The expression "right and wrong" can mean two things. First, a moral decision and second, factual correctness. Sometimes the two overlap.
Late last spring, I had some people over the house, amoung them Matt, DCW's founder, and my brother Aaron, the economist. As people were milling around (and walking through screen doors, which is actually relevant to this discussion) Matt asked me if we hold the Senate in 2014, and without hesitation, I said yes. He asked if that was based on anything other than my gut. The two of them discussed my ability to call elections way off in the future, and well before polling came around to my way of thinking. I was sure then, and I'm sure now. We hold the Senate. Hopefully, we won't screw that up, and that will be discussed in Part Two of We Haven't Won Yet.
This was months before the NJ Senate primary, and we discussed who would be the best candidate, and who would win. There was no doubt that Cory Booker would win, and that he'd be the next US Senator from Jersey. The only question was whether he'd beat the spread in the general. If I lived in Jersey, I would have voted for Frank Pallone, sadly not Rush Holt, and NO WAY Cory Booker. My reasoning was simple: I wanted someone who would fill Frank Lautenburg's shoes, and both Frank and Rush were admirable choices for that, Cory-Booker-Superhero was not.
We're a day out from the general, and while Cory Booker is going to win, it doesn't look like he'll beat the spread. This is analogous to people walking through screen doors. I've never walked through a screen door. Sometimes there are things that can't be seen, but normally, this is a good practice.
People walk through screen doors because they aren't paying attention to what is right in front of their collective face. Cory Booker isn't going to beat the spread because New Jerseyites are coming around to the idea that Cory Booker may be a Superhero, but he may not have the needs and wants of his state as uppermost in his mind as the idea of a personal trajectory toward higher office. According to polling, the more people get to know Cory Booker, the less they like him. Huh. Part of that is unfair, because of the sleaziness exhibited by the Lonegan campaign. For example, until last month, Booker lived in a rental house, which has three apartments, one on each floor. He'd lived there for years. It's in Newark, on Hawthorne Avenue, not the nicest part of Newark. The first floor was empty, the second floor was rented by the Newark police to house Booker's security detail, and the Booker lived on the third floor. The Lonegan campaign went there, looked inside the first floor windows, and pronounced that Cory Booker couldn't possibly live in Newark, since the house was empty.
Now, this was wrong, on a factual level, since there were years of canceled checks and rent receipts. It was also wrong on a moral level, since the campaign knew better. But most people didn't dig for the truth, or even look to see if this was a screen door.
The screen door problem also gave us Ted Cruz. The US Senate is not an entry level position, and yet Ted was able to get elected out of Texas with no legitimate credentials. He's been in the Senate for less than a year, his first elected office, and yet he's able to hold sway over a House caucus, also all new to politics, and hold the world hostage. This is wrong on every level imaginable. What happened? People weren't paying attention.
You'd think people would have learned by now. Cory Booker should win in Jersey because he is the far better choice. If Steve Lonegan were to be elected, he'd leap into Ted Cruz's arms the moment he touched down in DC. In Virginia, Terry McAuliffe is going to have a harder time winning then he should because his personal unfavourables are very high. But Ken Cuccinelli? It's hard to imagine a worse gubernatorial prospect. The only reason he even has the nomination is because the right wing wacko contingent of the Virginia GOP took away the primary process and replaced it with a convention that they controlled. Still, it will be closer than it needs to be because people are still walking through screen doors.
I have spent a lot of this year researching why people vote like idiots. I've read the academic documentation which indicates that once people have a thought in their head, they cling tenaciously to it, even if it's proven factually incorrect, because they don't want to be wrong. I've read the research Joe Klein did over at Time (albeit last year) where he interviewed people in the very poor triangle in southeast Ohio, northern West Virginia and eastern Tennessee, indicating that a lot of people don't understand what the government does for them. For example, many people on SNAP, Welfare and other government programs cannot fill out the paperwork because they have trouble reading. The churches set up clinics where people help fill out the forms. The recipients thus believe that their checks come from the church and not the government. I've had (far too) many conversations with people who believe that shutting down the government and breaching the debt ceiling is a "good thing" because we don't really need government. When I ask them where they think their Social Security checks come from, who prints the money, who mans the airports, who builds the roads, they tell me that it isn't the Federal government. Yes, really.
The next time I have people over, I'm going to put posters on the screen doors that say "This is a screen door, open it before you walk through it." I wish there were something equally simple I could do for people who vote.