Confessions of a ConfoBiOholic

My name is Clark and I am a ConfoBiOholic.  

As you know, ConfoBiOholism is a well-documented addictive disorder. As with most addictions, the first step to recovery is acknowledgment. In ConfoBiOholism, acknowledgment is known to be especially challenging. The condition is all but invisible to the addict himself, no matter how persistently friends and family press reality upon him.

But after the past week, I am forced to accept the truth. I am an addict to confirmation bias. I read the same polls everyone else read and still I saw only confirmation of what I already believed.

True, there was the Gallup mega-survey, aggregating all (nearly 10,000) interviews from October 1-24, which put the Republican-Democrat breakdown of the electorate at 36% R to 35% D. Had reality been that way, we would be preparing to inaugurate President Romney in January. And true, I sat in on a phone briefing from Romney’s chief pollster a week before the election. He told the callers the same thing he was telling the candidate. I now suspect he is a fellow ConfoBiOholic.

As part of the twelve steps to recovery, I must acknowledge the nature of my wrongs and purge myself of self-deceptions.  

So, no, it wasn’t just clueless polling that cost Romney the presidency. Neither was it only President Obama’s vastly superior get out the vote effort. Nor were the failures to connect with minority, young, and female voters the keys to the Romney defeat — nor all of these together.  Despite these manifest shortcomings, Romney came within little more than a hair of victory.

I must then accept that the big question is why did millions of voters fewer turn out this Election Day than did in 2012, most of the no-shows coming out of the president’s support last time?  As part of purging my illusions, I must acknowledge that, while these people were surely disenchanted with Mr. Obama, they didn’t like Governor Romney either.  

Was all that negative advertising the reason? A ConfoBiOholic would say yes. But to advance my recovery, I must protest that, if his message had been clearer from the first, more consistent, articulated earlier, and stuck to under fire — and had it been combined with a view of what the nation is and where destiny and aspiration can take us — Romney might have weathered the advertising storm.

Though, particularly after the debates, his speeches were often outstanding, for millions his trumpet didn’t stir. They couldn’t bring themselves to vote again for the president, but neither could they embrace the governor.

There, I feel better now. But I wonder, when the next election calls, will I once more drink the drink of my dreams?  

They say you never recover from ConfoBiOholism.

  1. Busy System Admin

    I’m a big fan of carefully evaluating one’s positions and beliefs.  Years ago I read something a psychologist wrote about confirmation bias and intelligent people.

    Essentially he said that the smarter a person is, the more difficult they are to persuade, because they already think they know the answer and are also very adept at coming up with arguments and justifications to bolster their position.  This is why you can have two very intelligent people take extreme opposite positions on an issue.

    In other words, intelligence alone does not make you more likely to be right– it may just make you more stubborn.  It is also why intelligence is not equal to wisdom.

    I try hard to be more self-aware about this process, and I think it would be helpful to our side to do so as well.  It doesn’t mean you automatically doubt and question everything you know, but you do attempt to look at all sides of something and question the (often sub-conscious) motives of yourself and those around you in picking information and a position on some issue.  Example: I take Drudge and talk radio with a giant grain of salt.

  2. Mollie Hemingway

    Hi, Clark!

  3. Jordan Wiegand

    We always find what were looking for.  The trick is to look for things you don’t want to find.

  4. Sabrdance

    The word you’re looking for is human.  I like to keep pointing out, Democrats here in Kentucky got their clocks cleaned and they are saying all the same things we’re saying here.  ‘Tis the Human Condition.  But yes, we of all people who are intimately familiar with the crooked timber of humanity should be on the strongest guard against it.

  5. Mollie Hemingway

    I really like this post since I’ve been thinking about the bubbles we all live in. One of the things that I had to recognize that I was too willing to change to please folks who reacted poorly to my skepticism.

    Any time I posted something skeptical or said something skeptical to huge Romney fans (such as my folks or interlocutors here, even), it was met with a rather intense response. At some point, I kind of just avoided it by not saying the negative things I believed. There were other reasons I avoided it, too (I saw plenty enough to complain about on the other ticket, for instance).

    It’s kind of humiliating to admit all this, but since we’re in a private meeting here and all that, what’s the harm?