Why is there so much talk in blogs and other media about the Illinois 17th Congressional District race between Phil Hare and Andrea Zinga as if there was a possibility that it will be viewed on the national level as competitive? There has been speculation that there could be more money donated and spent in this race than in 1998 when the national Republican Party poured money and attention into the race and the national Democratic Party responded in kind.
All such talk and speculation is obvious nonsense. Since 1998 the district has been gerrymandered into a Democratic safe district which the national parties ignore in order to order to focus their resources on other races which are truly in play.
There are a couple of possible explanations for the locally popular denial of this reality. One explanation for all the written nonsense is that political bloggers and reporters need something to write about and they are pretending they have an interesting and competitive race to cover because otherwise they would have nothing to write. Another possible explanation is that political writing, like all forms of human discourse, conforms to familiar patterns and norms and it is traditional to describe all upcoming elections as interesting and uncertain.
My preferred explanation, though, for this situation is cognitive dissidence. Americans have been told over and over how important their vote is, how vitally important it is that they vote, that they are responsible for the selection of our political leaders, etc. The reality that at least as far as their representation in the US House of Representatives is concerned the citizens of north-western and west central Illinois are completely disenfranchised, whether they go to the polls or not, is so at odds with their world view that they have no way of dealing with that reality. They have no place within their mental framework to fit that situation so they are forced to ignore it. They act, talk and write as if they lived somewhere else, some place like Iowa, where the voters in the general election can actually have some influence on the selection of their representative.
Great scientific breakthroughs often happen in situations where there is data that cannot be explained by the existing theories. If your operating understanding of the American political system cannot explain the data that you, along with many other Americans, live in a part of the country where you can have no effect on the selection of your Congressional representative perhaps it is time for a paradigm shift in your political views.
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