by Alec Kohut
One of my favorite lines in any book is from Jurassic Park, after the dinosaurs have taken over, and cocky mathematician Ian Malcolm is terribly injured as the eccentric creator of the park says “Who could have imagined it would turn out this way.” A young lady replies, “Apparently Malcolm did.” To which Ian Malcolm replies:
“I didn’t imagine it, I calculated it.”
Nate Silver didn’t predict this election, he calculated it.
Nate Silver is no whiz kid, nor has he developed new sophisticated math to analyze elections. Nor did Silver have any information or knowledge that was unavailable to you or me, or Dick Morris, Michael Barone, Fred Barnes, Joe Scarborough, Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, Peggy Noonan and even Politics & A Beer.
I am not minimizing what Silver accomplished, he is brilliant. Effectively applying math and science to a field dominated by emotion and opinion, although sounding simple, is a daunting task. He performed it to near perfection. It was interesting to watch him listen to pundits incredulously as they attempted to discredit him using their views and opinions. The idiots couldn’t understand that Silver was basing his statements on math, not opinion. In other words, he was playing chess, they were playing checkers.
I also accurately called how the presidential election would go. Using a method not nearly as analytical as Silver, but relying on the data just as well. Unlike Silver, I am very biased and opinionated. Looking at the numbers, including those at Silver’s 538 New Times Blog, I asked myself a simple question: How would I feel if the numbers were reversed, and it was Romney leading in all the polls, and momentum shifting his way?
The answer was simple, I would have been depressed, knowing that it would likely be a landslide for Romney had the numbers been reversed in his favor. But they weren’t, so could I have drawn any other conclusion than an Obama landslide? Here’s my video from last Friday, before the election:
The only thing every pundit, left and right, all agreed on this year, was this election was going to be close, very, very, close. Razon thin margins that could take weeks, maybe months to sort out. And every single one of them was wrong. Does that mean they are all idiots? Yes. Rachel Maddow ignoring the data, and claiming on her show that the election could come down to the party affiliation of Secretaries of State in the swing states, was just plain stupid. Michael Barone imagining Romney winning 303 electoral votes, stupid. Peggy Noonan on Monday writing that the polls should not be trusted, stupid. Fred Barnes listing the factors that all signaled a Romney win, stupid.
The pundits held firm to their beliefs and skewed the numbers to fit those beliefs while Nate Silver held firm to the data and skewed his beliefs to fit the numbers. That why Nate Silver is smart, and brilliant and pundits are idiots. It seems simple, because it is.
But right-wingers are never bound by facts or science. From climate change to evolution to the election of Mitt Romney, no amount of data, math or science affects their views. Giving right-wingers knowledge and information is no different than giving a 2-year-old car keys. The child will play with them, and believe they are using the keys in a very effective manner, but the child simply has no clue. Right wing pundits are the same with knowledge, they play with it, believe they are using it effectively, but just like children, they simply have no clue. Unfortunately many left wing pundits are no different.
They simply imagine things, not calculate them.
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