Reality bites

The most striking political development of the last decade or so has been the abandonment, by the political right, of any concern with reality. Mitt Romney ran the most deceitful and dishonest campaign in US political history, vowing not to be deterred by fact-checkers. His partisans, in the US and Australia have made denial of reality an artform. This approach has had some remarkable successes, notably in delaying action against climate change. But there is always the risk that deception will turn into self-deception and the US Presidential election illustrated that, with the emergence of “poll trutherism”, the belief that the polls pointing to Obama’s re-election were skewed in order to encourage Democratic turnout.

Now that poll-based predictions have turned out to be as close to accurate as statistical theory would predict, how will the right react? I can think of three possibilities

(a) Going deeper down the rabbit hole with the idea that the “increase Democratic turnout” strategy ensured that the polls were a self-fulfilling prophecy
(b) Attempting to return to reality on this issue, while maintaining delusional positions on other issues, and maintaining faith in the pundits who led them astray this time round
(c) A serious attempt to shift to a policy discourse based on evidence and analysis rather than talking points in support of positions chosen on a basis of tribal faith

I can’t imagine much progress towards (c). Apart from anything else, most of the existing rightwing commentariat would be unemployable if this were required of them. So far, I haven’t seen much evidence of (a), but it may well be bubbling below the surface. Still, at this point (b) looks most likely.

47 thoughts on “Reality bites

  1. Kates … wow.

    The blindfold slips off and for the first time he perceives the America he has been fellating his entire life.

    Hard to swallow, hey, Steve.

    Time to seek another appendage, pal.

  2. Kates is simply stark staring mad.
    most of the others are simply incompetent and lazy to boot hence their persistent and consistent inaccuracy.
    Davidson is goebellian but again is lazy and quite easy to show how misleading he is.
    Of course the ONLY two people to say the last budget was expansionary was from Catallaxy. Davidson being one. Then his piece on the ETS and the last CPI was positively embarrassing

    They obviously cannot read the national accounts or budget papers over there.

  3. @Mitchell Porter This isn’t just my view. Here’s the centrist Washington Post, referring to Romney’s “contempt” for the electorate

    and here’s the NYTimes

    “Nothing in [Obama’s] or in past campaigns, for that matter — has equaled the efforts of the Romney campaign in this realm. Its fundamental disdain for facts is something wholly new. “

  4. Risking sanity, I had a look at that Kates piece. Wow!

    As far as I can tell, the “damaged women” thesis goes something like this:

    “In the sixties Kates liked to use Playboy.
    Playboy and Greer created a generation of damaged women and a powerful ‘abortion lobby’.
    The abortion lobby was a key to the Romney’s loss because they made stupid people believe the Republicans might wind back Roe v Wade when every intelligent person knows that would be impossible, even though they had it as a policy.
    Those lying, cheating damaged women made Romney lose.”

    Couldn’t handle much more but there was something equally stupid about jealous lazy people who hate anyone ‘better’ than they are, and a powerful ‘revenge’ lobby who also got the hate vote out in force. Or something. Seriously loopy.

  5. Thanks Megan, I was wondering what it all meant.

    What I found interesting was the ad beside the article, an ad for Christian Carter who will show women how to “Catch Him and Keep Him”; “to learn what really attracts men and what pushes them away”.

    What sort of woman reads Quadrant and is interested in this sort of ‘advice’?

  6. John, John Geer, author of In Defense of Negativity: Attack Ads in Presidential Campaigns, argues that negative ads focus on important political issues and give voters critical information about differences between candidates. Postive ads are political fluff.

    He has an Attack Ad Hall of Fame at with youtube type links to The Living Room Candidate that has the major presidential campaign ads back to 1952. mental health warning for US political junkies.

  7. Hmm, Kates has been banging on about the ineffable inerrancy of Say’s Law for a good 25 years, something of a record for supporting the unsupportable.

    For a long time he worked in the private sector, but now that he is throwing insults at those who take the Queen’s shilling, he takes it himself as a minion of a public institution, namely RMIT.

  8. This is pathetic, Jim. Romney mentioned Big Bird himself.

    Sad to say, the Politifact guys have fallen prey to the same evenhandedness doctrine that crippled mainstream media for a long time. Republicans lie all the time about everything, and the same is true of Quadrant, Catallaxy, IPA etc. You know this as well as I do, but you keep playing silly verbal games to dodge the truth.

  9. Barack Obama: Says Mitt Romney “backed a bill that outlaws all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest.”Oct. 24, in a TV ad

    The ruling: Pants on Fire! There’s no evidence that Romney ever specifically opposed exceptions for rape and incest. While he supported the “human life amendment,” there are many versions and the most recent ones allow abortion after rape or incest. Romney said recently he supports those exceptions.


    In 2011, Romney explained his position on abortion in an op-ed in the National Review. It begins with “I am pro-life and believe that abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.”

    That is rather a moderate position for a Republican. While Mitt supported the “human life amendment,” there are many versions of this and the most recent ones allow abortion after rape or incest.

  10. @Jim Rose All of what you say was made null and void by Romney aide Neil Newhouse who said “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers”

  11. John, thanks for the fact checking link. It shows that both sides of politics are economical with the truth and exhibit advocacy bias in the presentation of their arguments. Some have even been known to stir up resentment of outsiders and envy of the rich.

    Fortunately political discourse is based on tension among the factions and institutional checks and balances rather than hoping that someone will come down from the mountain with the way, the truth and the light.

    The social sciences has known this for a long time. It replies on critical discussion to evaluate arguments. The politics and passions of social scientists are beside the point. Stigler argued that the biography of scientists has relevance only to the problems they select in light of their passions.

    Some do commit fraud, and there is data mining and publication bias. Most of all, knowledge grows in small, partial, steps mixing error with enlightenment.

    Milton Friedman argued that drastic change in economic theory was not the result of ideological warfare or divergent political beliefs or aims. Economic theory responded almost entirely to the force of events: brute experience proved far more potent than the strongest ideological preferences.

  12. Jim, you’ve misrepresented me on a number of occasions, and shrugged it off when I pointed it out. So, I suggest you just leave this topic alone. You’re certainly not going to convince me, and I doubt anyone else.

  13. @John Quiggin as I recall, when you pointed out that I misremembered something you posted a year or two previous, I accepted I hade made an error and offered additional evidence for your point of view. I also said that:

    “John, you never get anywhere if you lose your temper and assume people lack goodwill.

    people spot that opening and use it to sideline you into a petty fight. that task of provoking such a fight is delegated to a junior member of the opposing team so that the lead members can get on with the real business of the day. manners cost you nothing and keep you in the game.

    your search for moral turpitude in the recent privatisations is an example.

    you were so busy with witchhunts for suspect numbers and dodgy cash flow estimates that you lost your best argument.

    governments are so hopeless at running businesses that they screw up even the simplest of ownership task, which is selling the asset for a good price. the politics of the sale will overrule commercial considerations.

    p.s. John, obviously, your google blog search skills are better than mine. also, if you can remember a blog post of 22 or so months ago, it is time for you to get out more.”

  14. Kates in his Quadrant piece seems to show projection. He is bitter towards those he disagrees with and probably has had problems relating to women who are uppity and think that men shouldn’t be threatening to stop them accessing proper abortion. The term prolife is a misnomer as its anti life for women which is a more accurate description. Women are right to be sceptical of those who would limit their ability to access proper abortion clinics as this has been the case for most of history. With his other unsubstantiated slurs I wonder that he can call himself an economist although he is economical with the truth.

  15. @Jim Rose

    The more you try, the more you fail.

    You silly silly man, all the effort you put in to make a point, any point, and despite all the responses that should have started you thinking that you might be a bit wrong, the responses that should have shamed you, you continue to blather on, to what end?

    What do you want?

    Is it time for you to bugger off and find another hobby, one that will be more productive and maybe bring you some peace of mind and perhaps also one more suited to your cognitive abilities. Do they have Old Bloke Shed’s where you live?

    You say, so foolishly, to JQ “if you can remember a blog post of 22 or so months ago, it is time for you to get out more”

    You really don’t realise that some people have cognitive skills far superior to yours?

  16. @Julie Thomas There you go again; equating political differences with ill-will, malice and ignorance. Puts off the day when you have to think more deeply about why your ideas are unpopular or were recently rejected as out-of-touch.

    The only politicians that have been rejected by the voters recently for breaking promises and for being untrustworthy were Rudd and Gillard.

    Labour struggles to win a third of the primary vote. Three-quarters of the electorate voted 1 for someone else than Labor in two recent state elections.

    Then there is the fantasy that Romney and the GOP are extremists. The GOP has consistently won close to half or more than half of the American electorate with the except when Perot was running and split the fiscal conservative vote. The last democratic party landslide was LBJ.

    Neither Mitt or Obama are extremists if they can win about half the electorate.

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