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

October 2014

Cassandra Among the
Creeps

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

PBS Self-Destructs

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Monkey Did It

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
"In mid-August, hundreds of displaced Christians who had fled to Erbil were moved by Kurdish authorities into the concrete shell of a half-built mall. "
Photograph by Sebastian Meyer
Article
“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Iraq has every disease there is; its mind is deranged with too many voices, its organs corrupted, its limbs only long enough to tear at its own body.”
Photograph by Benjamin Busch
Post
Flying Blind·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“President Obama’s war against the Islamic State will represent, by a rough count, the eighth time the U.S. air-power lobby has promised to crush a foe without setting boot or foot on the ground.”
Article
The Monkey Did It·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In Murakami’s fiction, what presents itself as a key reveals itself simultaneously to be a keyhole.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
Article
PBS Self-Destructs·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The present state of PBS, the result of built-in deficiencies and ideological conflicts, was almost an inevitability.”
Illustration by Thomas Allen

Estimated percentage of U.S. gasoline consumption that occurs during traffic jams:

4

In India, 1.8 million female children were estimated to have died between 1985 and 2005 as an indirect result of domestic violence against their mothers; the boys of abused mothers were not at increased risk of death.

Vanilla latte and lemon pound cake continued to be the best-selling items at the Starbucks at CIA headquarters, where baristas do not write customers’ names on their cups.

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