Friday, February 19, 2016

Bernie Sanders' Electability

People who look to evidence to confirm their biases rather than tell them about the world are at risk of making some very foolish decisions.

I have seen a number of postings the show the results of current polls and use that data to conclude that Bernie Sanders is electable.

The problem is that nobody is voting today. The election is 8 months off.

These polls are not telling us what the world will be like in 8 months. They are doing nothing but confirming the biases of those who want to believe what the polls can be thought to support.

In fact, one plausible reason for the current poll results may well be that a number of voters have heard a lot of unfavorable things about Trump, Cruz, and Clinton over the past few months. However, the only things they know about Sanders is that he is white, he is male, and he seems friendly. The odds are excellent that he is also a good and devoted Christian. Of course he is to be preferred over the others.

Between now and November, people hostile to Bernie Sanders will spend a billion dollars to make sure that people "know him" better. With "know him" intentionally in quotes because it is certain that this campaign will contain a number of falsehoods and distortions.

That billion-dollar campaign will be well supported by surveys and focus-groups designed to identify which messages will work best and where those messages can be most effectively delivered.

Those messages will be targeted with a great deal of precision. The opposition will use massive databases that tell them what each voter cares most about, and send them mailings and place advertisements and articles in the media that those people come into contact with explaining how Sanders is a threat to their most cherished values.

"He will not keep America safe."

"He simply does not understand the world. He has no idea what to do about North Korea, Russia, China, ISIS."

"He refuses to use the military. He thinks if he does nothing the enemies of the United States will leave us alone."

"He does not understand the economy. He will bankrupt the government with his free gifts and destroy business and innovation as entrepreneurs go elsewhere to make money."

"He believes that a bureaucrat in Washington knows how to spend your money better than you do, so he will take your money and give it to the bureaucrat. That bureaucrat, of course, will use your money for his benefit and not yours."

"A lot of your hard-earned money will be taken from you and handed over to lazy blacks and Mexicans."

"He is not a Christian; he may even be an atheist. He never sets foot inside a church. Does he pray? If we elect a President that abandons God, then God will abandon us."

Messages that are not fit for public use, but still effective, will still find their way to the target audiences using more obscure channels - a conversation over lunch with a talk-show host or a Facebook post placed in a target group by somebody with no direct ties to the campaign.

Yes, of course, some of those messages are bigoted and ought not to be used - but they will be used.

You and I may protest that the Constitution prohibits a religious test for public office. Those protests on our part will not prevent people from considering these factors when they cast their votes, and will not prevent those votes from being counted.

I fear that the nice campaign between Sanders and Clinton today is doing Sanders a disservice. He may be better off if he were being subject to brutal attacks now so that he will be better prepared if he should make it to the championship round. Otherwise, he simply will not be ready when he steps into the ring against the Republican champion. They will brutalize him.

They will poor over every vote, every speech, every relationship he ever developed, looking for anything they can put in a damaging light. We simply do not know what they will find.

Sanders' electability cannot be determined by polls that ask people who know nothing more than that Sanders is an old, white male. Sanders' electability is determined by whether he can survive a $1 billion focus-group backed campaign against him. Current polls say nothing about that.

No comments: