November 26. 2012 9:27AM

Find reality beyond the echo chamber

By Steve Jagler

  
On the Friday before the Nov. 6 election, I spoke with two prominent members of the Wisconsin Republican Party who were downright giddy about the prospects for their nominee, Mitt Romney. One even offered to bet me a dinner that Romney would easily beat President Barack Obama.

After all, that was the predominant message they were hearing in the conservative echo chamber. Prominent conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, George Will, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Mike Huckabee, Charles Krauthammer, Peggy Noonan, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter and more, were predicting a Romney victory, and most of them were even forecasting a landslide win for the former Massachusetts governor.

Milwaukee conservative talk show hosts reverberated that slam dunk drumbeat.

I have since heard from several conservative friends who stood slackjawed in disbelief as the election returns rolled in state by brutal state on that Tuesday night.

“How could this be?” was the common refrain.

I have little doubt that these mistaken expectations went all the way to the top of the Republican ticket.

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential nominee, confirmed as much in a post-election interview.

My friend Joe Sweeney, author and managing director of Corporate Financial Advisors in Milwaukee, attended Romney’s election night party in Boston, and he summarized the bewilderment in the room to the Daily Kos. "I am shocked, I am blown away," Sweeney said. "I thought I had a pretty good pulse on this stuff. I thought there was a trend that was going on underground."

Keep in mind, this was not some random Joe watching the world from his couch in Wisconsin. Sweeney’s son, Conor, is a key member of Ryan’s staff. The Sweeneys had access to the inside party line.

So, how could they have been so wrong about the results of the election?

It could happen to any of us. We all need to diversify our sources of information. The lesson to be learned here is that if we choose to live in an echo chamber, the only thing we will ever hear is our echo.

A quick check of the polls on the Friday before the election showed Obama leading in virtually all of the swing states, including Wisconsin, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and Colorado.

If Romney were to win, then multiple polls, including Charles Franklin’s reliable Wisconsin poll for Marquette University, would have had to be wrong in most of those states.

We now know, of course, that the polls were dead on right. Pollster Nate Silver of the New York Times not only correctly predicted the outcomes of all 50 states, he even predicted the final Electoral College vote totals of Obama’s 332-to-206 vote win.

Here’s a hint. If you are a conservative, and your only sources of political news and analysis are Fox News, Limbaugh and conservative talk radio yackers, you do not have a realistic prism of the world.

And if you are a liberal, and your only sources of political news and analysis are MSNBC, Current TV and The Huffington Post, you do not have a realistic prism of the world.

Believe it or not, it is still possible to find journalism that is committed to the honest pursuit of the truth, wherever that may lead, rather than just spoonfeed a preconceived political agenda that tells you what you want to hear. We just have to look a little harder and think a little deeper to find it.

Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes.

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