Somerby has a nice point about how pundits suddenly started caring about the overemphasis placed on predictions only when people hired by mainstream outlets started making predictions with actual rigor. But it also reminds me that, in addition to being obvious wishful thinking insulting to the intelligence of the show’s remaining viewers, syndicated columnist William F. George’s justification for a Romney win in Minnesota that had no chance of happening was based on some of the laziest hack anti-wisdom imaginable:
I forgot my exact number. I guess you have a graphic here. I guess the wild card in what I’ve projected is I’m projecting Minnesota to go for Romney…It’s the only state that’s voted Democratic in nine consecutive elections, but this year, there’s a marriage amendment on the ballot that will bring out the evangelicals and I think could make the difference.
Even when same-sex marriage was unpopular, there’s no real evidence that gay-bashing initiatives had the electoral payoffs that many pundits (and not just conservative ones) imagined. So why on earth would gay-bashing initiatives have huge electoral payoffs when they aren’t particularly popular? On what basis would anyone assume that this tactic would mobilize more voters than it would alienate in a state like Minnesota in 2012? Let alone have effects big enough to make up an 8-point deficit in the polls in a state Republicans haven’t carried since 1972? Talk about yer epistemic closure.
But this election as a whole should hopefully be the death knell for the very popular “Democrats desperately need to pander to cultural reactionaries” genre of punditry (my favorite example still being William Saletan’s assertion that Democrats losing the popular vote in 1 of the previous 4 elections proved that “abortion was no longer a winning issue,” federal elections being referenda on Roe v. Wade and all.) It might even be a while until we hear about Saint Bob Casey Sr., denied a speaking spot at the Democratic convention unlike all the many Republicans who are given prime-time slots to favor upper-class tax increases, again. The Democratic convention represented the repudiation of the “(sorta) safe, rare, (kinda) legal, rare, rare, and rare” discourse for talking about abortion rights, and this didn’t seem to hurt Democratic electoral prospects. While. conversely, the Republican insistence on running anti-choice crackpots who made the mistake of saying the quiet part loud cost them at least two Senate seats they should have won.
And an even bigger bust was the Republican attempt to gin up a spurious “religious freedom” issue around contraceptive coverage. Obama went on the offensive in the second debate, linking reproductive freedom and economic opportunity with rhetoric that was mild for feminist theory but aggressive for an elite Democratic politician who rose in an era in which Democrats are supposed to be timorous and apologetic about supporting gender equity. Romney responded with a non-sequitur, to his credit being well aware of how unpopular the war on contraceptive access is. And the result was…Obama again winning the Catholic vote, which isn’t terribly surprising given that Catholic religious leaders simply don’t represent lay Catholics on the issue.
Especially with same-sex marriage becoming increasingly popular, there’s no reason whatsoever to believe that progressive views on cultural issues are any kind of drag on Democrats in national elections. Hopefully this lesson will be applied going forward.