Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Bizarro 2004

Andrew Leonard:

Eight years ago, on the morning of November 3, Democrats blundered through the aftermath of an election gone horribly awry in a state of fog and shock. The confused dismay extended beyond the normal disappointment that comes with backing the losing candidate in a presidential race. There was something else going on, a sense of horrible surprise, as if we’d all been terribly misinformed. We were sad and bewildered.

I wrote about that feeling for Salon that morning, seeking some understanding from the wreckage. I blamed the Internet, not for Kerry’s loss, but for my false hopes. I wasn’t alone. For many of us, Bush’s victory over Kerry delivered an unforgettable lesson on the dangers of getting caught in the Internet-enabled echo chamber.

Oh sure, it had been a lot of fun — all those hours we spent with Atrios and DailyKos, Donkey Rising and Talking Points Memo. It was all so new, exciting — and most of all, liberating. We had been freed from the chains of mainstream media! We could pick our own narratives, and not have them forced on us. Even better, we now had amazingly granular access to information about the state of the campaign — any and every campaign! We all became instant poll experts, and sallied forth each day into the political flamewars better armed with factoids and polished spin than ever before.

What a blast that was. Good times, good times.

And then came Election Day. And we realized that we’d been living inside a cocoon of self-defeating complacency. By confining our information sources to places that told us only what we wanted to hear, we had divorced ourselves from reality. And reality sucked.

I suspect that on this morning a good many conservatives are facing up to the same bleak sense of hornswoggled dismay. Some of them won’t admit it, but in their heart of hearts, they’ve got be wondering what the hell just happened. Indeed — judging by the tone of the conservative info-sphere in the weeks leading up the election, and combined with the data we have already accumulated with respect to how insular and self-reinforcing the conservative echo chamber is, it could be that this morning delivered an ever deeper sucker punch to the gut to the right than the left endured in 2004.

So here’s the question: Will Obama’s victory be a wakeup call for the right?

This is not just wishful thinking. For many people on the left, the 2004 election was a watershed moment. Yeah, the Net was great, but we had to be more careful in how we embraced it. We realized that the echo chamber had led us astray, and we learned that it would behoove us to be more wary. The whole rise of Nate Silver in 2008 was in part a response to this phenomenon. We didn’t want to get burned again. We wanted numbers we could trust.

Complacency went out the window. Right up until the polls started closing on Election Day 2012, and even with Nate Silver giving Obama a better-than-90 percent chance to win, Democrats were feeling anything but confident.

Will conservatives have the same come-to-Jesus moment?

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