Same Planet, Different Worlds

It could be said that the planet you live on depends on how you see it. In politics, this could be more obvious than in many other parts of life. Let’s look at two dueling projections of a 2020 Presidential Election between Trump and Bernie Sanders. First we get a GOP-favorable simulation.

It basically hypothesizes that Bernie is a AetheistKult Commie who freaks out the ‘burbs and scares the seniors. It’s a short-term burst of momentum and it swamps the Bern. There may be some logic to this. If 2020 is the last election where a significant fraction of the electorate has strong feelings regarding the late and unlamented CCCP, then running a guy who spent his honeymoon there probably doesn’t represent an intelligent evolutionary strategy. It’s not an impossible outcome, but I don’t see much else in the video to support the results the author puts up on the screen.

In the interest of equal time at, here’s another dope-trip where the Dems totally Bern it down.

To make this logic play out, you have to assume that the 2018 midterm electorate mirrors what turns out in 2020. The author does a good job of arguing off of quantitative data. It was better-briefed than your average Bernie Sanders policy position. I think the Lefty here was a better analyst than the guy I linked above who had Trump turning back the Vermont Warsaw PAC. If this were a debate between the two YouTube guys, the Dem would probably win.

To understand why this guy is almost just as guilty of playing Dungeons and Dragons as the GOP propagandist I linked first, let’s look at what happened to some recent US Presidents who were serverely rebuked in their first midterm election. In 1982, the Dems took the Senate away from the GOP in Ronald Reagan’s first midterm. Here’s how well that worked for Mondale-Ferraro in 1984. The Nuke Gingrich midterm of 1994 was worthy of what Bill Clinton had done to Vincent Foster. Again, Dole-Kemp failed to gain significant traction in 1996 based upon that result. In 2012, Romney perhaps blew one of the most winnable elections in recent history after his running mate, Paul Ryan took the House of Representatives in the 2010 midterm in a manner reminiscent of the storming of The Bastille Prison. Incumbent presidents will typically have crappy midterms followed by successful re-election campaigns. Bush I and Bush II deviated from this model in different ways. Bush II did ok in the 2002 midterm and then got re-elected, Bush I got boatraced in the ’90 midterm and then H. Ross Peroted in 1992. In other words, the estimation may be sound, but the foundational assumptions cause it to estimate results from an electorate that probably won’t be like the one at the polls on election day.

So this presents us an obvious case of cognitive dissonance. Two guys are motivated to do a certain level of research and then attempt to model the outcome of a possible stochastic event that could ostensibly occur in the near-term future. Both go to the time and trouble to project Electoral College results based upon their research and tell us what they think will happen in 2020. The outcomes are reminiscent of an old Mark Knoffler lyric: “Two men say they’re Jesus. One of them must be wrong.”

How is this possible? I’ll offer up a Weak Dissonance Theory and then a Strong Dissonance Theory.

  • Weak Dissonance Theory: These two gentlemen differ in their perception of who would win a Donald Trump vs. Bernie Sanders Presidential Election because they get their information from different sources. Switch Maga Man’s and Bernie Bro’s sources of news and data for a month, and you’d expect their projections to somehow converge. A few states that are close one way would flip the other. At the end of the day, both would have a more balanced and accurate view. They could both get a hung election or agree with one man or the other winning a narrow victory. This is my optimistic take.
  • Strong Dissonance Theory: These two genetlemen differ in their information sources because of their differing perceptions of what is decent, moral and righteous. You would pretty much have to change one individual’s entire ethical and moral framework before they would watch the enemy’s news network with anything other than derision, skepticism and contempt. How could those people watch that garbage?

Make that Dissonance Theory both Strong and Hard (in philosophical terms, of course) and non-normative epistemology becomes an impossible task. At that point, I’m far from the only guy out there that knows nothing. There is no such thing as a positive, unbiased claim to factual knowledge. Just a set of beliefs that may or may not rest on a buttress of somewhat cherry-picked compurgation or sensory data. One interpretation of Plato’s Infamous Cave Allegory would suggest that’s about the way it is. We’re all Jon Snow and know nothing. Unless you’ve personally taken a walk on the moon, it really might as well be made out of green cheese.

A less inflexible (Soft, Strong Dissonance Theory) claims our intrinsic biases impact our fundamental view of the worlds we each live in but don’t completely overdetermine them. We each believe what we want until reality drags us out into the alley and mugs us. In one of his lucid moments, Karl Marx opined that people tend to accept ideas more readily if they taste good. This isn’t as bleak as Marx gets in other parts of Das Kapital, but it’s not a happy, Pink Pill either.

Black Forest Chocolate Cake tastes really awesome. Eat enough, and it will give you Type II Diabetes. Then, The Average Joe will be smart enough to put it down. Perhaps ideas work the same way. You love the ones that taste good until they start to kill you. That being the case, a lot of people will continue to live on the same planet but different worlds.

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