Friday, November 9, 2012

Shellshocked by Truthiness

This news from the Romney campaign seems to be the story of the day.
"We went into the evening confident we had a good path to victory," said one senior adviser. "I don't think there was one person who saw this coming."...

"He was shellshocked," one adviser said of Romney.

Romney and his campaign had gone into the evening confident they had a good path to victory, for emotional and intellectual reasons. The huge and enthusiastic crowds in swing state after swing state in recent weeks - not only for Romney but also for Paul Ryan - bolstered what they believed intellectually: that Obama would not get the kind of turnout he had in 2008.

They thought intensity and enthusiasm were on their side this time - poll after poll showed Republicans were more motivated to vote than Democrats - and that would translate into votes for Romney.

As a result, they believed the public/media polls were skewed - they thought those polls oversampled Democrats and didn't reflect Republican enthusiasm. They based their own internal polls on turnout levels more favorable to Romney. That was a grave miscalculation, as they would see on election night.
What it comes down to is the same thing both President Obama and President Clinton have tried to point out when it comes to dealing with Republicans about the federal budget...they don't believe in arithmetic.

Their substitute is what Stephen Colbert so prophetically called "truthiness" way back in 2005.

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  1. I, too, was struck by the word "shellshocked." You've got to be kidding me, I thought. Truly, we dodged a bullet this election, on both POTUS and FLOTUS.

    I've been turning it around in my head since the election, and to some extent before, and maybe I need to flesh it out in something long. But once Romney lost you had "sensible" Republicans talking about how the Party has a "demographic problem" (most) or "we need to appeal to the middle" (fewer). Of course nobody mentioned the "racism, misogyny, and homophobia problems."

    That aside, there is a massive structural problem the GOP faces. The GOP ascendancy that began with Nixon was partially based on the Southern Strategy, we know, with all its attendant race-baiting. And Reagan in part used the religious right as a solid base of support with his abortion rhetoric. But the other, and to me potentially most difficult to overcome problem the GOP faces is its media culture. Briefly: the GOP needs Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, but Fox and Rush don't need the GOP.

    We often forget that the talk of "liberal media" on the right is basically a response to two things: Cronkite coming out against the Vietnam War (and all that followed) and then the Washington Post's role (how times have changed) in breaking Watergate. Great effort as you know was expended creating a "friendly" media, which meant not only creating their own outlets but putting shills in the already-existing outlets. It was a big project but it worked.

    Here's the current problem: Fox News is profitable on its own accord. Rush makes bank on his own accord. They have a business model and no incentive in the least to change it. Roger Ailes likely sees the bigger picture, but he's boxed in. None of the people working for him know any other angle than the one they've played for years now in one form or another.

    Rush is Rush because he has an incredible intuition about what will poke his audience in the right place. At some level, he's the most expert at this among them, but every Fox anchor has kept her or his job for the very same reason. They are practiced adlibbers, and those adlibs are all about needling white people's fears about race, gender, and sexuality.

    There is no GOP institutional center that can turn off all that noise. There is money pouring in, and nobody profiting off that, be they bigshots like Rush, or shareholders, or relatively faceless copy writers, will graciously pursue a new livelihood and develop from scratch a new set of rhetorical skills.

    The GOP at this point would change or die, but the party is not itself a closed system. The party at this point functions for the media end of it rather than, as planned, the other way around.

    1. I don't know if you saw it, but David Frum spoke to your point powerfully on Morning Joe today. Here's the clip. The whole thing is fascinating but its the very last part where Frum nails it.

    2. I harass Frum on Twitter, and I probably shouldn't because I think he is a very fundamentally decent person. He is very much not a prick. His comments that everyone there on that TV panel has health insurance is about a lot more than a particular policy. He is connected to the real world.

      He used the term "Conservative entertainment complex." Really good term.

      As you know, I'm a student of Soviet history. Stalin, whatever else you might say, understood politics. He was the Party Secretary. That meant that he was responsible for the nomenklatura: the list of names of people in the Party for staffing purposes. Who do we have who is a dependable young Communist in X locality? Stalin had the name, and when it came down to it, Trotsky was smarter and a better speaker, but Stalin always had the majority backing him in the Central Committee.

      Who is among the nomenklatura in the GOP? The local bigot here. The homophobic cretin there. Who can fill in when the anchor has an appendectomy? This reporter can adlib for our audience craving racist innuendo. Between their thinkers and their voters is the massive group of people whose relative privilege in their "movement" comes from their willingness to race-bait, gay-bait, and woman-bash, and the fact that they believe that doing so is a good thing.

    3. This is who the GOP is...has been since the mid 60s when they defected from the Democratic Party....i do not see them ever really changing...what the TeaParty has done is pull back the curtain that everyone can see who is pulling the strings....for our part...this coalition of women/AfricanAmericans/gay/str/latino...etc...must remain united and vigilant..because what we have learned is that although the RW has been has not been destroyed/and will return again/we must be ready to confront and defeat them once again....


  2. Frum is perhaps the most sane of the sane Republicans. He saw the writing on the wall when Obamacare passed. He told the Republicans that they were not subsidiaries of the right-wing media apparatus they created. But they didn't listen to him. They went all in on the crazy because it was "the math that makes Republicans feel good about themselves".

    The problem is that Frum has very little power in Republican circles. None of the sane Republicans do because they have all been excomunicated. So where is the person who can turn this thing around? I don't see it.

  3. Apropos of this discussion, I continued to watch the Morning Joe videos over the computer after the link SP shared above.

    The conversation had turned to Todd Akin. One of the Democratic talking heads told Scarborough that when you nominate your "most conservative" candidates like Akin, you're going to lose.

    Then, a beautiful moment. Scarborough didn't challenge him in the least but rather accepted his premise. What the Democrat had done was use Akin to define Conservatism generally. Akin's comments about rape, he said, conformed most closely to what an ideal Conservatism is, and Morning Joe accepted it. He either didn't realize what was happening or, less likely I think in his case, agreed with the premise.

    Frum is smart. Most of these tools are not.