The multiplicity of modern media has made it possible to create worlds within worlds, realities within realities. You can, for example, choose a reality in which Barack Obama is up by 3.5 percentage points, with an 80 percent chance of being re-elected, or you can choose to live in a competing reality in which “unskewed” polling reports the happy news that Mitt Romney is actually up almost eight points in national polls.
However, a time will always arrive when your created reality must be “trued up” against actual reality. You can delay that moment, you can dodge that moment, but eventually it must come. Media technology, with all of its magic, has not yet created a work-around to that harsh exercise.
In the runup to the Iraq War, for example, the Bush administration created a reality in which Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, American forces would be greeted as liberators, ethnic differences in Iraq were of little consequence and the invasion would more or less pay for itself. Actual reality proved to be quite a bit different, but it took several agonizing years for our leaders to admit just how delusional their created reality had been, and to realign their policies accordingly.
Election days also have a way of realigning created realities to actual reality. On the evening of Nov. 6, we will not only have an answer to whether the polls or the “unskewed polls” had proved more accurate, we will learn a lot more about the American people as well. Each political party entered this campaign season confident that it had the backing of the majority of Americans; each believed that its message was more true to American values and more responsive to America’s needs.
The election is going to tell us which reality was correct, and which is in need of alteration.
In my own personal created reality — and given human limitations and our imperfect understanding of the world, we all live in created realities of varying accuracies — Barack Obama should and probably will be re-elected. In my reality, those conservatives who have been pouring into movie theaters to see “2016: Obama’s America” may have to come to grips on Election Night with the fact that a majority of their fellow Americans simply do not see the world as they do, that in fact they, not the president and his supporters, are the minority that is out of touch with the American mainstream.
I understand that would not be easy to accept, and that most will employ any means available to avoid doing so. The process is already underway and is easily observable. For example, the claim that current polls are biased against conservatives is at root a defense mechanism that allows them to deny in public, and for a while, an outcome that many of them in private now fear to be looming.
And should that argument fail, fear not, because this is a defense in layers. Conservatives are already preparing a fallback defense blaming their loss on the media. Beyond that they have prepared a defense in which they blame it on Mitt Romney, and beyond that on the Republican establishment that forced the selection of Romney on a party base that knew better.
All of those layers of psychic defense are designed to defend the inner sanctum, the holy of holies. Whatever happens, blame must not be allowed to fall on the conservative message. Blame it on those selected to spread the message, blame it on those who distorted the message, blame it on those too stupid to appreciate the message, but whatever happens, do not blame it on the message.
Because if the message is wrong, it forces a readjustment to reality that is too painful to be considered.
Read, for example, Erick Erickson, the CNN analyst and Redstate.com founder:
“There are a lot of elitist Republicans who have spent several years telling us Mitt Romney was the only electable Republican. Because the opinion makers and news media these elitists hang out with have concluded Romney will not win, the elitists are in full on panic mode. They conspired to shut out others, tear down others, and prop up Romney with the electability argument. He is now not winning against the second coming of Jimmy Carter. They know there will be many conservatives, should Mitt Romney lose, who will not be satisfied until every bridge is burned with these jerks, hopefully with the elitist jerks tied to the bridge as it burns.”
“There will be very negative consequences for a Romney loss for the power of center-right elites who are largely viewed as foisting him on the base despite the latter’s objections. A Romney loss almost certainly pushes the 2016 nominee rightward, and I doubt the megaphones will be powerful enough to frame the 2012 contest, as they did in 2008, as one where the conservative Veep choice dragged down the ticket.
“Like it or not, the money and opinion elites on the center-right own Romney’s failure from the perspective of the base — they need him to win. And the reality is that if Romney loses, it will have little if anything to do with Paul Ryan’s big ideas, tactical choices, or elite misgivings — and far more to do with the simple fact that Romney is still disliked by most voters.”
Both men insist — and on this they are correct — that the battle is not yet lost. There is still time — barely — to turn the race around, although at this point something major would have to happen to do so. I have yet to see such anguished handwringing from anyone on the left, which tells you something.
The thrust of the argument from Erickson, Domenech and many others is equally telling: Should we fail, our failure can be explained only by the fact that our movement has been insufficiently pure, that our message is insufficiently pure, and that we ourselves have been insufficiently pure. Move farther right, ever farther right, for there lies true salvation.
From my version of reality, that response dooms you to perpetual minority status. From theirs, it represents pursuit of the true faith. And one of those realities is very very wrong.
– Jay Bookman