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 $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2015

Black Hat, White Hat

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Beyond the Broken Window

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In Search of a Stolen Fiddle

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Displaced in the D.R.

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Quietest Place in the Universe

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“Don sucked the last of his drink through his straw and licked his lips. 'The coast, to me, is more interesting than the valley.'”
Photograph by the author
Article
Fred Morton, who died this week in Vienna, at the age of 90, was a longtime contributor to Harper's Magazine and a good friend. "Othello's Son," which was listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2013, appeared in our September 2013 issue.
Photograph © Alex Gotfryd/CORBIS
Article
Beyond the Broken Window·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“By the time Bratton left the department, in 2009, Los Angeles had quietly become the most spied-on city in America.”
Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Displaced in the D.R.·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“How is it possible that my birth certificate is invalid if I was born here?”
Photograph by Pierre Michel Jean
Article
The Quietest Place in the Universe·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Gaitskell and his colleagues are approaching the revelation of a new order, a new universe, in which even light will be known differently, and darkness as well.”
Painting by Sebastiaan Bremer

Number of African countries with vaccination rates higher than that of the United States:

16

Iowa urologists reported that only a minor portion of locker-room teasing arises from “the presence of excess foreskin”; most teasing targets small penises.

A farmer in Surrey, England, was ordered by the Reigate and Banstead Borough Council to tear down his cannon-equipped castle, which he had built secretly and then concealed behind hay bales.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today