This is because it is now clear that among the other factors that decided the election (and there were many, as every meaningful outcome is multiply determined), a singularly important and undeniable one was the Obama campaign’s decisive reliance on sophisticated scientific analysis in pursuing their agenda.
Here was finally a test case, a come-to-Jesus moment, a concrete contest with measurable, immediate and consequential results between the ‘reality-based’ and ‘faith-based’ communities, between intuition and data, between hard-headed analyses and wishful thinking.
While the results certainly hinged in part on the candidates’ differing policies and personalities, there is little doubt that the Obama campaign’s reliance on--and facility with--scientific data was a decisive factor. The Obama campaign recruited scientists as advisors, relied on existing scientific evidence to shape its approach, and collected scientific data on an ongoing basis throughout the campaign, from which it derived predictions, strategies, and tactical adjustments.
Accordingly, Obama volunteers were trained in persuasion techniques shown effective by science, not by faith or tradition or intuition. Potential voters were thus gently nudged into making specific plans and signing intent-to-vote cards. They were told of the voting behavior of their neighbors—all of which are tactics shown by science to facilitate action. Obama volunteers worked from scripts that were based on social science findings (for example, reminding someone they have voted in the past increases the odds they will vote again). The Obama campaign followed science-based advice on how to counter opponent accusations and rumors (don’t deny; instead affirm an alternative, competing idea).
In a democracy, you have to live with the knowledge that your side will sometimes lose. You also have to accept the uncomfortable notion that a strong opposition is, in the long run, a good thing for the whole system. In this way, politics is like sport. You want your team to win. You root for it to win. But you understand that winning would not mean much and that the whole endeavor would lose its appeal without worthy competition. And you must acknowledge that sometimes you can learn from what your competition has figured out how to do better than you. Thus, the fact that the Democrats won the election is largely immaterial to the point I am trying to make. The Democrats will lose again in the future. As they should. As Bill Clinton has noted, no one camp has a monopoly on all the good ideas, and good people, for eternity.
Regardless of your politics, you should rejoice in how the last election was won. And you may even dare to wish that the same evidence-based approach would now be applied to our pressing national and global challenges such as, say, climate change.
Will it? The data are not yet in. But I have a hunch…