Wednesday, January 09, 2008
The Joke's on Us All
Forget it. I'm not going to propose any sort of pet theory as to why Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama last night, despite the mainstream media having crowned Obama the heir apparent in the past several days as well as predicting the imminent demise of the Clinton campaign. Suffice it to say that rumors of her death were greatly exaggerated. The fact of the matter, and the only one I accept without a massive dose of skepticism, is that the media got it wrong, dead wrong, as did all the polls. As such, I find myself increasingly inclined to discount any justification pollsters, pundits, and columnists alike might propose today and in the days to come to explain why this happened--and especially be wary before entertaining notions like "gender gap" or "the Hillary crying effect", for example.
Both the Iowa caucus results and the New Hampshire primary results are hardly any objective indication of national sentiment or trend. As much as we might like them to be otherwise, they are merely the numerical results of how two individual states cast their votes. What was true for Iowa was not true for New Hampshire, and vice versa. What was true for Iowa and New Hampshire may not be true for South Carolina, Nevada, Michigan, or the United States of America. The lesson, among many of last night, is that it would greatly benefit us all to stop jumping to conclusions or rushing to judgment until we have cold, hard facts to support our assertions. This is a trend I notice not just in the media but in our society at large. Until the polling gets underway and the votes are cast, all we have to go on are dueling theories. These days, everyone wants to get ahead and proclaim that they were the first to have it all figured out well beforehand, rendering the process itself a mere formality. The voters determine the course of elections, not any of these so-called experts.
I admit that I was just as suckered by the same so-called conventional wisdom that had Obama as the front-runner and Clinton's campaign in tatters. I will be much more careful in future before I let any sure thing dictate my personal point of view. Let it be known there is a long, hard fight ahead in the Democratic primary and anything else anyone proposes is just speculation, pure and simple. The other large lesson I pulled from last night is fresh reminder of the nature of what might be called idolatry of intellect. Namely, that there are serious limits to human knowledge and we would be wise to remind ourselves that for all we claim to know, there still exists a vast amount of which we are largely ignorant.