I went to our election watch, then had to leave to get to a conference, where I didn't get to hear much afterwards for several days. When I did turn on the TV, one morning, I saw what looked like a fellow-travellin R say something like, well, it was really really close.
THEN I saw the clip of Karl Rove, spluttering on Fox, that Ohio simply could not be for Obama. THEN I heard that not only the folks on the ground, but the strategists, the R machine, all the candidates, and the R pollsters all actually believed that they would win, and were shocked when reality intervened.
Is this true? They were genuinely surprised?
I had assumed, like all on my side, that the Rs were repeating, like a mantra, "it's too close to call" in order to drum up, or keep, enthusiasm. I heard about the ad hominem attacks on Nate Silver. I heard about their trumpeting of a supposed "enthusiasm gap" in their favor. I heard about them spending money on air time in places like Pennsylvania and Michigan, that were never in play. I heard that the R spokespeople and candidates looked and acted confident of a victory.
And of course it was a cause for concern. Do they know something we don't? Are the voting machines truly rigged? Are they feinting in Pennsylvania, for an October surprise elsewhere? Is all this just to ensure that their folks are enthused and active and hopeful?
I, like everyone I have read or talked to, was completely taken in. I was busy watching this, and wondering, and (I admit) being a tiny bit conspiratorial myself: what are they up to? The one thing I never expected turns out to be the truth:
They were taken in by their own spin. Not just the folks on the ground. All the way up to the top, they believed, truly believed, their own spin. They actually believed, from the bottoms of what passes for their hearts, that the polls, ALL OF THEM, overweighted democratic responses and were wrong. That young people and democrats would miraculously and mysteriously either not vote or vote R. That somehow Pennsylvania and Ohio and Michigan, never mind Florida, would rise up on the day and deliver all their electoral votes to the side of righteous R-dom.
This is a worry to me. I know the Rs have, shall we say, more than their share of reality-challenged members. But their entire political operative system? So busy looking in the mirror and admiring the bow tie that they don't notice that the house is burning down behind them? Taking, as a campaign strategy, the idea that if we lie enough to ourselves (1) we will believe it, and (2) it will be true?
My daughter, like every child, has gone through the phase of closing her eyes and believing that, because she can't see anyone else, those anyone elses can't see her. That was when she was around 2 years old.
So, the R party is RUN by a bunch of people with the external awareness of a two-year-old? Not just those rank and file members who are indeed know-nothings, willfully ignorant, and/or religiously blinded; all of whom the party has assiduously courted; but the folks actually running the show, too.
That is truly scary. Not new -- remember that bush aide saying, proudly, that they don't deal with reality, they make it? -- but one would hope that there are at least SOME members of the R party who have SOME connection to reality.