Why We Assume What Went Wrong in the Last Election Will Go Wrong Now
The Democrats’ obsession with the Rust Belt doesn’t make sense in 2020
On December 22, 2001, Richard Reid boarded American Airlines flight 63 from Paris to Miami. During the flight, Reid took a match to his shoes in an unsuccessful attempt to ignite the explosives hidden in them, earning him the infamous moniker, “the shoe bomber.” Reid’s attempt to bring down an airliner with his shoes may have earned him a life sentence, but it also earned the rest of us a lifetime of taking off our shoes every time we go through airport security.
That X-raying our shoes is still a thing 20 years after Reid boarded that flight offers a classic case of the last disaster bias, the tendency people have to overprepare for the last failure they faced. No matter how unlikely it might be that someone else would try to bring down a plane with a Birkenstock bomb or how small the chances are that the attempt would be successful, we will go to outsized lengths to avoid a repeat. The result? As a society, we’ve wasted a mind-boggling amount of time and money taking off our shoes and having them X-rayed before every flight.
The same dynamic is at play in the 2020 election, as Democrats fixate on what went wrong last time as they consider what is most likely to go wrong this time. For the Democrats who backed Clinton in 2016, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan are their shoe bomber. Those are the three states that successfully brought down the Clinton plane. That unexpected outcome has created palpable anxiety about a repeat loss in the Upper Midwest in 2020 that appears to be driving some campaign spending decisions that are otherwise hard to explain.
Reliving Election Night 2016, Through FiveThirtyEight’s Live Blog
A lesson in how to prepare for when the 2020 results start rolling in
As of October 13, the Biden campaign and its allies had spent a combined total of $282.8 million on television advertising in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The $184.2 million of that allocated to Pennsylvania and Wisconsin doesn’t seem at all unreasonable given that Pennsylvania is the tipping…