As Trump’s Chances Dwindle, In Come the Conservative Fantasy Peddlers

One of the curious hallmarks of modern conservative culture is the stubborn adherence to ideology and “known truths” even in the face of obvious evidence to the contrary. A half century ago the stereotype was that liberals were the starry-eyed purveyors of untested ideologies and assertions about the essential goodness of human nature, even as conservatives played the role of sober grandfathers who tempered liberal passions with doses of reality. This was never really the case even back then, but it was much closer to the truth than it is now.

Today, it is Republicans whose assertions about the nature of world consistently meet with rejection by reality. Supply-side economics is a proven failure. Climate change is real. Abstinence education doesn’t work. Giving money to the underprivileged doesn’t make them lazy, but rather strengthens the entire community. Tax cuts don’t spur growth, especially when given to the wealthy. Letting gay people get married doesn’t bring down God’s wrath on the nation. Wall Street doesn’t function well when it’s allowed to regulate itself. Letting the private insurance market dictate healthcare costs leads to worse outcomes. And so on.

Faced with these dilemmas, conservatives choose not to adjust to reality, but rather to ever more loudly assert the rightness of their ideological position. Liberals, on the other hand, have largely been chastened by the historical failures in implementation of state Marxism to apply a “use what works” mantra in picking whatever methods can be scientifically proven to lead to fairer outcomes.

Which leads us to Donald Trump and the 2016 presidential election. Trump is clearly losing badly. Campaign operatives and leading conservatives know this. The polls couldn’t be clearer. A healthy movement would take stock of that fact and adjust. But apart from a few increasingly irrelevant corners of the Romneyite GOP in places like National Review and RedState.com, an anti-scientific mantra of delusion has taken hold instead as fantasy peddlers come out of the woodwork to reassure the faithful.

Among them is “Long Room,” yet another incarnation of the “unskewed polls” nonsense claiming that every major poll is underweighting the conservative electorate in an attempt to swing the election.

Then there’s tech entrepreneur Ric Militi, who uses social media data from his own database to assert that Trump will win due to a hidden pseudo-Bradley effect in which people are afraid to admit their preference for Trump. That might be distantly plausible, except for his “data” showing his respondents preferring Trump over Clinton by a 10-point margin in deep-blue California. Obviously that has no bearing on anything resembling reality.

Conservatives are also clinging to Alan Abramowitz’s model at Sabato’s Crystal Ball stating that underlying factors suggest Trump should win–even though Abramowitz predicts a Clinton win anyway because of Trump’s unusually incompetent campaign.

Trump himself, meanwhile, evidently can’t bring himself to believe the polls, either.

All of this wishful thinking is going to leave conservatives confused, upset and very angry come November. But they have only themselves to blame for rejecting reality in favor of comfortable fantasies.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.