Michael Tomasky on the GOP’s Self-Delusion Syndrome
What a fantastic last two weeks these have been. I don’t even mean Barack Obama solidifying his lead over Mitt Romney, although that’s perfectly fine. No, I mean the near-mathematically perfect joy of watching these smug and contemptible creatures of the right dodge and swerve and make excuses and, most of all, whine. There is no joy in the kingdom of man so great as the joy of seeing bullies and hucksters laid low, and watching people who have arrogantly spent years assuming they were right about the world living to see all those haughty assumptions die before their eyes. Watching them squirm is more fun than watching Romney and Paul Ryan flail away.
I loved the initial reaction to the famous videotape. Problem? Are you kidding? This is just what we’ve been waiting for! This will help Romney, it was said; finally, we have Mitt unchained, Mitt raw, Mitt the truth-teller. Now he can just charge out there and do more of this, and in no time the nation will be putty in our hands! And just you wait for the next polls.
Well, the polls have started to come, and they portend total disaster. Americans don’t turn out to like a heartlessly cruel Social Darwinian articulation of the national condition that by the by calls half the population worthless. Huh. Go figure.
But is this a problem? Of course not! There is an explanation for this too: The polls are wrong! All of them. Except of course Rasmussen, that rock of right-minded methodological certitude jutting out from the ocean of relativist corruption. I’d like a nickel but would settle happily for a penny for every tweet I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks from a conservative braying about a given poll’s sample.
There are loads of them but the gold medalist of this event by far is Dick Morris, who sits there on the Fox set like a betumored walrus on an ice floe assuring his viewers not to worry. His riff to Sean Hannity Monday night, a night when everyone else saw that Obama’s lead was getting comfortable-to-the-point-of-insurmountable, is worth quoting at some length: “[Romney] is at the moment in a very strong position. I believe if the election were held today Romney would win by four or five points. I believe he would carry Florida, Ohio, Virginia. I believe he would carry Nevada. I believe he would carry Pennsylvania.” Even Hannity at this point interjected, “Oh, come on.” But on Morris went. He knew of a private poll in Pennsylvania, “by a group that I’ve hired in the past,” that had Romney two points behind.
“People need to understand,” he continued, “that the polling this year is the worst it’s ever been. Because this is the first election where if I tell you who’s gonna vote, I can tell you how you’re gonna vote.” He went on to say that polls are assuming a six- or seven-point Democratic edge, and he assumes a three-point edge.
First of all, what was the Democratic edge in 2008? Uh, seven points. Second, while he is correct that the polls are showing strong Democratic advantages, they’re doing so because that’s how people are identifying themselves to pollsters. In fact, Stan Greenberg noted last Friday, Republicans lost five points in voter identification in a month. This is not bad poll sampling. It’s reality. And while it’s true that today’s numbers might overstate what will be the case on Nov. 6, the way things are going, they just might be understating them.
But no—now, the mere fact of poll-taking is “a subtle means of Republican voter suppression,” as Simon Maloy put it over at Media Matters. And the latest whine—this cupboard somehow never runs bare—is that conservatives don’t like taking polls. So said Scott Walker to Fox on Wednesday. Yes, of course! Because conservatives are people of action, busy people, who have neither the time (like the indolent 47 percenters) nor the inclination to accept phone calls from lamestream media pollsters. Honestly. Scott Walker can’t really believe this.
And finally, the last refuge of these scoundrels, bashing the librul media. Did you catch Rush Limbaugh’s pathetic rant on Tuesday after the famous blown interception call? Packer fans should just shake it off, he said, because the true aggrieved party is conservatives: “We’re lied about every day. The media gets it wrong on purpose against us every day. Now, I think it’s a good analogy.”
It’s a ridiculous analogy, and it’s not lies with which Limbaugh and Morris and their ilk are now coming face-to-face. It’s the truth. Americans like Barack Obama. They don’t like Mitt Romney. They really don’t like Paul Ryan. And they don’t want any part of the ideology of callousness and make-believe facts and pigheaded warmongering—and economic crisis and big deficits and all of that—that the Republicans are peddling. Of course these people will never come to terms with all that. But right now, boys, you’re running out of targets, and excuses.