Saturday, September 29, 2012

Inside the In Crowd's Bubble

Bill Maher has a segment on his eponymous show called Inside the Bubble, and it's based on the premise that Republicans live in a bubble where everything in it would make little sense to outsiders. Every week, he shows a clip of Republican rhetoric that he thinks the majority of the country would disagree with.

But Republicans aren't the only people living within a bubble. This guy is living in a bubble too. He's saying that Romney has already lost the Presidential debates because his political team is setting impossible expectations for Romney to match. For the past week, everybody in the political world has been talking about debate expectations, and both campaigns' actions to lower expectations for their candidate while raising it for the other.

These expectations, as they pertain to the actual American voter, are completely meaningless. The game that they're playing relates to the media at large to influence the post debate coverage and the subsequent news cycles. But even then, I can't see how it affects anything but the barest of margins.

Some writers have already trotted out the "do debates matter?" argument because it appears that they don't. The reason why is obvious. People who watch the debates are already people who are extremely politically inclined and those who are politically inclined are just watching to reinforce their confirmation bias. Their votes are already, more or less, decided. Even the small pool of truly undecided voters are unlikely to swing greatly in either candidate's favor. So a debate can only influence the outcome of an election is if it's an extremely close election.

Polls suggest that President Obama is breaking away from Romney. As political partisans rekindle the flames of fanaticism with less than 6 weeks before Election Day, it seems like this election is Obama's to lose. And the debates aren't going to alter the course dramatically. But don't take my word for it. Intrade has Obama at over a 3 to 1 favorite to win the election. If you think Romney's debate performance will drastically alter the state of the race, the prices currently quoted will drop precipitously (and Romney's price will rise just as dramatically).

But here's the thing. Media spin counts for very little. The people who follow the political horse race are very few and they aren't going to change their votes based on how the political press spins each candidate's campaign. I've quoted something from Boss before in a blog post, but I feel obligated to trot it out again:
"What is this? A fucking children's crusade? This is a primary. Pri-mar-ry. We're talking about political obsessives. Medicators. Nothing to doers. Geriatrics. Who the fuck else cares about primaries?"
 Governor Mac Cullen - Boss, Season 1
Replace "primary" with "horse race political journalism" and you have exactly the same thing. These people aren't going to be swayed by spin, because the candidate they're backing is already tailored to align with their views. For example, urban districts are extremely likely to be represented by black and other minority politicians because that's where they are most likely to win. The fact that they ran for those particular seats is not an accident.

This is just another article where the media trumpets its own self importance. Whether they do it knowingly or not is another question. But sometimes you just have to end the charade: setting debate expectations means absolutely nothing.

No comments:

Post a Comment