There were a few surprises for everyone in the November 6 elections, but only one bit of post-election news left me stunned. On election day, Mitt Romney was so sure he was going to win, he didn’t bother to write a concession speech. He had to throw one together in the hour before he went on stage to acknowledge he lost and congratulate the reelected President. Paul Ryan, who is supposed to be a serious number cruncher, also thought the Romney-Ryan team had it pretty much sewn up, as did their campaign staffs and the gaggle of pundits at Fox News. How could they all have been so wrong?
According to Republican insiders, Romney couldn’t lose. Ohio was in the bag! When the networks called the state for Obama, top Romney supporters were shocked. But it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Most of the polls showed Obama ahead nationally as well as in Ohio. On election eve, master statistician Nate Silver, who has been amazingly accurate predicting election results -- often down to the decimal point -- gave Obama a 91.4% chance of being reelected. Sure, Romney had a shot at winning, but he was the clear underdog. Once the fog of the election results lifted, sure enough, Obama had taken Ohio by 400,000 votes and topped Romney nationally by 3.5 million votes.
You have to wonder how all these hard-nosed Republicans who pride themselves on their political savvy could have deluded themselves so thoroughly. Their job, I always thought, was to delude their followers by creating a fact-challenged alternate universe, not to be taken in by their own inventions.
When George Bush was President, one of his senior advisors chided a journalist for living in the “reality-based community.” “That’s not the way the world works anymore,” the advisor explained. “We create our own reality.” I always thought they understood the “reality” they were creating was a fiction tailor-made to fire up the base. But I guess if you sit in a circle of like-minded people plotting your political strategies long enough, hearing your ideas echoed and reinforced over and over again, you’re in danger of creating an airtight bubble that shuts out the rest of the world, and you make the politically fatal error of believing your own hype.
Post-election, I’ve had to change my perception of the top Republican politicos. For instance, I’ve always been certain when they railed against the idea of climate change, they knew they were spouting nonsense for the benefit of their oil company benefactors who fear their obscene profits would shrink if we transition to more environmentally friendly energy sources. They must have known, I was sure, that the vast majority of scientists agree that climate change is real and largely manmade, that the “scientists” who are climate change deniers would soon take their places in the Science Hall of Shame next to those who swore there was no connection between cigarettes and lung cancer. But now I’m beginning to realize, the top Republican operatives and office holders fell victim to their own subterfuge.
I guess that means top level Republicans, including those who aren’t religious true believers, have convinced themselves that evolution, whose basic concepts are nearly universally accepted by biologists, had nothing to do with shaping the living world. And I guess they actually believe lowering the tax rates on millionaires and billionaires will bring greater prosperity to everyone and lower the deficit at the same time, even though that idea has lost favor with all but a few die-hard economists. Here I always thought they only wanted the tax cuts to make themselves and their rich friends richer.
I suppose I should give these self-deluding Republicans credit for being less cynical than I always thought they were. But it’s certainly not to their credit that they’ve opted out of the “reality-based community” and taken up permanent residence in a fantasy land of their own making.