As I wrote in a previous post, politicians and pundits often craft alternative realities that do not correspond to the actual world. Rather than being a few lies or distortions, sweeping fictional narratives have been presented.
One interesting impact of this tale telling is that some people have come to believe in the fictional world they themselves have fabricated. I am not sure if they believed in that world first and then attempted to get everyone else to try the Kool Aid or if they drank too much of their own beverage and came to believe. Either way, the result seems to be the same: a belief in the existence of an Obama that isn’t (nicely illustrated by Clint Eastwood speaking to a “Harvey” Obama that apparently only certain people can see).
One clear indicator of this is the shock and dismay on the part of conservative pundits such as Laura Ingraham. She recently said “if you can’t beat Barack Obama with this record, then shut down the party.” Other pundits and spinions have expressed incredulity at Obama’s ability to stay ahead of Romney in the polls. This is understandable. On their narrative, Obama is the worst president in history. He has divided the country, brought socialism to America, destroyed jobs, played the race card against all opponents, gone on a worldwide apology tour, weakened America and might be a secret Muslim who was born outside of the United States. Obviously enough, such a terrible person should be extremely easy to defeat and Americans should be clamoring if not for Romney, then at least to be rid of Obama. As such, it makes sense why the people who accept the alternative reality in which Obama is all these things (or at least most of them) are shocked by what is actually happening.
It also makes sense that they would believe that the Republican Party is to blame for the failure to beat such an easy opponent. To use an analogy, imagine that fans of a team believe that an opposing team is pathetic but as the game is played, the “pathetic” team gets ahead and stays there. Rather than re-assess the other team, the fans are likely to start blaming their team, the coaches and so on for doing so poorly against such a “pathetic” opponent. However, if the opposing team is not as they imagined, then they have the explanation wrong: they are losing because the other team is better. Put another way, their team is not playing against the team they think they are playing against-the pathetic team is a product of their minds and not an objective assessment of the actual team.
In the case of Obama, the conservatives an Republicans would be rightfully dismayed if they were losing to someone as bad as their idea of Obama. However, they are not running against that alternative Obama. They are running against the actual Obama and he is not as bad as they claim. Hence, it makes sense that they are not doing as well as they think they should be doing. To be fair, the Democrats also have an Obama narrative that is not an unbiased account of the president.
As might be imagined, while the Republicans have a good reason to try to get people to accept their alternative Obama some of them seem to have come to believe that the alternative is the actual. This has a rather practical impact in that to the degree they believe in this Obama that isn’t, their strategies and tactics will be distorted. After all, when one goes into battle accurate intelligence is vital and distorted information is a major liability. It does seem that some folks have fallen victim to their own distortions and it is actually having a negative impact on Romney’s chances.
Romney might, of course, be able to turn things around. While Obama is doing well, the contest is still very close and one should never underestimate the power of distortion in politics. If Romney can get enough people to accept his narrative, then he can win. If not, the actual Obama will win.