Remember Karl Rove running around on election night last year, refusing to accept Fox giving Obama a win in Ohio? That was fun, wasn't it?
But the same thing that caused Rove's election night nutsiness is causing the current government shutdown. It's the GOP's stubborn ignorance of polls. And this GOP ignorance is largely created and stoked by the media's even deeper ignorance of polls. And that's a root cause of our government being shut down.
I'll not get into the weeds about the polling for 2012 except to say that Pew Research had it right and pollsters like Rasmussen and Gallup had it wrong. Nate Silver of the NY Times had it right in his famed analysis because he did what any news organization and the GOP could have done: First figure out which pollsters do a good job, such as adjusting for the cellphone age (Gallup, etc. didn't), and then principally rely on the competent pollsters, the best being Pew Research.
Alternatively, the media and GOP could have been really lazy and just relied on Nate Silver. He's so good at analyzing data that major league baseball bought into his findings about which stats actually indicate a player's monetary value.
But neither the GOP nor the media even tried to be correct in 2012. (See below for two notable exceptions.) Instead they believed what they wanted to believe. That's also what's going on now.
The media wanted to believe 2012 was a "close" race because a seemingly tight race would build viewer/reader interest. The GOP wanted to believe it was winning because it had to be winning, didn't it? It had spent tons more money than the Democrats. The economy was still very squishy. The GOP are the anointed of God (so they believe). Obama is an African American and America is a racist country. As it turned out none of the foregoing determined the outcome. But throughout the election campaign, the media and the GOP studiously ignored what was really going on.
They are doing the same thing now. Armored by the belief that "a majority" of Americans want Obamacare repealed, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and their merry band of maniacs, are shutting down the fed government as a way of getting Obamacare killed. They genuinely believe that Americans are with them in hating Obamacare and wanting it dead. They are therefore willing to risk that the shutdown will kill their own party's prospects for taking the Senate in 2014 and keeping control of the House. "We know we are right," says House Speaker John Boehner.
Well, they are not right. Nor is the press, which has been reporting heavily for a couple of weeks that a majority of Americans don't like the new health care act. During these crucial weeks the press has, however, been telling a half-lie. Yes, a majority "aren't happy" with the new law. That part of the media reporting may be true. But within that majority are the 16% of the people who are unhappy because they don't think the law goes far enough. They don't want it dead, Senator Cruz! They actually want more of it ! They want more government involvement!
The rest is arithmetic. Take away the 16% from the supposed majority and the number wanting to kill the health care act drops to 35%. But the media and Senator Cruz and Michele Bachmann didn't notice that though at least one major media outlet mentioned the 16% in the poll's findings.
Only now in fact - the first morning of the shutdown - do Politico, Forbes, Huff Post and others confirm what I have just asserted, with their top stories being that only one-third of Americans want to abolish the health care act. Why the switcharoo on the part of the media? Because a new poll just came out yesterday that had rephrased the question. Instead of asking "Are you happy with the new health care act?", it asked "Do you want the new health care act repealed?" Only one-third said yes.
Ask the right question if you want a meaningful answer.
But we can't entirely blame the earlier pollster who asked the wrong question. After all, that pollster did acknowledge that 16% were unhappy because they wanted more government involvement. It's really the media that's to blame. With the exception of Lawrence O'Donnell on "The Last Word", the media paid no attention to the 16% part of the poll. Thus the GOP was free to believe its nonsense about "the majority" and run around yelling about it so the press could publish the GOP's false claim and amplify the error.
Maybe the media planned it this way. Misrepresent the polling by not fully disclosing the results, thereby encourage the GOP in being stupid, thereby get a shutdown of government, thereby have a "good story" and more viewers and more readers.
But no. The media couldn't plan its way out of a paper bag. It has only one planning mode: make up a scenario and stay with it. E.g. Obama can't beat "the Clinton machine" for the '08 Democratic nomination. Obama can't win because of the "Bradley effect" of people lying to pollsters to appear open-minded and then secretly voting their racism. On and on until this latest fiction: the majority want to end the new health law. The media spends more time manufacturing blue smoke than it would take to get out there and find some truth.
The truth is: ONLY ONE-THIRD OF AMERICANS WANT TO GET RID OF OBAMACARE.
Accept that fact, you stupid and stubborn right-wingers and lazy media!
As Fats Waller would say, "One do get weary."
And the two commentators who really tried to be accurate in the 2012 election and relied on Pew Research and Nate Silver? Well, that's your old pals, me and Lawrence O'Donnell. The result was that we were the only two commentators who said unequivocally that Obama was going to win.
That and $1.50 will get you a great cup of coffee here in my new little Oregon hometown.