The most important lesson we should all learn from the 2012 election

“You idiot! Get back in there at once and sell, sell!”

As we set about the process of compiling and canonizing the 2012 election post-mortem, one thing we keep hearing over and over is how utterly stunned the Romney camp was at their loss. Republicans across the board apparently expected victory – the conservative punditry seemed certain of it – and now we’re hearing that Romney himself was “shellshocked” by the result.

Mitt Romney went into Election Night expecting a victory and was “shellshocked” when he finally realized he had lost, CBS News reported.

Despite early signs of a stronger-than-expected turnout for President Obama, it wasn’t until the crucial state of Ohio was called for the president that Romney began to face the likelihood of defeat.

Even then, he and his team had trouble processing the news, senior advisers told CBS News.

“We went into the evening confident we had a good path to victory,” one adviser said. “I don’t think there was one person who saw this coming.”

Well, Nate Silver saw it coming. His projections called the final outcome almost down to the precinct, and it’s not like he doesn’t have a track record.

Silver’s final 2008 presidential election forecast accurately predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia (missing only the prediction for Indiana). As his model predicted, the races in Missouri and North Carolina were particularly close. He also correctly predicted the winners of every U.S. Senate race.

It wasn’t just Silver. Almost all the polls showed Obama with at least a slight lead in the battleground states, and if we can believe CNN’s election night insiders, Mitt’s own tracking showed him five points adrift in Ohio as late as Sunday (which explains why he set up camp there when many expected him to focus his energies elsewhere).

In other words, all the data, all the nonpartisan analysis, all the evidence, made clear that Romney’s chances were slim. It’s understandable that he and his people would be disappointed, and mightily so. But surprised? How does that happen?

In a nutshell, the GOP blindsided themselves. The reason should be obvious to anyone who has paid any attention at all to American politics in recent years: an overabundance of blind faith. I don’t mean this in a religious sense (although the political and socio-scientific manifestations of the phenomenon issue from strong religious antecedents). Instead, I’m referring to the broad, swelling inability (or unwillingness) to distinguish between belief and knowledge.

As noted, nearly all the polls showed Romney in trouble. Most broke out their results in ways that clearly suggested why he was in trouble. The rational response to such information is to take it onboard, adapt and adjust. But that’s not what the GOP did. Instead, they dismissed the data that didn’t align with their beliefs. They went so far as to “unskew” the polls because they were clearly biased in favor of Mr. Obama. How do we know they were biased? Because they favored Mr. Obama. UnskewedPolls.com performed some ideological/mathematical hijinks and produced “corrected” polls that demonstrated how Mr. Romney was actually leading. By a lot.

The resulting projected electoral map was positively Reaganesque.

You might argue that the rational response isn’t to adapt and adjust if there is actually reason to believe that all the polls are, in fact, skewed. This objection is fair, so long as your reasons for doing so are driven by factual concerns instead of ideological ones. I think it’s more than clear, by now, that GOP faith in a Romney win was driven by belief instead of knowledge isn’t it?

The upshot is what we saw Tuesday night and in the days following: shock, dismay, confusion. Romney and his people (here I’ll include the GOP’s media relations arm, FOX News) didn’t see the obvious coming and some were melting down as reality began to assert its ugly presence in ways that even Megyn Kelly couldn’t ignore. Sure, Karl Rove had an excuse for going all Randolph Duke on the set. He’d just spent $600M of rich folks’ money and had a pack of nabs to show for it, an outcome with dire implications for his future career prospects. Of course he was losing it – he was seeing his political life pass before his eyes as the Ohio totals ticked in. Again, though, this was a live, nationally televised case study in self-delusion: it isn’t true because sweet Jesus it just can’t be.

I keep using these terms “knowledge” and “belief.” I suspect that many people across the country might initially grapple with the difference (in fact, I know this to be the case). So let me define these terms, at least operationally, for the benefit of those who don’t understand the distinction.

  • Knowledge is a process whereby conclusions derive from information and reasoning.
  • Belief is a process whereby preconceptions govern the pursuit of information.

In other words, with knowledge, you learn all you can in as rigorous and intellectually honest a fashion as possible, then you figure out what it means. With belief, the conclusions are given from the outset and data is selected and discarded according to whether or not it supports the point you’re trying to make.

Accepting facts that run counter to what we believe, and what we want to believe, and even what we desperately need to believe, can be hard. I understand the difficulty as well as anyone. I personally now believe pretty much the opposite of nearly every important thing I believed as a young man, and I have frequently noted how many times my beliefs changed because I was proven wrong by the very smart people with whom I insisted on surrounding myself. I’ve always been a fan of the famous John Maynard Keynes quote: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

As hard as it is to investigate contrary information and opinions, though, it’s imperative that we do so. With gusto. The Republican Party had all the evidence there before them throughout the entire campaign. There is precious little that we know now that we didn’t know a month ago. Their decision to pretend it was all skewed led to what? They lost the White House (in a race that was surely theirs for the taking). They lost ground in the Senate. Thanks to gerrymandering they still control the House, but their candidates nationwide received fewer votes than their Democratic opponents. Gay marriage initiatives passed in a couple of states. Gays and lesbians were elected to Congress.

All because the Republican Party privileged belief over knowledge.

Plenty of debate is already under way within the Republican Party as to what the results means and what might be done about it. Some conservative analysts are paying heed to the knowledge they have gained. Others, not so much.

And over at UnskewedPolls, well, see for yourself:

*sigh*

The GOP 2012 experience holds important lessons for us all as we move forward. The world in which we live, the nation in which we live, the neighborhoods and communities and cities in which we live are what they are, not what we wish them to be. For instance:

  • Some among us might wish that we lived in a uniformly white, Christian, heterosexual, nuclear family culture. We don’t. Whatever policies we seek to implement are doomed to failure unless we acknowledge our new multicultural reality.
  • Some of us believe that there is no such thing as climate disruption. There are Nate Silvers and Karl Roves in the natural science world, too. Our future and the future of generations not yet born depend on whether we’re smart enough to know to which of them we need to listen.
  • Many of us believe that cutting taxes on our wealthiest citizens creates opportunity and shared prosperity for everyone. All data on the subject shows this to be pure ideology – the precise opposite is true and the refusal to pay attention to the basic facts of economic history have grave implications for us all.
  • Dollar for dollar, the US pays three times more for health care than any other industrialized nation and by any measure we generate significantly worse outcomes. You might believe that only those who can pay outrageous prices deserve to be healthy, but the actual number of people who agree with you is diminishing rapidly.
  • The president was born in Hawai’i. If you insist that all proof is forged (it has to be, because it doesn’t conform with your beliefs), you will find that you’re damaging the credibility of other positions you hold. Also, people won’t sit next to you on the bus.
  • We are not a theocracy. A growing majority of voters are rejecting candidates whose views on how America should be governed more resemble the 1st century than the 21st. The coalition includes every facet of the electorate, but is especially pronounced among segments that are increasing in numbers.

The things are not beliefs, they are facts supported by every scrap of credible evidence that we have. The existence of facts doesn’t automatically suggest what the best policies might look like, but the refusal to acknowledge them assures disaster.

All of us – Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Green and none of the above – would do well to learn from the GOP’s hard 2012 lesson.

Conservative groups running issue ads with corporate money: how to hang this albatross around the GOP's neck

I read via the AP today that the two conservative groups founded by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, have raked in so much money from donors that this midterm election will likely be the most expensive yet. According to the AP, the two groups combined have raised about $32 million so far this year.

While we don’t know where the money for the supposedly “non-profit” Crossroads GPS comes from, American Crossroads is a registered 527 and so we have some information on its donors. Since its inceptions, American Crossroads has had eight donors of $50,000 or more each, with six of those donors hitting or surpassing the $1 million mark.

That wealthy donors are allowed to give massive amounts of money to political 527s is perhaps not a surprise. What’s new this year is the fact that corporations are allowed to give directly, and of those top eight donors, three are corporations, rather than people: TRT Holdings Inc. ($1 million), Southwest Louisiana Land LLC ($1 million), and Dixie Rice Agricultural Corporation ($1 million). Continue reading

Nota Bene #110: WEHT SWK?

“In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity.” Who said it? Continue reading

Exclusive: Ideology trumps experience in Federal Election Commissioner’s rise

Part II in Raw Story series:

Caroline Hunter’s confirmation to the Election Assistance Commission in February 2007 came near the end of the agency’s controversial handling of two internally contentious commissioned studies — one on voter fraud and the other on voter identification laws. Pressure to fill the four-member bipartisan commission was high: the election season was heating up.

Emails released to Congress about the two studies, reviewed by Raw Story, reveal that Hunter’s selection was not only well-timed but also succeeded in installing an ideologically partisan insider on the commission.

Hunter’s confirmation by unanimous consent in the Senate occurred without a hearing or even a roll call vote. Her lack of election administration experience escaped scrutiny, as did her activities at the Republican National Committee and her subsequent stints at the Department of Homeland Security and in a Bush White House staff position as deputy director at the Office of Public Liaison. The latter office reported directly to Karl Rove.

Read the rest…

Shootout at the DC Corral

The independently minded political animal always wrestles with times of transition, and the changeover from the Bush to Obama regimes has been worse than most. During the Dubya years it was easy to identify the enemy and to hate him with a blinding passion. Sweet Jesus, George II and his sidekick, The Dick Cheney, played their roles with less nuance than the bad guy in Rambo 12: Return of Ming the Merciless (directed by Roland Emmerich), making it easy to identify with the loyal opposition just on principle.

But it’s important to remember that the enemy of my enemy isn’t necessarily my friend. They might just be fighting over which one gets to eat my tender bits. Continue reading

Hip-hop jumps the shark

Specifically, hip-hop jumps the great white shark.

3OH!3 breaks into Top 10

Boulder-based duo hits #9 on Billboard charts

A local hip-hop duo whose members hail from Boulder have broken into the top 10 on the charts.

Boulder natives Sean Foreman and Nathaniel Motte make up 3OH!3, and their single “Don’t Trust Me,” this week hit No. 9 on Billboard’s “Hot 100,” up from the No. 13 spot it held last week. The single has been on the charts for 21 weeks.

Yes, folks, the genre spawned by inner city black culture has now been taken over by kids from the whitest place in America, Boulder, Colorado. Don’t get me wrong – Boulder is a beautiful city and I have nothing against white people. Some of my best friends are white. In fact, white people love me. Continue reading

Joe Nacchio, American Motherfucking Hero

joemfnacchioDr. Slammy offered up some thoughts the other day on Joe Nacchio, the prison-bound former CEO of Qwest. For the good doctor, the case is both public and personal. For my part, I don’t know Joe, but do take some satisfaction in the knowledge that he’s going to Hell. And yes, I do have insider knowledge on that subject.

The most fascinating thing about Sam’s post, though, was what happened in the comment thread. I call your attention to comments #3, 6 and 23, in particular, whereupon we’re asked to believe that Joe Nachhio is not a criminal, but is instead, as Slammy put it in comment #5, “Thomas Motherfucking Jefferson.” Continue reading

Rove lies: Fannie, Freddie caused housing bubble

Karl Rove today wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “Mythmaking is in full swing as the Bush administration prepares to leave town.” He claims that the Bush Administration tried to rein in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and that these two government sponsored enterprises were responsible for the housing bubble. Further, Rove says “[t]he housing meltdown is largely a story of greed and irresponsibility made possible by government privilege.” He’s right, but almost everything you need to know about who’s making myths here and who was the benefit of government privilege can be said with two numbers:

Fannie/Freddie Bailout Amount TARP Bailout Amount1
$200 billion
$700 billion
1Troubled Asset Relief Program, the bailout program for all the other financial bodies who supported the bubble.

Continue reading

Book race 2006: Bush versus Rove

bushreadsIn Bush Is a Book Lover at the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove chronicles his three-year-long Great American Reading Race with President Bush. He maintains that in the fiercest year of the competition, 2006, he defeated Bush, 110 books to 95.

“The president,” Rove writes, “lamely insisted he’d lost because he’d been busy as Leader of the Free World.” Continue reading

Nota Bene #47

Link of the Week (as opposed to the Weakest Link):

John Heileman, New York magazine, The Next New Deal:

“Personally, I think the depth of the Obama realignment is being underestimated,” says the Republican media savant Stuart Stevens, who helped elect Bush twice. “They have basically invented their own party that is compatible with the Democratic Party but is bigger than the Democratic Party. Their e-mail list is more powerful than the DNC or RNC. In essence, Obama [was] elected as an Independent with Democratic backing — like Bernie Sanders on steroids.”

In other words, the Democratic party is but a brigade of the Obama juggernaut. Continue reading

Can you relate?

by Alexi Koltowicz

As the story goes, G.W. Bush won the presidency in 2000 because enough people wanted to “have a beer with him.” Bush was a reformed alcoholic, so the idea was metaphorical. What people meant was that they felt that they could relate to G.W. Bush. Of course few of us really could. Was your daddy a president? Did you go to Yale and Harvard? Have you ever had dinner at the bin Laden house? No. None of the people who spouted the beer rationale could actually relate to Bush. The trick was that he didn’t talk about his father or Yale or what it’s like to roll around in oil money. Continue reading

America's Negro Cracker Problem: none of us are free

Part two in a series.

There’s a rising tide on the rivers of blood
But if the answer isn’t violence, neither is your silence

- Pop Will Eat Itself, “Ich Bin Ein Auslander”

When all is said and done, nothing communicates the racism and knee-buckling stupidity of all-too-wide swaths of our nation quite like video. So if you don’t trust me to tell the truth about these folks, maybe you’ll trust their own words.

Continue reading

America's Negro Cracker Problem: Ich bin ein Auslander

Part one in a series.

Listen to the victim, abused by the system
The basis is racist, you know that we must face this

In 1991 Pop Will Eat Itself produced one of the most damning comments on racism in society in the history of popular music. “Ich Bin Ein Auslander” was specifically aimed at anti-immigrant racism in Europe, but over the past 17 years it’s been impossible for me to hear the song without mapping its penetrating, undeniable truth onto our American context. Our black auslanders aren’t recent arrivals (although many of our brown ones are), but they nonetheless remain social, political, economic and cultural outsiders, and whatever progress they may have made in the several hundred years since they first arrived in shackles, only a fool can believe that the basis is no longer racist.

I said some time back, as the presidential election lurched into overdrive, that the heavy racist stuff was coming. Continue reading

Nota Bene #44

Link of the Week (as opposed to the Weakest Link):

From a McClatchy blog, on something called the Reverse Bradley Effect: “. . . a new study today says that polls may be UNDERestimating Barack Obama’s support by 3 percent to 4 percent nationally [in] a reversal of the so-called Bradley effect, in which support for African-American candidates is overstated when people talk to pollsters but then vote against the candidate in the privacy of the polling booth. ‘If you call people on the phone today and ask who they will vote for, some will give responses influenced by what may be understood locally as the more desirable response,’ [psychologist Anthony] Greenwald said.” And then, apparently, vote for who they want. Continue reading

Beware celebrity negroes raising your gas prices for Satan!

I’m beginning to get a bad feeling about Campaign ’08. A nasty, sinking feeling that we’re a’fixin’ to spend the next three months obliterating ever record for dirty, dishonest, unethical, immoral electioneering in the history of American politics.

I don’t say this casually. I remember the Bush I “Willie Horton” ad. I lived through multiple Jesse Helms campaigns in North Carolina, including the one with the epic “Hands” ad. And the shit that Karl Rove’s pack of soulless jackals pulled in 2004 amazed even my cynical sensibilities. Continue reading

Bush judge rules for Congress

Today has been a good day for Congress in its efforts to reimpose some limits on Presidential power. Judge John D. Bates, a 2001 Bush appointee to the Washington D.C. United States District Court, ruled today that presidential advisers and aides must appear before Congress when issued a subpoena. Congress sued the Administration in District Court to force former White House counsel Harriet Miers and current White House chief of staff Josh Bolten to appear before Congress as required by a Congressional subpoena that was ignored. Continue reading

Our latest tragic shooting: who's to blame?

Another church shooting, this time in Knoxville. By now you’ve probably read the accounts and know that the shooter, Jim Adkisson, was motivated by, among other things, an apparent hatred of “liberals.”

Before diving too much deeper, there are a couple things we can probably safely say about Adkisson. First, these weren’t the actions of a rational man. Rational people don’t wade into crowds of people attempting to kill as many as possible.

So whatever else may have been at play, and no doubt the causes were many and complex, let’s be clear that we’re dealing with a disturbed individual. Continue reading

How do you feel about free speech, Mr. Candidate?

Our friends over at Colorado Independent have a great new analysis up on free speech zones graveyards at the upcoming DNC. As Constitutional attorney John Whitehead explains, the Dems will be the only party this summer building a fence around open expression.

Protesters at the upcoming Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Denver in late August will be corralled into caged “free speech zones” made of chicken wire and chain link fences which are located more than two football fields from the delegates’ entrance. Those who attempt to exercise their First Amendment rights outside this makeshift cage, which is partially obscured by trees and sculptures, will be arrested. (Ironically, protesters at this year’s Republican National Convention will not face a cage or even policemen in riot gear.) Continue reading

ABC sinks to new low in debate, but record won't stand for long

I missed last night’s “debate” between Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. From what I can tell this morning, that was the smartest thing I did all day. I’ve read a good bit about it and seen some video and it looks like what transpired in Philadelphia may have been a new low-water mark in American journalism.

Let’s see what people are saying.

  • We’ll start at Crooks & Liars, which has video of the debacle.
  • Next let’s check in at the ABC “News” Web site, where the network’s viewers are still engaging in one of the bloodiest nard-stompings I’ve ever seen. Nearly 16,000 comments as I write, and the consensus is not a happy one. Continue reading