By Ben Cohen: If you listened to any prominent right wing media outlet during the week leading up to the election, you would have thought it was in the bag for Mitt Romney. Right wing pundits like Karl Rove, William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer predicted a close but definitive victory for Romney, Dick Morris boldly predicted the GOP would break 300 electoral votes, and incredibly, George Will thought Romney would take a whopping 326 (Romney won 206 electoral votes). In fact, the Right wing media was positively giddy with excitement believing they had finally unseated the Muslim Communist presiding in the White House.
Meanwhile, the supposedly ‘liberal’ media was projecting a fairly decisive win for the President, in large part due to the predictions of the New York Time’s polling expert Nate Silver.
Why the difference?
In short, the Right used ideology as the intellectual underpinning of their projections, while everyone else used facts. Nate Silver isn’t a mystic or the modern incarnation of Nostradamus – he’s an extraordinarily thorough polling analyst who bases predictions on a formula that accounts for real world margins of error and reporting discrepancies. It isn’t perfect, but the methodology is pretty airtight when it comes to projecting accurate odds. That’s why every half decent political analyst took Silver’s projections seriously and discounted the Right wing noise machine when it came to picking a winner.
This theme of fantasy vs reality goes far deeper than picking the winner in Presidential elections. It goes to the heart of what now constitutes conservatism in America, and why it is in perpetual decline.
As Conor Friedersdorf writes in the Atlantic, conservative ideology in the US is now so far removed from reality that it now only exists as a money making machine for loudmouths like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity:
In conservative fantasy-land, Richard Nixon was a champion of ideological conservatism, tax cuts are the only way to raise revenue, adding neoconservatives to a foreign-policy team reassures American voters, Benghazi was a winning campaign issue, Clint Eastwood’s convention speech was a brilliant triumph, and Obama’s America is a place where black kids can beat up white kids with impunity. Most conservative pundits know better than this nonsense — not that they speak up against it. They see criticizing their own side as a sign of disloyalty. I see a coalition that has lost all perspective, partly because there’s no cost to broadcasting or publishing inane bullshit. In fact, it’s often very profitable. A lot of cynical people have gotten rich broadcasting and publishing red meat for movement conservative consumption.
How long can this go on? The libertarian economic orthodoxy that has polluted American politics for over 30 years has wrought havoc on the economy, creating gigantic wealth inequality, a dangerously powerful and unregulated financial system, and most impressively, the biggest economic disaster in 80 years. Yet Republicans insist it works and we need more of it to get out of the mess it created. Mitt Romney believed he could present a tax plan to the American public that didn’t add up, because his philosophy of cutting taxes and allowing big business to do as it pleases was self evident. The Right believes that because it believes something, it must be true. And they keep finding out that is doesn’t.
It seems that no matter how hard reality hits, mainstream conservatism finds a way to avoid it and curl back into its ideological ball. The Right has been wrong on climate change, economics, and now their own chances at electoral success, yet they continue to ignore hard facts and proceed selling the same nonsense to an increasingly skeptical public.
I would have paid money to be in the Fox News studio with Karl Rove last night to watch the fallout after it dawned on them that Romney was going to lose, and lose badly. Just watch this incredible clip of Rove, unable to confront reality, as Fox called Ohio for Obama:
Writes Andrew Sullivan:
Last night, Roger Ailes’ walls came tumbling down. Because their foundations were not based in reality, just ratings. Fox deserves a great deal of credit for re-electing president Obama. Because they refused to see who he actually was, they could not effectively counter him. They countered a figment of their imagination – and it was a particularly nasty, bilious, mean figment. Their universe became a black hole last night, sucking almost all of them in.
Perhaps the Republicans will reinvent themselves taking reality into account – it’s a long shot given their recent history, but the only way they’ll maintain any sort of electoral viability in the future.
But it’s about as safe a bet as Romney’s chances were of winning the White House.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.