The “shiny object” award for the most contrived distraction by the left is, hands down, the whimpering that Democrats were outspent in the Wiscconsin recall. The argument, like nearly all “shiny object” stunts, was heavily touted by the Obama team.
But the “expensive ads made them do it” line is exaggerated and an oblivious ploy to change the topic from public employees to “outside money.” It isn’t surprising that the “shiny object” was pretty badly scuffed up, even by those who can’t be classified as right-wingers.
Walter Russell Mead notes:
For one thing, the left had more money on its side in Wisconsin than many reports acknowledge; $20 million from labor groups, according to this estimate. More importantly, money does matter in politics, but money alone is rarely enough, especially on an issue which voters care deeply about. . . .
The left’s problem in Wisconsin wasn’t that the right had too much money. The left’s problem is that the left’s agenda didn’t have enough support from the public. Poll after poll after poll showed that the public didn’t share the left’s estimation of the Walker reforms. Many thought they were a pretty good idea; many others didn’t much like the reforms but didn’t think they were bad enough or important enough to justify a year of turmoil and a recall election.
The left lost this election because it failed to persuade the people that its analysis was correct.
Moreover, a very high percentage of voters say they made up their minds at least a month ago. In fact, the race was a virtual repeat of 2010, suggesting that the ads didn’t shake voters’ firmly held beliefs. Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
In the end, after all the ground-breaking rancor and searing conflict and mind-boggling money and crushing attention, Scott Walker’s 2012 victory for governor looked a lot like his 2010 victory for governor.
Just as he did against Democrat Tom Barrett in 2010:
Walker won men and lost women.
He lost voters under 30 and won every other age group.
He won independents and lost moderates.
He lost college grads and won voters without a college degree.
He lost union households badly.
He lost lower-income voters and won everyone else.
He won almost all Republicans and lost almost all Democrats.
He won rural and suburban voters and lost urban voters.
Paul Whitehead of the Los Angeles Times hit the nail on the head. At some point, both sides have enough money, and it boils down to how voters’ really feel about an issue: “Of course there was a lot of money in this race: more than $60 million overall, with Walker at about $30 million and Barrett at about $4 million. But does $30 million really speak that much louder than $4 million? Does it account for a 53%-46% margin of victory? You might compare it to Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Both spend many millions advertising their brands of flavored sugar water. But in the end, do Pepsi drinkers become Coke drinkers, or vice versa, because of a clever ad? I don’t think so. And I don’t think most voters are so easily swayed either.”
At bottom, the left’s excuse-mongering is “false consciousness” in a prom dress. Voters are dopes. Rich, nefarious forces brainwash them. The only reason liberal, virtuous views don’t prevail is because the little people are duped.
Like the left’s policies, the arguments in support of them tend to be condescending. But perhaps the media elites are the benighted ones, convinced that they know best and that when voters disagree, it is the result of corruption or stupidity or both. Wisconsin voters should take note: Democrats think they are fools.
A dishonorable mention in the “shiny object” contest goes to this New York Times story on Romney’s disgruntled liberal neighbors who don’t like his big house. I eagerly await breaking news on how the Obama’s summer plans annoy the locals. Sigh.