A few months back, when my roomate was heavily covering the whole Ron Paul R[EVOL]ution, I would swing by a Ron Paul discussion forum every now and again to see what was on the minds of the Paulistas. As the Republican primary rolled on and it became clear that John McCain would be the nominee well in advance of the convention, I remember shaking my head in wonder as people there seemed to become more and more vehement and delusional, insisting that Paul had some kind of secret plan to seize the nomination despite all appearances, and becoming furious at anyone who suggested that it might be time to face up to reality and start talking about the next step.
The whole thing was sad and humorous to watch in about equal measure, and I attributed it in large part to the way easy opt-out online communities so easily create delusional feedback loops. As evidence that the game is over becomes clear, reasonable folks—especially those put off by the ferocity of denial—drift away, leaving an ever more ardent echo chamber. But I also, frankly, put some of it down to the fact that libertarians—I’m including myself here—tend to be an eccentric bunch who, pretty much as a prerequisite of seriously entertaining all the unpopular ideas we do, are skeptical of mainstream consensus and fond of quixotic crusades.
Pace Mike Crowley, I don’t think it’s likely that the Clinton people themselves—even Pythonesque spokesman Terry McAuliffe—held any real illusions about her chances of becoming the nominee at this stage. Refusing to concede immediately seemed like a clear pressure play, not a serious bid for the nomination. But many of her supporters at least appeared to persist in believing that victory was at hand. One after another kept repeating the mantra that Hillary had won the popular vote—if you omit caucuses, count Michigan, don’t give Obama any of the Michigan uncommitted votes, and look at the total through a polarized ruby quartz lens held at a 30 degree angle.
This sort of phenomenon should be at least a little unsettling to people who want to view politics as this kind of wonderful deliberative process by which we all reason together, harnessing our collective wisdom to choose wise policies. There seems to be a stronger case for thinking that politics us makes us crazier together than we are seperately: E pluribus, unhinged.