Everything that you read today on Iowa is going to be nonsense.

gop-debate

As we head into the Iowa caucus: some things to remember about today, tonight, and pretty much the rest of the campaign.

  1. First and foremost: when it comes to politics, people lie. Including people that you like.  It’s all right to be upset about it, but don’t you dare be surprised.
  2. When twenty people make twenty different predictions about a race result, and one person gets it right, that person may be in fact a genius. Or that person may have been lucky. And, indeed: even idiots get it right from time to time.
  3. Dice have no memory; however, people are not dice. Just because something typically happens doesn’t mean that it will continue to happen; conversely, there is a legitimate reason why people will be skeptical about your claim that it’s all different this time.  And they can also be legitimately skeptical of you even after you’re right.  See Rule 1 [UPDATE: Well, Rule 2. But Rule 1 does actually apply here, too. – ML].
  4. American politics is full of people who were always right until they were not. Many of them still have jobs, because every campaign will hire them. Including the campaigns of politicians that you like.
  5. Polls do not guarantee a win. Superior ground game does not guarantee a win. Good press does not guarantee a win. Bad press does not guarantee a win. A specific weather condition does not guarantee a win. A late surge does not guarantee a win. And, shockingly enough: a muttered “I cannot believe that the American people would choose that idiot,” no matter how sincere, will not guarantee a win.
  6. Our pundit class – including the people who would bristle at the very thought of being called ‘pundits’ – is collectively very good at creating a narrative that explains why any past election result was inevitable. This accuracy abruptly disappears whenever a new election shows up on the horizon.
  7. Do not fall in love with politicians. Ever. You can like them, you can give them money, you can stump for them, you can even buy one a beer if you’re feeling generous – but never, ever, ever fall in love with one, because you will either end up regretting it, or you will end up being one of those sad, lonely people who everyone selectively avoids.
  8. Political activism is no substitute for a genuine feeling of self-worth.
  9. It is absolutely futile to convince people who are invested in Acting Badly to amend their behavior. It doesn’t matter if they’re winning, or losing; or whether they’re on your nominal side, or the other person’s. A corollary to that: if your side wins, and you see people on your side Acting Badly, don’t try to make yourself feel better by trying to distance yourself from them. The people that your allies are trying to bully typically won’t want to hear it.
  10. This is the big one.  Tonight will be a successful caucus, no matter what the result. Do you know why?  Because it will not involve any sort of automatic weapons fire.  And I am not being at all facetious.  As long as we’re not shooting each other over the results, the system is working.
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