NYT Opinion Editor: Couldn’t Help Worrying 'For Our Democracy’ After Hearing Conservative Men

April 12th, 2022 10:31 AM

The New York Times reported on a political focus group and came back scared for democracy: “These 8 Conservative Men Are Making No Apologies.”

What precisely would the “conservative men” have to apologize for? It’s not made clear. Deputy Opinion Editor Patrick Healy and Adrian Rivera damned them with faint praise in the lead sentence, before a follow-up about being fearful for democracy which, combined with the suggestive headline, makes one think conservative men are the intended villain of the piece.

There was no talk of a stolen election, no conspiracy theories about voter fraud or rants about President Biden’s legitimacy. Yet listening to our 90-minute focus group with eight conservative men, you couldn’t help but worry for our democracy a bit.

The men didn’t see themselves fitting into American society today. They didn’t feel free to be themselves in the culture. Seven of them said they felt like a stranger in their own country. At a time when democratic institutions are under pressure -- and even under attack -- and the United States feels so ununited, what causes these Americans to feel so alienated from America?

….Most said they believed society is headed toward increased rule breaking and a “me, me, me” culture. Crime and a sense of lawlessness came up a lot; our focus group leader, Kristen Soltis Anderson, was surprised by how much they used examples of poor road etiquette as emblematic of broader societal decay.

Healy did something similar earlier this year on the first anniversary of the January 6 Capitol Hill riots, with one focus group composed of Democrats “‘We Barely Qualify as a Democracy Anymore’: Democratic Voters Fear for America.” and one of Republicans. Healy mostly hung back from the questioning itself and stayed neutral, but his first question to the assembled Democrats was a doozy:

How important is Jan. 6 as a day now in American history? 9/11 is also a date that by itself connotes a specific terrible event. Or Pearl Harbor. How does it compare?

One can condemn the awful events of January 6 without comparing it to two atrocities where the death toll numbered in the thousands and led to long, costly wars.

Healy posed a nearly identical first question to the Republican group, a conversation that appeared under a more critical headline, “Why Republican Voters Think Americans Have to Get Over Jan. 6.”

How important do you think Jan. 6 was in American history? Just thinking about other major events in American history, Sept. 11, Pearl Harbor.

Healy really went overboard inside a May 2021 conservative focus group, regularly interjecting himself into the discussion, unable to stop himself from correcting (alleged) Republican lies:

….several made false claims, including that the election was stolen and that Black Lives Matter is a Marxist or violent hate group. Many criticized the news media but were clearly shaped by it: Some kept overstating the scattered street violence last summer, which Fox News and other news outlets popular with conservatives