Monday, July 7, 2014

Elizabeth Warren: The New Poll-Unskewing

Back--way back--in the mist shrouded wastes of time (early November 2012) a legend--a myth--stalked the Republican mind-share. It was that all the polling--all the science of taking random samples--was being manipulated the same way that climate-change findings were: to meet a hidden agenda.

This manipulation--this lie--was being told by the polling experts and their media masters to serve us a narrative that Barack Obama, despite a dismal first term, and a complete failure in general, would win again. The intellectuals (not to mention the rank and file) of the Republican party saw through this veil of falsehood because they knew the real story.

The real story was that despite what the numbers said, 2012 was the I-Told-You-So election. The people--even the black people--who had made their choice had now suffered! Obama had ruled with his imperial fist and with unemployment soaring, the economy still in the dumps, and foreign policy a disaster, there was no way the young and bright-eyed--or the hopeful minorities--would turn out again in those numbers.

Sure, last time around Obama had been this shiny new thing full of hope and change--but now? Now we knew.

So the numbers were tellin' us lies.

Then came the election and those polling numbers? They were right on the money.

Hillary Clinton is NOT Running For President

Hillary Clinton isn't going to run--you can take that to the bank. Why not? There are a bunch of reasons--and everyone knows them:

Here's five:

  1. She sucks at campaigning! Look at the gaffes!
  2. She's too old--and it'll be nasty business!
  3. Even her friends in the media have turned against her (than NPR Interview! My goodness!)
  4. Obama is leaving a mess, ain't he--who wants that?
  5. The country wants real change--not a 1990's re-tread. She'll figure that out and take a pass.
  1. Life is unpredictable (she'll be so, so old!)
  2. Parties need competition--so Warren should run--just to toughen her up (of course, then Warren would win because ...)
  3. The left wants a hero! --and--
  4. Hillary ran a dumb campaign in 2008! She could do it again ... and ...
  5. Life is unpredictable (ONE. MORE. TIME.)
Oh, and, of course: Hillary is in poor health. Probably a brain tumor--which is why she's wearing those thick glasses ... 

And now we have:
It Beat Her Book Out--Which Wasn't Selling Anyhow ...

A new book (and breathless New York Posts reports) holds that Obama is throwing his weight behind Elizabeth Warren because Obama wants someone who will "protect his legacy" in the way the hated Hillary Clinton will not!

Legal Insurrection, a generally level-headed blog, finds this "entirely believable." Others find it "too good to check."

What's going on?

Elizabeth Warren: Is The New Poll-Unskewing

In 2012 the mania around poll unskewing was wide-spread. The idea was to take a poll that showed Romney losing and then plunge into the numbers like a deep-sea diver returning to the surface with gold: look at the over-sampling of Democrats! Ha! That's bogus--or maybe: They show independents breaking for Obama ... everyone knows independents break for the challenger (or is that undecideds? The Omnivore is never sure which fake rule is in play here!). Look at that minority breakdown! Transparent lies!!

In the aftermath, the story still persists that there was no way anyone could have predicted the outcome--that it was a complete surprise due to the Democratic Turnout Machine Miracle (read that link--it's from a smart analytics outfit and it still promotes this myth).

Of course the Democrat Turnout Machine Miracle was pretty damn sharp--but placing the blame on the mysterious Narwhale (the Democrat's technological platform for GOTV) is missing the point: the aggregate of polling was right on the money.

You cannot simultaneously hold that no one could have known what the voter distribution would be for 2012 (and thus exonerate Team Romney) and concede that the black-science of averaging polling numbers was somehow able to hit the mark like a laser-guided JDAM rocket through Saddam Hussein's ventilation shaft. Well, you can--but to do it you have to believe an impossible thing. In order to believe an impossible thing you need to swallow a toxic narrative.

What does that mean?

It means that when staring an uncomfortable truth in the face your brain will come up with a way to rationalize it away if you let it. That method is to create a story that makes it "not true." Then you simply follow the plot of the story you are telling yourself and you're good--the facts? They're a lie. You can go back to sleep (or keep blowing black smoke out of your diesel-engine smokestacks, whichever).

In 2012 the narrative was "I-Told-You-So"--it was that no one (no conservative, anyway) could conceive of people not being disgusted by Obama's first term and so the electorate would swing back to pro-Romney numbers. After that, unskewing the polls was easy: just skew them to whatever numbers Romney needed to win.

For today's example? Here's the numbers:

Does it look like Warren's about to eat Hillary's lunch?

What is the narrative? Well, it's working on two fronts:

  1. The She's Too Old Front: This story is that, hey, in 2 years Hillary will be all used up. She'll simply lack the strength to run. This has the advantage of being kinda true: she'll be old. It has the disadvantage of having been run against Reagan and failing miserably. You think people would know better.
  2. The Democrats Don't Want Her. This is the juicy one--and it's the one that's making headlines right now. In this story what Obama (and the Democrats) really want is Elizabeth Warren.
The Warren Story

The process starts with an emotional driver--in this case fear. The specific fear is that (a) Hillary will be unbeatable and therefore (b) The GOP will be consigned to lose yet another national election. This translates to the person wearing the GOP jersey (that is, someone who identifies part of their basic character as being conservative, or at least Republican / anti-Democrat) becoming irrelevant.

In other words, the Democrats nominating an inevitable Hillary Clinton translates as a personal defeat -- a personal threat to the person in question (the potential consumer for conservative blogs and the New York Post).

That person creates (or is given) a protective shell of rationalization that will prevent them from feeling the fear. That shell takes the form of a narrative which they swallow to explain away the uncomfortable (inconvenient?) truths. In order for this narrative to work it has to play on some internal belief that the person has--it has to fit into their mental landscape like a lock into a key (or a virus penetrating the defensive wall of a cell!).

In this case the keyhole--the window of vulnerability--is a fundamental misunderstanding of Democrats: the idea that they, as a party base, are as far left as the Tea Party / TruCons are far right--The idea that Obama and Hillary have been politicking as some kind of radical leftists. Now, before you take issue with me on this (if any conservative reader is about to) let's be clear what this isn't:
  1. It isn't a defense of Obama or Hillary. In a world where they had all the power, perhaps they would grab all the guns, pass single-payer health care (real socialized medicine), and loot the wealthy. Who knows--we don't live in that world. We live in a world where no one has broken up a large bank, where drone-strikes are at an all time high (including against Islamist Americans), and our military conducts extra-legal raids against nominally sovereign countries without their permission. Also ... eh .... this (some neo-cons say nice things about Hillary).
  2. It isn't a prediction of the future. Hillary might not run. She might be sick. Obama might hate her. Who knows--but the evidence we have isn't anywhere close to this. There, simply put, is no reason to find this narrative "believable" and all it does is make the Post look either gullible or, more likely, predatory (preying on conservative's fears).
  3. The hard-core 'left' (go read like North Korea) would definitely prefer someone other than Hillary as president. That person, however, is more likely the Green Party candidate (whoever that is next cycle around). The really far left people? They're not Democrats--they're some other party. This true to a much, much smaller degree for the Republicans.
How do we know about #3? The answer is in the concept of compromise. The Solid Left identified by Pew Research is similar to the Steadfast Conservative portion in numbers but the big difference between the two of them is how they react to the concept of compromise in their elected officials:
No one on the left approaches the hard-line positions that the Steadfast Conservatives do and mostly do not match that of Business Conservatives. This is a major and key difference between the parties behaviors and compositions--this is why we are not seeing Democrats--even Blue Dogs--wholesale run out of town by primary challenges due to ideological heresy (as we see with, uhm, Cantor, to pick one example).

This distinction, however, is lost on the rank and file conservatives who see the world through a lens where the Blue Team got everything they asked for (usually with lavish concessions by the Red Team at every step) and not the other way 'round (wherein the Red Team has blocked or tried to block everything the Blue Team as asked for leaving them with almost nothing).

The difference is that one-drop of compromise to the left looks like one-drop-of-compromise and to the right it looks like complete collapse.

In the face of this world-lens it's inconceivable (which, yes, means what The Omnivore thinks it means) that the Democrats, despite what polling clearly shows, would prefer a compromise candidate like Hillary to a more ideologically pure candidate like Warren. 

Once you've got that particular vulnerability (seeing any degree of compromise--such as Hillary's Gulf-War vote--as disqualification for office) the toxic narrative can slip in like viral RNA injected into a cell. The "protein sheath" the virus has in this context is the conservative media's driver to make money

Selling the Warren-Narrative makes for great blog-eyeballs and newspaper-sales to the vulnerable populace. It isn't a conspiracy: it's just 'good radio' (or good blog-io, or whatever). An editor looks at the story and goes "This is GOLD!"--and since it's all from anonymous sources, hey, we can't even check it! 

The Omnivore? He'd print it too--but he'd know what he was doing: selling toxic lies to a vulnerable populace.

Hey, things are tough all over in the Obama economy, right? Even with those recent made-up job numbers!


  1. You say that many rank-and-file "conservatives" wrongly assume that their "liberal" counterparts are mirror images of themselves, but their respective political-identity distributions have radically different skewness and kurtosis, as a statistician might say. Maybe so. Likely, even. But I strongly suspect that, at an emotional level at least, the well-known psychological principle of projection may be very much at work here. I think this also underlies the toxic exceptionalism we see far too much of these days: "It's OK when we do it." "It's different when they do it", etc.

    I think you're probably spot-on for why running stories of this type is such an easy call for editors; it plays well as "red meat" for the party base (can be "spun" for whichever mainstream party), makes great "dog-whistle" politics, and is fndamentally uncheckable. In the timeless words of Abraham Lincoln: "Don't believe everything you read on the Internet."

    And that word you keep using?Let's just hope you're not giving your word as a Spaniard...

    -- Ω

  2. I'd vote for Warren if I were American. But realistically, I don't think she can beat Hillary.

    1. If the Democrats end up nominating HRC - as divisive, polarizing, baggage-ridden, and generally unlikable as she is - they deserve to lose to whatever mummy or lunatic ideologue the Republicans put up in 2016. Maybe she has what it takes to pretend to govern what remains of this once-mighty empire, but it's irrelevant; the Clinton baggage which helped to sink Al Gore's Presidential ambitions would be equally toxic to her, if not more so.

      Poll numbers be damned; may as well back the long shot this time out and waste my vote on someone who's at least from a planet I recognize.

      Kodos? Cthulhu, more like. Why bother with the lesser evil?

      - Ω

    2. I see no alternative to HRC ... and no one who can beat her in the Republican stable. Now, having said that, there are a lot of qualifiers (certainly Jeb *could* beat her--so could, say, Rubio if he ran a brilliant campaign). The problem with these qualifiers are that they are mostly edge cases.

      The narrative that's out there is that Hillary is running an epic fuck-up of a campaign. Not so--unless you want to say that Romney's almost-won-it was also a clearly hopeless fuck-up of a campaign. There is a narrative that she's unlikeable--so was McCain. Dukakis? Reasonably likable. It's over-rated.

      She isn't a great candidate--no--but don't mistake that for necessarily being (a) a loser or even (b) a bad president (bad candidates can make pretty good presidents).

      Also, the fact that a *lot* of people--especially Canadians--would prefer Warren isn't material: the Democrats, to a huge plurality, find HRC an acceptable candidate and they'll turn out to vote for her (note: the Republicans found Romney an *unacceptable* candidate and they still turned out to vote for him--the people who didn't were non-core northern blue-collar whites--not a key Romney demo to begin with).

      In short, she doesn't have the weaknesses people are yapping about (unless there *is* a brain tumor) and she isn't someone the base doesn't actually want. The smart money says she's president in 2016 and the Democrats would be fools not to nominate her.

      This is why we're seeing all the wish-casting by the Conservative media: they know it too.

      -The Omnivore (Hey, I'mma vote Kodos -- but that's *always* my policy)