Normally, my brain shuts down when some political pundit uses the word “electability” — I know what’s coming. That’s what media people say when they’re about to start babbling about who is in the lead in a horserace to avoid having to discuss the substance of their policies. Policy is hard, but regurgitating poll results is easy, and if there’s anything we know for certain it’s that the talking heads on the TV are mostly idiots. Maggie Koerth nails it, though, announcing that You’ll Never Know Which Candidate Is Electable.
Political scientists study electability, but electability ain’t no science. Instead, researchers say, it’s basically a layer of ex post facto rationalization that we slather over a stack of psychological biases, media influence and self-fulfilling poll prophecies. It’s not bullshit, exactly; some people really are more likely to be elected than others. But the reasons behind it, and the ability to make assumptions based on it, well …
“[Electability] is this vague, floppy concept,” said Nichole Bauer, a professor of political communication at Louisiana State University. “We don’t know who is electable until someone is elected.”
Please, could someone tell this to Chris Cilliza or Chuck Todd, just to name two among many who need to be punched in the face and sent back to school and told to learn something before they start trying to influence the electorate?