Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Too Close to Call?

Up to the very end of this election, the media insisted that the the electoral contests were “too close to call.”
As soon as the election was over, everyone seemed to have a bunch of facts which showed Obama to be the likely winner.
Many pundits have insisted that the Republicans completely misjudged who was voting out there. Their appeal was mainly directed at grumpy elderly white men, while people of color, women, young people voted in larger proportions than before. After the election, the pundits all talked as if everyone knew this. But if everyone knew this, why did they think that Romney had a chance?
No sooner had Obama won the vote in Ohio than everyone shared the information that Obama had almost 3 times as many local electoral offices in Ohio than Romney. Obama relied on the tried and true methods of community organizing: you go out there and talk to people. Romney relied on media ads.
That suggests to me that Obama had a pretty good chance of winning in Ohio all along. Why was it too close to call?
The Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren obviously appealed much more powerfully to women voters than Scott Brown, a macho guy who liked to pose with his pickup truck and whose votes in the Senate gave the lie to his avowed concern for women.
That was obvious before the election. Why was it “too close to call?”
Romney quite consistently showed his contempt for what we now call “the middle class,” the folks who work regular jobs and have a hard time making ends meet. Why didn't anyone think that would not make a difference?
Over last summer, The Republican party engaged in a truly embarassing primary campaign  that paraded a series of imcompetents as Presidential material. Can a party that offer us  a choice between Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain be a serious contender for political power?
There are many other examples of straws in the wind that the media failed to, or refused to, or pretended not to see.
In recent years psychologists have done a whole lot of work on how we form our own opinions. It is clear today that one of the factors that affects our beliefs is what we think other people believe. Especially in situations where we are not very sure of ourselves, we tend to adjust our views to those we believe the majority to hold. It makes sense, doesn't it. If you're not sure of yourself you're likely to go with the crowd, hoping that they know something you don't.
Following that, one would expect that more people would have voted for Obama, had they known beforehand that he was going to win. If the media on the other hand persuaded voters that the election was too close to call, the inclination to go with the majority would have been much weaker.
So it could be that the media more or less deliberately denied that Obama was going to win in order to minimize the conformity effect. Had people known what the media clearly knew weeks ago, but refused to divulge, more might have voted for Obama.
Possibly the media – owned solidly by supporters of Mitt Romney – manipulated the news in favor of their candidate.
Of course it could have just been the sort of blindness, the unwillingness to see what was happening that Karl Rove displayed on election night when he refused to admit that Romney lost long after everybody else had recognized that.
So we face an interesting question in the week after the election: did the media deliberately misrepresent Obama's chances or were they just unwilling to recognize the truth that was staring them in the face?
Far be it from me to accuse the Rupert Murdochs of this world of manipulating the news for their own political interest.
You have to decide for yourself what you believe.