There is been a lot of talk since the election about how Mitt Romney’s supporters, some of them anyway, seem to have been blindsided by his loss. Dick Morris, Peggy Noonan, and George Will among others were predicting a Romney victory, possibly even an electoral college landslide. (Well, they were half right.) Right-leaning pundits were un-skewing polls. The day after the election, the term “epistemic closure” began slipping into conversations that were also peppered with variants of “yo’ mama”.
I must admit, I started out feeling smug and superior to those righties who had posted how they were going to watch the election results on MS-NBC to watch liberal heads explode as the results came in, kind of the way I felt smug and superior to Alabama fans last year after the Alabama-LSU regular season game.
Except then I remembered how I spent the last three quarters of the BCS Championship game between the Tigers and the Tide hiding from the TV. I have to confess, the only reason I was actually paying attention to the polls, the un-un-skewed polls this go round, is because my guy was the one they favored.
If the President had been down in those polls, trailing in most of the battleground states, would I have been devouring Nate Silver’s and Huffpo’s predictions every morning? Um, no. I would have been seeking out friendly sites to reassure me that the polls were badly skewed, that my guy was trending, that there would be a big upset in the end. “Epistemic closure”? When I need it, I got it.
I know this because that’s how I reacted in 1980. I knew Jimmy Carter was trailing Ronald Reagan in the polls, but I kept waiting for a turnaround, which seemed to have occurred a week or so before the election. I didn’t pay any attention to electoral college predictions. I reassured myself that the US had never elected a former actor or divorced person before (like that was some kind of guarantee). And when I got home from voting after work to find that President Carter had already conceded to President-elect Reagan, mine was the head that exploded.
I am willing to grant that most of the people criticizing Republican voters for having their heads in the sand and ignoring all the signs of an Obama victory are far more open minded than I am. I’ll take them at their word that they would have clear-sightedly read the signs of an impending Romney victory if one had been in the making, redoubling their efforts to get out the vote and making plans for next time. Everybody is not me. But no matter how much I want to reassure myself that I would be in that number, I know myself. I have many lovable qualities, but an unflinching ability to absorb the truth is not one of them.
So I feel for those voters who clung to reassurances from their favorite right-wing pundits. If things had been different, that could have been me.