I have always been drawn to this scene; I find its argument appealing, especially the idea that people looking for patterns will always find them. There is something particularly human about this persistent insistence to find the things we want to be there, whether or not they actually are.
So now I pivot, from a movie and a thought to Dean “The UnSkewed Polls Guy” Chambers. He was the man who decided to fix every poll he found that just didn’t look right. How did he manage this? By presuming the world that he wanted to exist. If the numbers said there were more Democrats supporting Barack Obama than Republicans supporting Mitt Romney, he just assumed more Republicans until the numbers looked like he wanted them to. It just didn’t matter that pollster after pollster was finding more Democrats than Republicans.
And now, another pivot, from Chambers to the conservative movement writ-large. It’s not entirely unbelievable that some people engaged in this sort of thing. Almost all of us are susceptible to seeing what we want to see and not what is. What’s more shocking though is realizing that this behavior wasn’t just Dean Chambers or some collection of his kooky supporters; it seems to have involved almost the entire conservative movement. Between the bad predictions (Newt Gingrich, Michael Barone, George Will, and, Dick Morris) and the enthusiastic embrace of Chambers’s skewed ideas, the conservative movement seemed so confident that all it had to do was show up on November 6th.
Most bogglingly, it seems to have involved Romney’s campaign. Here’s news of his planned fireworks celebration. Here’s his transition website. Here’s Romney’s refusal to write a concession speech. Was the idea simply to project confidence to his supporters or was it that they actually believed what they were saying publicly?
Consider the last few weeks of the campaign. The charitable view of the campaign’s alleged “expansion” into Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Minnesota was that he was expanding his map in an attempt to find avenues to victory should he not get Ohio. But given Romney’s apparent confidence in his own dominant performance, it seems just as likely that he believed the ongoing lie about how well his campaign was doing. Maybe he really believed that Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Minnesota were in play. Maybe he really believed that he was on the precipice of a crushing victory that would dash liberal dreams.
Now that we’re firmly – and mercifully – past the election, we’re seeing the conservative movement again go on the hunt for an explanation that fits within its worldview. Which explains the laundry list of reasons trotted out to explain Romney’s crushing defeat: that it was Hurricane Sandy, that it was Chris Christie, that it was voter-supression, that it was a lack of conservatism, that it was media bias and, most perniciously*, that it was that the people who voted for Obama just weren’t proper Americans.
Each of those explanation exclude the possibility that Obama’s campaign beat their Romney’s campaign fairly and squarely**. It’s precisely the same thinking that went into the embrace of Dean Chamber’s unskewing. It couldn’t be then and it can’t be now that America would voluntarily return Obama to the White House. It couldn’t be then and it can’t be now that America would prefer Obama. There has to be something else. There must be.***
*Perniciously is a great word, one which I’m using to be polite.
**Even though we all know that “fairly and squarely” is being exceptionally gracious to the state level Republican politicians who did everything imaginable to suppress the vote, from Rick Scott’s idiotic voter purges, to Pennsylvania’s bizarre voter-ID law, to longer voting lines in Democratic strongholds.
***This interview is just insanely bonkerspants. I thought I’d throw it in.