We are told that the "focus group" is a means of getting at the truth, determining what average people REALLY think.
In reality, it does nothing of the kind. It is, instead, a measure of peer pressure. In the focus group, you self-consciously utter what you think everyone else is thinking.
Frank Luntz, the ubiquitous Fox commentator, has compounded this dynamic by televising focus groups, asking various Average Joes to blurt out inane platitudes about Republican presidential candidates, removing the mic if they don't recite a talking point or catchphrase within three seconds.
The process, in turn, instructs the television audience what to think by showing them a mirage of what everyone else is thinking.
I couldn't bring myself to endure last night's Republican debate in South Carolina. I could watch about five minutes of "highlights" of Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum talking about "values" and Obama's unwillingness to fight the terror hard enough before my eyes glazed over.
I watched with great interest, however, this clip, sent to me by a reader, in which a focus group of South Carolina Republicans declared a "winner" in last night's contest--the unlikely Black Republican and former Federal Reserve board member, Herman Cain.
(I first became aware of Cain when he triumphantly announced at this year's CPAC, "The United States of America will not become the United States of Europe--not on our watch!" Quite.)
As is well known, the February-March South Carolina primary is often positioned to determine (or at least signal) the Republican nomination. Assuming that this year's candidates (with the excpetion of Ron Paul, Gary Johnson, and Donal Trump) are interchangeable movement-conservative blowhards, should we start preparing ourselves for a Republican nominee selected on the basis of Southern Republicans' desire to prove they're not racist?