At the Morning Jolt (subscription required), Jim Geraghty has some very wise things to say. I hope Jim will like it, rather than resent it, that I quote him at such great length. Well worth reading:I wonder if the process of preferring a candidate inherently blinds one to that candidate’s flaws…
As the Philosopher Ice Cube Said, ‘Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself’
Representative government – and life, in fact – require a certain ability to see hard truths, mistakes, things that don’t turn out the way you wanted. I’m starting to wonder if that quality is much rarer than I thought.
It’s a Republican presidential primary. Of course it’s going to be hard-fought. But this cycle seems to be getting ever-more depressing, as I seem to keep encountering folks who respond to new bits of news unfavorable to their guy by reflexively adjusting all of their other views to preserve their pre-conceived notion that their guy is The Man.
I’m sure that you can think of some folks who you would put in this category. My readers who prefer Newt are probably tossing me in that category, too (read on, frustrated Newt fans, read on).
For example, if you read then-Rep., now-Sen. Tom Coburn’s account of Newt’s time as Speaker, painting him as an egomaniacal leader threatened by dissent and willing to quickly go back on the Contract pledges in pursuit of power, and you conclude this shows that Coburn has really been a northeastern elitist all along… well then, I can’t help you.
If you read the numbers in the NBC/WSJ poll, suggesting that Gingrich has big problems with women and independents, and you conclude that the survey must be a pack of lies and that Gingrich probably would do well among those demographics, well… you can find the same phenomenon in the Rasmussen numbers (“Among women, the president leads Romney by 11 and Gingrich by 22.”) or CNN (18 point spread between Obama and Gingrich). If you think all of the polls are fudged because somebody’s out to get your guy… well, you turn into Christine O’Donnell that way. (If you’ll recall, her campaign suggested that Scott Rasmussen was altering the results of his polls to make her appear to be a weaker candidate than she was, to avoid the “long tentacles” of the Republican National Committee.)
If you can’t read any anecdote or account of your preferred guy, and conclude, “yeah, he was in the wrong there,” or “yeah, that’s going to be a challenging weakness to overcome…” well then, when you read or listen to or watch the news, you’re not really trying to learn new information about what’s going on. You’re really just looking for more anecdotes and evidence to reconfirm what you already believe and know. (Confirmation bias, they call it.)
We all probably do this to some extent, but no matter how much you may believe that your guy rocks, the day will come when he doesn’t rock. I thought what separated us from the “O-BA-MA” chanting cult of personality on the other side was that we didn’t need to see our presidential candidates in messianic terms. For all the hoopla and the fancy plane and the band playing “hail to the chief,” presidents are guys (and someday, gals) we hire to do a job under a four-year contract with a possibility of a four-year extension. Hopefully they make enough of the big calls right.
Alas, I think it is much rarer than Jim thought.
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