for this. They have found sharp partisan divides on the question of age and media attention with both candidates. In those surveys, Democrats seem quite flummoxed about how the media treat Biden and Trump on the age question. Republicans, meanwhile, don’t seem to think about age that much when it comes to Trump. Theory 2: Media coverage of Trump and Biden follows different imperatives The media, though fragmented, can still exert a lot of influence on the national conversation. That’s particularly true when it comes to how they cover presidential candidates and politicians, and it has been evident when it comes to the age question. News organizations and individual reporters have to make editorial decisions about what to cover when on the Trump or Biden beats. When it comes to covering Trump, they have plenty to choose from. On any given day, it seems, the former president is: * mired by legal troubles, whether that was being indicted on a range of state or federal offenses (classified documents, hush-money payments, trying to stop the certification of the 2020 election), being deposed for those indictments, actually on trial, or — most recently — having a jury find him guilty of 34 felonies; * saying some incendiary thing in a speech or social media post (that he wants to be a “dictator,” that he would “pardon” insurrectionists, that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” or claiming that Nancy Pelosi’s daughter told him that he and Pelosi were meant to be “together”); * campaigning or fundraising with questionable figures who also say incendiary things; * or announcing one position on an issue, like potentially backing a national abortion ban, and then walking it back when it seems politically expedient. And so much more. There’s an abundance of material to work with that goes beyond just his age — tremendous content, I fear. And that’s often not the case when it comes to the highly orchestrated operations run out of the Biden campaign and White House. In fact, the opposite is often true, almost by design. Biden’s pitch for the presidency was to do away with drama and to bring back boring in the name of competence. And on the policy front, the president and congressional Democrats have accomplished a lot, as we have covered here at Vox. But is any of that the most exciting stuff to cover, if you’re a politics reporter used to covering symbolism, tradition, palace intrigue, or internal dynamics within a historically leak-proof White House? The campaign, similarly, is a low-key affair. Biden has visited battleground states to speak directly to local audiences and tout his administration’s accomplishments, but he still opts for releasing content on social media and running scores of ads as the primary way to reach voters. It’s no surprise that the brightest, eye-catching moments of his presidency have been his State of the Union addresses, when he also has managed to show vigor and wits, reminding folks he’s still got it. And it’s essentially always been the opposite for Trump, whose every thought (and whose advisers’ every thought) gets communicated to the media. Way back in 2018, Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon had a name for this strategy: “flood[ing] the zone with shit.” In other words, there’s just too much for the media to cover when it comes to Trump. His beat reporters have plenty to work with as he’s always making news; Biden beat reporters meanwhile have the option of falling back to Biden’s age more frequently when he’s not making news. Biden also can’t change his age, and therefore it can always be a news story. And that also creates a bit of a feedback loop of incentives, since voters say they care about his age, creating demand for more stories about his age, amplifying concerns about his age, and so on. Theory 3: Visuals matter, and Trump just doesn’t look, act, or present as old as Biden Two videos that went viral during Trump’s birthday week demonstrate another explanation for why we don’t really discuss Trump’s age: The first came from a White House celebration commemorating Juneteenth. As singers and musicians perform on the South Lawn of the White House and Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff sing and dance along, Biden looks ahead, smiling for a few seconds before his body stiffens and the smile fades. His gaze then drifts to the side before an audience member gets his attention. “NO ONE’S HOME,” read the headline from Fox News. The second came from Trump’s campaign account on X and TikTok promoting a collaboration between Trump and wrestler/influence Logan Paul. In that video, Paul and Trump literally face off in front of a championship belt, as two boxers do before a match. They stare each other down for a few seconds before breaking into laughter and hugging. Both videos represent the asymmetric nature of Biden and Trump’s public appearances: Biden, as chief executive, is (rightly) called on to make public appearances outside the carefully manicured environs of campaign events. And while sometimes that has gone well (like his SOTU), it has also paved the way for some cringe-inducing moments: He’s tripping up the steps to Air Force One, he’s shuffling to Marine One, he’s swaying at public events, he’s slurring his words while speaking. Trump, on the other hand, gets to hand-pick the moments he goes in front of massive crowds and audiences. Sure, he goes on tangents about electrocutions, wind turbines, and teleprompters, but as we’ve discussed above, that’s dismissed as Trump being Trump. Instead, we see clips of him moving fairly normally — as in the “just guys being dudes”-style clip with Logan Paul, or in ways that might make you laugh instead of furrow your eyes, as when he does his weird dances or interesting body movements. In short, both candidates have plenty of gaffes and quirks. But while Biden’s are interpreted as a sign of advanced age, Trump gets away with just being seen as weird.
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What’s the deal with Jerry Seinfeld?

In the last few months, Jerry Seinfeld — the comic whose eponymous sitcom perfected consciously apolitical nattering about the mundanity of modern life — has repeatedly popped up in the media because of his weightier opinions.  During and after the promotiona…

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In the last few months, Jerry Seinfeld — the comic whose eponymous sitcom perfected consciously apolitical nattering about the mundanity of modern life — has repeatedly popped up in the media because of his weightier opinions. During and after the promotional cycle for his recent Netflix movie Unfrosted, a comedy about Pop Tarts that divided critics and snagged few viewers, Seinfeld ruffled audiences on the left and repeatedly won accolades from the right with headline-grabbing comments on everything from student protesters to toxic masculinity. Many of these comments are the typical “comedian bashes woke audiences” shtick we’ve heard so often in recent years. His Seinfeld co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus recently addressed this rhetoric in an interview with the New York Times magazine, stating that she’s wary of comedians who complain about “political correctness.” “To me, that’s a red flag,” she said, “because it sometimes means something else.” Typically, the more comedians protest the intrusion of politics into comedy, the more they themselves start sounding awfully political. That’s what we’re seeing now with Seinfeld, who has for years bemoaned political correctness and whose public profile has become more complex since the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel. While more and more celebrities began to publicly advocate for a ceasefire on behalf of Gaza, Seinfeld continued to vocally support Israel, including a solidarity visit to the country in December. This has led to ongoing backlash and public protest against him — criticism Seinfeld has frequently reframed as antisemitic. In an interview with incendiary anti-woke provocateur Bari Weiss, he suggested the criticism was “silly” and misguided since comedians “really don’t control anything.” He also pivoted to domestic concerns like his nostalgia for “real” men, “dominant masculinity,” and the absence of “an agreed-upon hierarchy” in society — which, he implied, is why we have road rage. This notion of comedy and politics as separate is one Seinfeld clearly holds sacrosanct. To Weiss, he stated that the only rule in comedy is “Is it funny?” adding, “Nobody cares really about anything else.” Of course, people care greatly about the “anything else”; it’s why comedy as an art form has constantly faced censorship, blacklisting, and backlash when it gets too stridently political — as it often does. Seinfeld seems to want to pretend that he is fully apolitical, taking a kind of “who, me?” approach to the idea that he’s a political person. It’s a position he’s adopted repeatedly over the last decade, all while complaining regularly about “political correctness.” He’s explicitly brought this “harumph, kids too woke” rhetoric into his comedy shows, like his lackluster 2020 Netflix standup special 23 Hours to Kill. The dearth of cultural traction that special got, as well as the then-and-gone blip of Unfrosted, speaks to how Seinfeld is situated as a public figure now. Though his cultural influence is huge, his post-Seinfeld output has had little staying power; his most successful recent work, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, was a conversational web series that ran from 2012 to 2019. To be fair, almost nothing can equal Seinfeld’s imprint, but in the absence of another true breakout (like, say, Louis-Dreyfus’s Veep or Seinfeld creator Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm) Jerry Seinfeld, the person, has more interest among fans than his current creative works. What he says offstage matters, and what he’s saying feels indicative of how insulated decades of fame and wealth have made him. He isn’t on top of the cultural conversation. He became famous well before the social media age, and he hasn’t had to contend with the two-way communication celebrities are forced to be in with their fans today. It’s reminiscent of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who has tainted her legacy with a campaign of transphobic hate, all while depicting her justifiably upset critics as an angry mob. Like Rowling, Seinfeld’s current politics are intruding on fans’ enjoyment of his past and present work. Like Rowling, Seinfeld’s doubling down on his anti-woke opinions has metastasized into other revanchist takes, like the desire to return to an outmoded, Mad Men-era masculinity. And like Rowling and other tarnished popular figures such as Elon Musk, Seinfeld doesn’t seem prepared to handle online discourse and criticism. It seems self-evident that Seinfeld's angst isn’t about” or even the deterioration of some kind of cultural order, but rather what happens when politics get in the way of his relationship with the audience. Seinfeld wouldn’t be the first person who wanted to divorce his celebrity from his personal politics. In a previous era of comedy or celebrity, that wouldn’t have mattered; but today’s cultural and political climates aren’t extricable from each other — a reality famous people often seem unwilling or unable to grasp. For some in the audience, separating Seinfeld the comedian from Seinfeld the tacit supporter of the Israeli government just isn’t possible — not when that government has conducted a horrific offensive that has led to the loss of tens of thousands of civilian lives and what my colleague Zack Beauchamp has called “a humanitarian nightmare on an unimaginable scale.” Seinfeld’s thoughts on gender and tradition only add to the confusion about his current persona, so at odds with the one he spent decades cultivating. Seinfeld clearly thinks his opinion shouldn’t matter much; after all, he’s just one late-career standup guy. But the audience is paying more attention than ever to personal opinions, and as the master of inconsequential comedy, he should know better than anyone how much the tiny things can matter. Correction, June 14, 11:50 am ET: A previous version of this story misstated the timing of Seinfeld’s visit to a military training camp in the occupied West Bank. That visit happened in 2018.
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Robertson's double in 13th lifts Gators into MCWS

Michael Robertson's two-run double in the bottom of the 13th inning Sunday night sent Florida to an 11-10 victory over Clemson and with it the Gators earned a berth in the Men's College World Series.

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Tennessee decisively ended Evansville's surprise run in the NCAA tournament Sunday, Florida outlasted Clemson in a wild five-hour game, Texas A&M used a nine-run inning to pull away from Oregon and Kentucky made program history over Oregon State.

Next stop for the four SEC schools is the Men's College World Series.

The Volunteers homered seven times in the first five innings and went on to a 12-1 victory over Evansville after the Purple Aces knocked off the No. 1 national seed Volunteers a day earlier to extend their best-of-three super regional to a third game.

Michael Robertson, Florida's No. 9 hitter, sliced a ball into the left-center gap to bring home two runs in the 13th inning and deliver an 11-10 walk-off win. Florida has won nine straight super regionals under coach Kevin O'Sullivan, the longest streak by any team since the round was added in 1999, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Tennessee and Florida are in the MCWS for a second straight year, and Texas A&M is in for the second time in three years after Kaeden Kent's grand slam in the nine-run seventh inning carried the Aggies past Oregon 15-9.

Kentucky advanced to the MCWS for the first time in school history with its 3-2 win over Oregon State. Nolan McCarthy doubled and scored the go-ahead run from second base on a wild pitch in the seventh inning.

North Carolina, Florida State and Virginia swept their super regionals Saturday to lock up spots in the MCWS in Omaha, Nebraska, starting Friday.

One MCWS spot remains. Georgia forced a third and deciding game Monday night against North Carolina State, bouncing back from a 17-run loss Saturday to beat the Wolfpack 11-2.

The last time Tennessee was the No. 1 national seed, in 2022, it lost a three-game super regional to Notre Dame in Knoxville. The Volunteers weren't going to let that happen against the No. 4 regional seed Purple Aces.

They unleashed the power that has made them the top home run-hitting team in the nation, with Christian Moore connecting for his 34th leading off the bottom of the first and Dean Curley and Dalton Bargo going back-to-back in the second. Bargo and Moore went deep again and Billy Amick and Cal Stark also homered before the barrage ended. The seven homers were a Tennessee postseason single-game record.

The Vols have hit 26 homers in six NCAA tournament games and have 173 for the season, second behind LSU's 188 in 1997.

Florida finally prevailed in its 5-hour, 3-minute game after the Tigers' Cam Cannarella kept it going with a tying homer in the ninth and the defensive play of the tournament in the 10th. Alden Mathes hit a go-ahead home run in the top of the 13th.

The Gators led 9-6 with one out in the ninth when Cannarella came to bat with two runners on. Cannarella launched Brandon Neely's first pitch out to right to tie it.

The next inning, Cannarella made an inning-ending over-the-shoulder basket catch on Ashton Wilson's deep fly to center. Cannarella, who was playing shallow, turned and gave chase and the ball deflected off the heel of his glove into his chest as he left his feet to hit the wall. He was able to hang on to the ball and delay Florida's celebration.

The Gators, the national runners-up last year, had to win their last regular-season series at Georgia to achieve a winning record and qualify as an at-large selection for the tournament. As a No. 3 regional seed, they went to Stillwater, Oklahoma, and beat host Oklahoma State twice to advance. Their sweep at Clemson came in the programs' first meeting since 1983.

"Going through the struggles and having every game matter the last two or three weeks of the year probably toughed us up a little bit," O'Sullivan said.

Texas A&M, down 8-4, sent 13 batters to the plate in the seventh inning against Oregon. The Ducks' Brock Moore and Jaxon Jordan combined to walk seven and hit a batter in the inning. Kent, the second batter of the inning, singled. No one got another hit until he sent a Jordan pitch over the fence in right center.

Kentucky finished off its first super regional championship after winning the opener 10-0 with a one-hitter Saturday for the school's first victory in a super regional.

No. 7 Georgia got homers from Slate Alford, Tre Phelps and Paul Toetz to get out to a 10-0 lead against NC State. Held to four hits Saturday, the Bulldogs had 15 Sunday. Their starter, Leighton Finley, pitched a season-high 6⅔ innings, allowing one run and striking out five.

"For us, the bounce-back was huge, and we just stayed focused on playing the game," Georgia coach Wes Johnson said. "Obviously, scoring those two right there in the first got us off to a great start. Leighton threw the ball extremely well. It really put our bullpen at ease a little bit because you never know what you'll have to do in a game like this."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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