THE BLOG
11/13/2012 03:12 pm ET | Updated Jan 13, 2013

The Jewel of Denial (or, Why Can't the GOP Be Wonky?)

I can certainly understand the phenomenon of Republican "poll denial."

Six years ago, I was a staunch supporter of Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Kerry Healey, the Republican opponent of Democrat Deval Patrick. Under no circumstances did I want Patrick, the former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Clinton administration, to become the state's next governor: I regarded him as too liberal, too politically correct, too obsessed with the idea that every problem could be solved by more government and more taxes. In the fall of 2006, when polls indicated that Patrick was ahead of Healey by a large margin...I simply refused to believe it. As I noted earlier this year,

For weeks prior to the election, I was convinced that all the polls showing Patrick ahead of Healey by a wide margin were fabricated, that the Bay State simply would not vote for Patrick, that Healey would somehow keep the Corner Office in GOP hands. However, the Sunday before the election, it finally dawned on me that Healey didn't have a prayer in hell.

I wasn't the only one convinced that Patrick would lose that election, polling data to the contrary. Every conservative friend in my social circle also believed that the polls were fraudulent, and that white voters in Massachusetts were simply telling pollsters they would vote for Patrick in order to prevent those pollsters from accusing them of racism against a candidate who would, if elected, become the state's first African-American governor. In the solitude of the voting booth, they would vote for Healey, we reasoned.


We were wrong. Dead wrong.

I can see why we were wrong. My friends and I refused to believe the mainstream media, which we regarded as pro-Patrick for PC reasons. We relied upon WRKO Radio in Boston and a network of conservative anti-Patrick blogs (one of which I created). We passed around links from national conservative sites that ripped into Patrick for his record in the Clinton Justice Department. We were convinced that there was no way the man conservatives attacked as a "quota king" in the 1990s was going to win.

Yet he won.

Don't underestimate the seductive power of the conservative bubble. It appeals to the basest of human instincts: the desire to believe that you're smarter than everyone else, the need for ideological comfort, the loathing of people who don't think like you do. Hard-wired into the human brain (or, perhaps, just the Republican brain) is a desire to be told, "No, you're right, and those people are wrong!!!")

Inside the confines of the conservative bubble, I was convinced that voters in Massachusetts would keep a Republican in the statehouse, and that her "moonbat liberal Democrat" opponent would get crushed. It's the exact same thinking that motivated Romney supporters going into the 2012 presidential election.

Two years ago, after Patrick was reelected, I urged fellow conservatives to come to terms with Patrick's popularity and success, to understand why people preferred him to his Republican opponent, Charlie Baker. The result was an unexpected backlash, as many of my conservative friends reacted negatively to the piece, with one suggesting that it was wrong for me to argue that Patrick was a better candidate when "the unions" and "the Democrat party machine" were so obviously responsible for Patrick's victory. This caused rifts in these relationships, rifts that presaged the full-on hatred with which they responded to my change of heart on global warming. The climate of those "friendships" grew colder, and I came to realize that those individuals were more enemies than friends.

It's interesting that only now are conservatives in Massachusetts beginning to wake up to the reality that the conservative bubble, specifically conservative talk radio, is the destroyer disguised as savior for the right. What David Frum calls the "conservative entertainment complex" not only hoodwinks and bamboozles those who consume its products, it also serves as a firewall through which facts cannot penetrate.

Will conservatives in other states wake up and realize that the right-wing press is a lie factory? Will they finally realize that conservative talking heads lied to them not only about Romney's chances of victory, but also about the dangers of unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions? Will conservatives finally demand punditry that places facts, logic, reason and civility above partisanship and bombast? Will we finally see the conservative equivalent of Chris Hayes on Fox News?

Of course not... and that lie factory will keep on making its products, contradicting itself in the process. Witness National Review editor Rich Lowry's recent crusade against so-called climate-change alarmists; if Lowry is so vehemently opposed to alleged climate-change alarmism, then why do Jonathan H. Adler and Jim Manzi work for his magazine?

Conservatives in Massachusetts (all ten of them!) might be waking up to the damage posed by the right-wing noise machine, but I don't see conservatives in other states walking away from Wingnut World. I fully expect the right to dig in its heels, to be as stubborn as ever, to continue its opprobrium and obstructionism. If you expect the right to actually change its wicked ways, then you must be expecting a miracle.