Reflections on Mittmentum (with an assist from Aristotle)
A long, long time ago — September 17, 2012, to be precise — I posted a column called Newton’s First Law of Motion Applied to Political Strategy (With a Brief Excursus on Gaffes). In it, I speculated about why politicians and pundits paid so much attention to polls given the fact that polls were often more an expression of hope than of fact. The main reason, I said, is the relation between polls and momentum — what the public is increasingly calling “Mittmentum.” “It’s a largely psychological phenomenon,” I wrote, but one “that can have a material coefficient.”
Polls register the perception of momentum; by means of an alchemy we do not fully comprehend, that perception of momentum begets the reality of momentum. Ultimately, it can beget the confidence of inevitably. The reality of inevitability will always elude the politician, as the headline “Dewey Beats Truman” should remind us. But it remains a coveted advantage, which is why politicians and their handlers so crave it.
Although every aspect of this election has been trending toward Mitt for months, many of the polls are still, at the 11th hour, well within the margin of voter fraud. This has some of my friends biting their fingernails. My own sense of the matter, as I have said here on many occasions, is that Mitt will not only win but win handily. The final tally, I suspect, will show Mitt the victor with something like 330 electoral votes.
Why do I think this when the polls continue to forecast a close race? Two reasons. First, because the air long ago went out of the Obama campaign. “But where,” you ask, “is the data for that? What do the numbers say?” I have no doubt that data could be assembled and expressed numerically. But asking for data about the state of the Obama campaign is like asking for proof that a body lying on the sidewalk with a stake through its heart is dead. Evidence comes in many forms, and some of the most compelling forms are bluntly empirical. (A point that Aristotle noted in the Nicomachean Ethics when he noted that different subjects admit different levels of precision and that it is a sign of wisdom to demand only the level of precision which the subject under discussions requires.) Do you know anyone who believes the Obama campaign has traction? You don't need a statistic to issue a death certificate.
The second reason I predict a handy victory for Romney-Ryan ticket is likewise rudely empirical. Look at the rallies. Note the number of “Romney-Ryan” signs, buttons, and insignia you see around — and note, too, who’s sporting that paraphrenalia. Ponder the sorts of things Romney’s been saying. Let’s look back, to take just one example, at the supposed “gaffe” Romney made in the immediate aftermath of the murderous attack on our consulate in Benghazi on September 11. The Obama administration began by telling the world that the attack was a spontaneous uprising of Muslims who were “offended” (don’t you love the way they use the word “offended”?) by an amateurish anti-Islamic internet video. The first response of the administration was to apologize. Mitt’s response was rather different:
America will not tolerate attacks against our citizens and against our embassies. We will defend also our constitutional rights of speech and assembly and religion. We have confidence in our cause in America. We respect our Constitution. We stand for the principles our Constitution protects. We encourage other nations to understand and respect the principles of our Constitution because we recognize that these principles are the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world.
I also believe the Administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt instead of condemning their actions. It’s never too early for the United States Government to condemn attacks on Americans, and to defend our values. The White House distanced itself last night from the statement, saying it wasn’t ‘cleared by Washington.’ That reflects the mixed signals they’re sending to the world.
Can you even imagine Obama issuing such a clear, manly, robustly pro-American statement? I can’t. Meanwhile, Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans are dead, a cache of sensitive documents has been seized from our consulate in Benghazi, and America’s reputation has been further tarnished by incompetence and irresolution. Americans don’t like the exhibition of incompetence and irresolution in their leaders. Again, there may not be a handy statistic to indicate that. But tomorrow night will demonstrate beyond cavil that Romney has Mittmentum.