The Democrats' Self-Fulfilling Nightmare

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Self-fulfilling prophecies can result from painting oneself into a corner by building up expectations that must come true even if they don’t have to. As sociologist William Thomas put it: “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” People can become trapped in a declared future. The phrase “hold my beer” describes things people started but should have had the sense not to.

The coming U.S. presidential election is affecting the present as if it has already happened. For example, many pundits appear to know that Joe Biden has won. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman tweeted, “where we are now: at this point, it will be almost impossible for Trump to win reelection legitimately. It’s quite possible, however, that he will try to steal the election. And if you don’t think that can happen, you’re not paying attention.”

The mechanism for the electoral theft is naturally also known. The Russians will steal the presidency for Trump.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said Friday he’s begun to receive intelligence briefings during the campaign and warned of foreign interference in the 2020 presidential election.

“We know from before and I guarantee you I know now because now I get briefings again. The Russians are still engaged in trying to delegitimize our electoral process. Fact,” he said at a fundraiser Friday.

Like Joe Biden says: “fact.” Amanda Marcotte argues in Salon that “desperate, Trump and the Republicans will try to win by declaring war on the cities” because there is no other way to win.

Trump sends in the troops and Republicans encourage the spread of coronavirus — war on the cities is now for real. …

Down in the polls and desperate, Trump and his fellow Republicans have decided to go all-out in trying to stoke a war between rural and suburban areas — imagined as primarily white, which in itself is outdated — and more racially diverse cities. Republicans have long tried to appeal to white voters by painting American cities as terrifying places, and under Trump all subtlety has been stripped away from that pitch, along with any plausible deniability that this is anything but racist fear-mongering.

Instead, with less than four months to go until the election, Trump and his fellow Republicans are declaring war on American cities, and hoping that rural and suburban white people still hate the cities — and the Americans who live in them — so much that they’re willing to ignore the spreading pandemic and the cratering economy to indulge their racist impulses one more time.

The inevitable conclusions follow on each other in an unbreakable iron chain. Given the premises then, Antifa and BLM are logically the people’s only hope against the coming Trump/Putin onslaught on democracy. So it is rational that even now civil libertarians should fight to keep the federal Gestapo out of Portland, the better to protect them.

On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union confirmed it had filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and the US Marshals Service after they deployed federal agents into Portland to quell protests. The lawsuit will attempt to block the DHS and other agencies from targeting journalists and legal observers at demonstrations. Later, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum confirmed the Oregon Department of Justice will sue several federal agencies for alleged civil rights violations.

The future has never been clearer to those with the crystal ball. But there is another possible reason why a Democratic victory may be thwarted in November: the rumored existence of secret Trump voters.

Among likely voters, the Democrat has an edge of 7 to 10 points depending on the expected turnout level. Biden is also ahead in key swing counties, which include the region of his birthplace. Despite the challenger’s poll lead, voters are evenly divided on who they think will win the Keystone State’s electoral votes this year as a majority believe that their communities hold a number of “secret Trump voters.” …

Most registered voters (54%) say they were surprised in 2016 when Trump ended up winning Pennsylvania’s electoral votes. They are evenly divided on whether they expect Trump (46%) or Biden (45%) to win the commonwealth this time around. One reason for this seems to be that most voters (57%) believe there are a number of so-called secret voters in their communities who support Trump but won’t tell anyone about it.

In short, there may be people who conceal their opinions from the left to avoid harassment. The “cancel culture” might explain “preference falsification.” The more they are nudged, cajoled, or shamed into clapping for progressive causes, the more secret dissidents there might actually be.

Preference falsification is the act of communicating a preference that differs from one’s true preference. The public frequently convey, especially to researchers or pollsters, preferences that differ from what they truly want, often because they believe the conveyed preference is more acceptable socially. The idea of preference falsification was put forth by the social scientist Timur Kuran in his 1995 book Private Truth, Public Lies as part of his theory of how people’s stated preferences are responsive to social influences. It laid the foundation for his theory of why unanticipated revolutions can occur.

Timur Kuran explained that excluded information could catch pundits and politicians flat-footed especially by making them think they had more support then was actually the case.

A feature shared by certain major revolutions is that they were not anticipated. Here is an explanation, which hinges on the observation that people who come to dislike their government are apt to hide their desire for change as long as the opposition seems weak. Because of this preference falsification, a government that appears unshakeable might see its support crumble following a slight surge in the opposition’s apparent size, caused by events insignificant in and of themselves. Unlikely though the revolution may have appeared in foresight, it will in hindsight appear inevitable because its occurrence exposes a panoply of previously hidden conflicts.

The operation of these factors would have the same negative effect on Biden’s prospects as the predicted Russian interference. Although one could as well point the finger at preference falsification as at the Kremlin, the nature of self-fulfilling prophecies means the blame for any Democratic defeat will fall on the Russians because they’re already in the timeline, even if that timeline is in the future. Being pre-manacled to a narrative means being hostage to a script.

In a sense, the activists have made their own prison and thrown away the key. The worst kind of jail is being trapped in a place where you already know what’s going to happen—except for how you are going to get out of there.

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