By Bill Maher
When we talk about the conservative bubble, we’re generally talking about the Fox-Rush-Drudge information bubble, and the people who reside in it. This is the information loop that allows any willing right-winger to live in a world where the opinions they already are the only ones that get recited back to them, and the opinions they will one day have get fed to them so they can later recite them and hear them being recited back again, and around and around we go, all without any having to hear any opposing viewpoints expressed beyond – possibly – those of tokens like Kirsten Powers and that old school Irish Dem who periodically loses it and tells Sean Hannity to go fuck himself. I think his name is Bob Beckel or something. And I’d like his job some day.
If you’re a conservative, wherever you turn, the bubble is there. If you want to get your news on TV, you have Fox. If you’re the type who frequents talk radio, there’s Rush, along with a dozen other Rush clones. If you want to get your news online, you get all the links you want to read assembled for you by Matt Drudge, complete with misleading headlines, bad pictures of Hillary Clinton and Michele Obama, and a smattering of racism. Anywhere a Republican wants to turn for news, there’s a friendly face. And by “friendly” I mean the “smiling veneer over the contemptible inner core.”
But there was always one hole in the bubble that continued to let in the air of reality: polling information. As in, surveys that measure what Americans actually believe, or who they plan on voting for, or what they think of ideas like privatizing Social Security, etc. Because wingnuts can go for months and not talk to anyone who doesn’t think Obama is a bigger threat to America than Al Qaeda with airborne AIDS, but that’s because they live in rural Tennessee, and inside the information bubble.
Polling information, on the other hand, when done correctly, comes from a representative sample of everyone. What’s more, polls are often widely reported, mostly because it’s an easy article to write. Even if you do your best to live only in the Fox-Rush-Drudge information world, you’re still going to get information about what people outside the bubble think through polling data. And it can be very disconcerting for Republicans, finding out that millions of other Americans exist in the “not real America” and think they’re completely batshit.
Thankfully, Republicans now seem to have solved this problem. Enter Scott Rasmussen. He’s a Republican and a pollster. And a few years ago, it seemed Scott ran his polling outfit the way everyone else did. But somewhere along the line – and I’m guessing here – Scott saw which way the media winds were blowing and realized there was a new way to distinguish yourself in the world of political news: by taking a side.
You see, polls, when done accurately, have a way of creating a narrative about what people actually want or think, or what may eventually happen. And this narrative is largely immune from the partisans on either side because, well, it just is. Because polls are the temperature of reality. If your candidate is down 8 points in a poll a few weeks out before the election, the story starts becoming about how you’re going to lose, and how everyone knows it, and how you might as well stay home on election day because it’s hopeless. Which is effective, or harmful, depending on which side you’re on. Because lots of people are looking for an excuse not to vote anyway and “My Candidate is down 9 points as of yesterday” is a pretty good one.
These narratives are particularly dangerous for Republicans. And that’s where Rasmussen polling comes in. By designing his to polls to lean Republican, he allows Republicans inside the bubble to continue breathing the air inside the bubble. Ex: When other polls show Obama pulling away from Romney, release a poll that says he isn’t:
You see, now when people inside the bubble get confronted with what people think outside they bubble you can say, “No, according to a poll out today, they don’t think that!” Narrative averted! Thanks, Scott Rasmussen!
There’s only one problem with this, of course. And that’s that the bubble has now plugged its leak. Remaining contact with the outside world is even more limited. Republicans now not only have their own information loop, but their own polling company to deny what everyone outside the bubble thinks, too.