If You’re Surprised By The Election Results, You’re The Reason You Lost, Or: A Plea For Useful Republicans
I know the despair you feel this morning, and sympathize, because I’ve been there. In 2004 my stiff, robotic millionaire lost to a President he should have soundly thumped, and I was so hurt I took a week off from the Internet afterwards. I am completely sympathetic with that slow terror that the country is now in the hands of an incompetent, and the voters don’t even know it.
But I noticed a weird difference between the way Republicans and Democrats reacted to a losing candidate. In 2004, when the polls turned against Kerry and it was obvious he was going to lose, the Democrats asked “How can we fix that?” Oh, they asked in their glum, incompetent way, but when I personally talked to other Democrats both in real life and online, we were all pretty cognizant of the fact that Kerry was the underdog.
The Republicans of 2012, however, became increasingly convinced that Romney was going to win.
Everywhere I looked on Twitter and Facebook, I saw my Republican friends – not straw men, but actual people – talking about how terrible Nate Silver’s methods were, how these Rasmussen polls showed Romney’s real strength, and eventually you got the travesty of UnSkewedPolls.com, which cherry-picked the data and even today has their prediction of not just a Romney win but a landslide, Romney 311 to Obama 227. (Actual result: Obama 332, Romney 206.)
It all crystallized for me when my friend Brad Torgerson said, “Liberals and Democrats have Nate Silver and his 538 blog. Conservatives and Republicans have the U of CO guys. It’s an epic cage match of predictive numbers geekery!”
Look there. Right at that post – one not too dissimilar from a thousand other dismissals of Nate Silver and the other aggregated polls. See what Brad did there? The way the guy bringing you news he didn’t like was automatically assigned a partisan bias, and the only rational solution was to get a guy on your side with better numbers? As if reality was merely a function of getting enough guys on your side?
That’s why you lost.
Stop confusing hard reality for partisan opposition.
It’s time to step out of the bubble, dear Republicans, because we fucking need you. I don’t trust the Democratic party to run the country single-handedly. I want a Republican party I can rely on for real solutions – and you’ve become lazy, voodoo-like, dismissing any data you don’t like as partisan opposition.
Jay Lake is fond of saying, “Reality has a liberal bias.” That’s not because reality inevitably verifies liberal thinking, but because the Republican response to anything that challenges them is now to write off the data.
And let me repeat: we need you. I want a counterweight to Democratic power, not a deadweight that refuses to acknowledge the issues. I want a Republican party that will look at the numbers for climate change and not go, “I don’t like what those scientists are saying, so I’ll call it a silly liberal bias!” but say , “We’re business experts, we know how to motivate rich people to do what we want, how do we fix this?” I want a Republican party that will realize while yes, we’re spending far too much and should cut down, the results of thirty years of trickle-down theory and tax cuts won’t actually provide enough revenue, because we are at the lowest effective tax rates we’ve had in thirty years.
And yes, you can argue all my statements here. But in that, smart person, you’re like a driver with an SUV in Alaska. A person with a car in Alaska is going to get stuck in the snow eventually; that’s a fact. But if you have an SUV, you’re gonna get stuck way the heck out in the woods where no one can get at you, because you have the strength to do it and won’t stop when common sense tells you to. I had a ton of Very Smart friends dissecting all the reasons why Nate Silver was wrong, why his methodology sucked, why these pollsters who said what they liked over here had better ways of slicing the data… and all that flurry of so-called “facts” amounted to was an elaborate justification of personal biases that had no basis in reality.
It’s time to stop fighting the obvious. It’s time to stop assuming that anyone who presents contradictory data is out to get you.
You should have won, guys. You had a President with an economy in the doldrums, a guy who’d lost a lot of his electoral mojo in the realities of politics. But instead of rising from the grave, you chose a candidate who never actually gave us firm numbers on what expenses he’d cut to fix the economy. You chose a candidate who said he’d get rid of Obamacare, but never actually named the parts he’d destroy. You chose someone who, though all politicians lie, lied a lot more than almost any modern Presidential candidate.
You had a guy who should have sliced Obama to ribbons – and he lost, in large part, because he said, “Trust me” instead of giving us a plan. And you let him get away with it.
You let him get away with it because you’re indulging in a great deal of magical thinking. You let him get away with it because facts have ceased to matter; as long as someone tells you something you want to hear, you’ll find a way to justify it with pseudo-science and trust and spit and baling wire. You don’t like to hear how bad a candidate Mitt was, because you came so close this year, but it’s true; the problem is that so much of the country has abandoned listening to reality that you can get massive votes and never touch a fact.
If you can’t be honest today, in the aftermath of this great defeat, then you’re never going to see the truth.
If you seriously thought that Romney had a good chance of winning, then you’re part of the problem. Wake up. I implore you: learn from this. Look at your deepest beliefs, and see whether the numbers support them. Start thinking, maybe those people with data I don’t like are right.
If you think the lesson to be learned is “We weren’t conservative enough,” then you’re handing me a great victory in 2016. I want to have a real choice then.