Conservative Fantasy Meets Reality

Republican politicians must learn to stop listening to the right wing noise machine. In October, Mitt Romney looked foolish when he tried to repeat the claims of the right wing media about Libya, only to be corrected during the second debate. In the final days of the election, Romney was talking about momentum which wasn’t there and sounded optimistic about winning. I had wondered if Romney believed what he said, or if he thought that he could improve his chances by sounding optimistic, despite the polling results. It now looks like he really did believe the faulty predictions and theories about the polls coming from the right wing based upon interviews with Romney advisers:

“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.

Those assumptions drove their campaign strategy: their internal polling showed them leading in key states, so they decided to make a play for a broad victory: go to places like Pennsylvania while also playing it safe in the last two weeks.

Those assessments were wrong.

The conservative media, which has considerable experience in denying reality, came up with alternative theories about the polls, and displayed their usual distrust of those who utilize actual facts. Conservative fantasy met reality on election night. Similarly we have seen conservative fantasy to justify war in Iraq, with some conservatives still believing Saddam was behind the 9/11 attack and had WMD. We see conservative fantasy economic theories, which do not work in the real world. We see conservative denial of science, including on evolution and climate change. Conservatives have their own alternative history, such as denying the fact that the Founding Fathers established the United States with a secular government characterized by separation of church and state, recognizing that this is essential to guarantee religious freedom.To prevent contamination from liberal (i.e. reality based) ideas, conservatives have their own descriptions of liberal beliefs, which are not held by any liberals in the actual world.

Even when the Republicans did attempt to use modern science, it comes as no surprise that they were not able to get it to work:

Mitt Romney’s campaign boasted for the past two weeks that it would outgun President Barack Obama’s team in the Democrats’ area of strength — voter-targeting. It would use a state-of-the-art system called ORCA, named for the killer whale, that cost substantial resources to build over months.

Instead, Romney campaign officials were mostly flying without instruments on Election Day.

Numerous Republicans in and around the Romney campaign called the ORCA platform a total bust, stranding thousands of volunteers without a way of reporting data back to headquarters and leaving Romney central command without a clear view of developments on the ground.
One conservative blogger, who does sound like he has a good grasp of using computer technology, described many flaws in the system:

From the very start there were warning signs. After signing up, you were invited to take part in nightly conference calls. The calls were more of the slick marketing speech type than helpful training sessions. There was a lot of “rah-rahs” and lofty talk about how this would change the ballgame.

Working primarily as a web developer, I had some serious questions. Things like “Has this been stress tested?”, “Is there redundancy in place?” and “What steps have been taken to combat a coordinated DDOS attack or the like?”, among others. These types of questions were brushed aside (truth be told, they never took one of my questions). They assured us that the system had been relentlessly tested and would be a tremendous success.

It might be too much to expect the conservative movement, beyond a minority with experience, to effectively utilize science and technology. Perhaps rather than trying to use ORCA, the Romney campaign should have spent the day praying for victory. That wouldn’t have done them any more good, but at least it is a concept they understand.