Roger L. Simon

Beyond the Bradley Effect: What's Really Happening in Election 2012

In the aftermath of the cringe-worthy debate performance by Vice President Joe Biden — dubbed Dr. Strangelaugh by James Taranto — it’s easy to be bewildered by where this bizarre election is headed.

And Biden’s behavior was not the first instance of “inappropriate affect” by one of the Democratic team. That clinical term for “emotional tone or outward emotional reaction out of harmony with the idea, object, or thought accompanying it” applies to the president’s curiously disconnected presentation in the first debate as well.

What’s going on with these guys? We can theorize forever about the etiology of this behavior (anger, narcissism, desperation, even self-sabotage) in either or both cases, but it’s finally more pertinent to speculate on what the result will be.

As someone who spent over three decades on the left as a liberal-progressive-whatever, I believe I have some sense of how they think and feel. And I have a strong suspicion that at this moment they are not feeling good, no matter what their protestations.

I further suspect some, it’s hard to say how many, are even beginning to question long-held views. How this will translate at the voting booth, it is again difficult to say. Political beliefs — most often inherited or adopted early in life — are notoriously difficult to change just in and of themselves. Add to that the perils of conflict and confrontation with family, friends, employers, and co-workers, not to mention the potential for disintegration of self-image, and you have a perfect prescription for inertia.

And yet we are a moment when more people than ever in recent memory are being forced to think. The economy, nearly everyone knows, is barreling toward the proverbial cliff and on top of that we now have the Benghazi terror killings replete with a metastasizing cover-up, rendering absurd the assertion that al-Qaeda (or its myriad clones) is dead or dying. The White House (Obama/Biden) and the State Department (Hillary/Billary) are already choosing up sides in an unseemly (actually horrifying if you think about its implications) game of liar’s poker.

Foreign policy/domestic policy — what’s a poor liberal to do? Well, there are always the social issues to drum up support, but it’s getting a little late in the game.

So back to those people who might be questioning their beliefs. What are they actually going to do in the voting booth? Human cowardice and habit being what they are, most will undoubtedly revert to type. But how many will quietly vote for Romney/Ryan?

A lot of talk has been bandied about over the so-called Bradley Effect, the theory that a number of California voters said they were going to vote for Tom Bradley — the longtime Los Angeles mayor — for governor of that state in a 1982 election because he was African-American, but really voted for his opponent who won.

This theory has been debunked and, frankly, I have no idea of its veracity. More importantly, however, I believe it is passé. Fewer than ever are interested in the color of Obama’s skin (well, maybe Al Sharpton and his claque) or — for that matter — in Mitt Romney’s religion. We have far, far more pressing issues in front of us at this moment.

For that reason, I think the number who vote for Romney/Ryan and then tell no one (at least in the short run) will be significant, so significant that this election may explode and be closer to a blowout than anyone, save a few, had expected.

We have, in essence, gone beyond the Bradley Effect, if that ever existed, to a Faux Ideology Effect (someone can think of a better term). Liberals can pretend to be liberals all they wish to friends, family, employers, and co-workers, but more and more of them will privately vote conservative. The country and the world hang in the balance. Time has long run out on liberal posturing. Thank Joe Biden for reminding us of that.

(Thumbnail image on PJM homepage by