People who make a living predicting the political future had a rough 2014.
Voters had a way of not always following the script—otherwise known as "conventional wisdom"—set out by those whose columns, microphones, talk shows, and TV appearances give them the prominence to proclaim what quickly is accepted as the way it is.
Perhaps the biggest lesson learned from the year gone by is that conventional wisdom—always subject to change—now does so more rapidly than ever. What is accepted conventional wisdom in January can look laughable in December. And that may be the biggest challenge for those who track the CW—trying to keep up. That was proved right from the start in 2014, a year that began with much of Washington still clinging to the belief that voters were in the mood to punish Republicans for shutting down government. That had been the prevailing wisdom after the 16-day battle between President Obama and the Republican House in late 2013. When it ended in acrimony that Oct. 16, the polls left no doubt that the voters thought poorly of the GOP architects of the shutdown.
But that held for only 11 days, until the first crash of the Obamacare website. And 2014 dawned with the president still struggling to explain why he had promised people they could keep their insurance if they liked it.
That was the changed environment when the new year began. But it led to dueling CW's, with Democrats clinging to the belief that voters would remember the shutdown and Republicans believing they would instead be thinking of their unhappiness with Obamacare when they voted. As was often the case in 2014, the Republican CW was closer to the truth. Democrats got trapped, failing to understand how quick political reality is to shift.