Washington Babylon — September 17, 2008, 10:15 am

Punditry and Wishful Thinking

I’m taking part in the Online 100, a panel put together by
PoliticsHome.com, a terrific website that offers breaking political news and analysis. The Online 100, which is meant to provide “the first daily tracking poll of the blogosphere,” includes Arianna Huffington, Karl Rove, Joe Klein, Joe Trippi, Mike Allen, Mark Halperin, Mark Blumenthal, Dana Milbank, Jonah Goldberg, John Fund, Jake Tapper, Chuck Todd, Marc Ambinder, and Andrew Sullivan.

The first poll asked, “At this point, who do you think is more likely to win the Presidential election?” Barack Obama was picked by 49 percent of the panelists, and John McCain by 48 percent. Overall, panelists had relatively little confidence in their predictions. Those identified as being on the “left” picked Obama 76 to 24 percent, while those on the right picked McCain by 82 to 18 percent.

What does all this mean? Basically, that the Online 100 has no better idea of who is going to win the election than your next-door neighbor–and that the views and analysis offered by pundits are largely shaped by their personal beliefs and desires and have very little prescriptive value. How else to explain the fact that three-quarters of liberal panelists think Obama will win, while four-fifths of conservatives believe McCain will emerge triumphant? What could possibly account for that huge split, other than wishful thinking?

That’s not to dismiss the panel (especially being a member of it), which will provide a rough daily snapshot of where things stand and assess the impact of key events. But the campaign is a toss-up. Does Obama really have a better ground game than McCain? Is the country “ready” to elect an African-American president? We’ll find out on Election Day.

I was recently speaking with Gary Pearce, a longtime Democratic consultant in North Carolina. “With historical elections, you never know until it’s all over,” he said. “Then everyone sits back and says, ‘I saw that coming.’”

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2014

Israel and Palestine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Washington Is Burning

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On Free Will

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

They Were Awake

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
 
Where Israel and Palestine can go from here, Washington D.C.’s enduring legacy of racial strife, Edward O. Wilson on free will, and more
Criticism
"Policymakers, recognizing the growing influence of civil disobedience and riots on the direction of the nation, had already begun turning to science for a response."
Illustration by Richard Mia
Article
Israel and Palestine·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If Israel believes it needs to make a wall eight meters high between us and them, let them have it eighty meters high. Under one condition: It has to be on the international border.”
Photograph (detail) © Ali Jadallah / APA Images / ZUMA Wire
Article
On Free Will·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Philosophers have labored for more than two thousand years to explain consciousness. Innocent of biology, however, they have for the most part gotten nowhere.”
Collage (detail) by Frederick Sommer
Post
Astra Taylor on The People’s Platform·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Taking back power and culture in the digital age
“There’s a pervasive and ill-advised faith that technology will promote competition if left to its own devices.”
Photograph © Deborah Degraffenried

Chances that an applicant to a U.S. police force in 1992 was found to be “overly aggressive” on psychological tests:

1 in 2

Engineers funded by the United States military were working on electrical brain implants that will enable the creation of remote-controlled sharks.

Malaysian police were seeking fifteen people who appeared in an online video of the Malaysia-International Nude Sports Games 2014 Extravaganza, and Spanish police fined six Swiss tourists conducting an orgy in the back of a moving van for not wearing their seatbelts.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today