Editor's note: The following column originally appeared on TheResurgent.com.
The polling blew it. It was completely wrong. There are plenty of pollsters out trying to defend their work and claim there were other reasons for everything being out of whack, but the reality is that the polls blew it and the exit polling was off badly. And, to be sure, people like me blew it in our presumptions, presuppositions, and analyses of the election.
We should all be troubled by that for two very significant reasons.
First, the polling and exits were wrong because so many people refused to talk to pollsters. We live in a day when the president of the United States hired a propaganda officer who encouraged people to report their neighbors for lying about Obamacare. They encouraged people to forward emails to the White House from friends and family that had “misinformation”. The left took to systematically shaming people and hounding people from jobs if those people dared to disagree on cultural issues. Give money to support traditional marriage and expect protestors to show up at the restaurant where you wait tables and demand you be fired.
The result is that a large number of Americans refuse to speak up, even to anonymous pollsters. And who can blame them? Tweet something you find funny and suddenly an angry horde of “progressives” show up at your office demanding punishment. Shaming has become an art form.
Second, because the polling and data are wrong, people are more and more likely to trust the anecdotes of their experience. This election is proof positive in how dangerous that is. Pollsters presumed, based on their world view, what the turn out would be. Their polling into households too scared or embarrassed to admit who they support only affirmed their world view. The system got out of balance quickly.
As more and more people turn to anecdote for data, the more confirmation bias will creep into the system. What a person’s family, friends, or political circle think is a good idea is more and more likely to be implemented as public policy without testing, research, or data to show the idea really is good. As people are fickle, shifts in public policy will become more and more dramatic as what people think is good turns out to be bad. Or, as we have seen with ObamaCare, people will double down on affirming political spin because they either cannot admit the policy is bad or the policy does not affect their friends enough to see how bad it is.
One thing we do know from the campaign, confirmed by Kellyanne Conway of the Trump campaign, is that ObamaCare insurance premium increases had an effect of voters in Trump’s favor. This is where conservatism comes in. That was easily foreseeable to anyone who understands human nature and conservatives have a fundamentally better understanding of human nature than the political left.
Conservatives understand that individuals are good. We love our neighbors. But collectively, humanity descends into mob rule where some become more equal than others. We see that on the streets today as the very people who attacked Trump supporters for suggesting the election was rigged are now protesting a fairly held election because they dislike the outcome. The realism of conservatives and the understanding of Christian thought within conservatism relating to the nature of sin and power helps restrain conservative policy.
But conservatism has also clearly failed to translate into the lives of the very same Americans who believe they cannot be openly honest about their views. These voters have turned to a nationalist strain of populism that tends to take an us versus them view of policy. Conservatives are going to need to show the universal values of individual liberty and the humility of restraint can elevate lives and feed souls.
Conservatives in Washington missed much this election season because of the same confirmation biases that ensnared pollsters and Democrats. Conservatives need to walk in the shoes of culturally conservative heartland voters who share conservatism’s deep suspicion of Washington and power, but do not think intellectual conservatism makes a difference in their lives.
We now know a lot of voters, including not just white non-college educated voters, feel increasingly marginalized, fearful of the future, and worried they cannot express themselves without punishment or harassment. Progressivism, in its demands for diverse skin color and homogenous group think, has no solution for these people’s problems. Conservatism must.