We Don’t Know What’s Going On

Last November (2007) conventional wisdom held that the Democrats held a lock on the next presidential election and that Hillary Clinton held a lock on the Democratic nomination. However, by February (2008), a mere three months later, Obama came from out of nowhere and seized the lead. By July (2008) Obama had won the Democratic convention and most people seemed assured that he would easily win the general election. Then McCain picked Palin a month later and suddenly McCain stands either tied with Obama or slightly ahead. 

Why didn’t all the thousands of professional political analysts in the media, think tanks, political groups and academia predict the impact someone like Palin would have on the election? Why do we keep paying these people or even listening to them?

Face it, for all that we all, amateurs and professionals alike, pontificate on politics, none of us really understand what drives elections or can predict how they will turn out. We don’t know what’s going on. 

[Thoughts inspired by this post via Instapundit]

10 thoughts on “We Don’t Know What’s Going On”

  1. One thing to consider is that, with all due respect, most people are just too busy or disinterested to pay attention and because of that the general public are slow learners. Obama (and the MSM) could be compared with a slick car salesman with a lemon to sell and the voting public are slow, and, in the end careful buyers of a complicated machine. Time, here, is our friend.

  2. Tyouth,

    Good point. I am just amazed at the degree of noise in the process. I guess it works out in the end, I just don’t think people should take pronouncements to seriously.

  3. To be honest, I envy those who can tune it all out. People like my youngest brother. They’re not dumb, they just have other interests. They might not have particularly interesting opinions about politics and society, but given the size of their vote viz a viz mine, they probably devote the appropriate amount of time.

    I once claimed to a liberal I know that I think Americans, in general, do a pretty good job of picking presidents. Given the choices anyway. I am less sanguine about their ability to choose their representatives tho’.

  4. Having known academics and pundits of various kind all my life (quite literally) I have long ago come to the conclusion that they are the last ones to understand anything. Throughout this process I maintained to all the pundits that McCain’s chances were much better than they were predicting. I just wish I had put money on it when the odds were longer. One of the stupidest of the pro-Obama arguments is that people in academia support him and, anyway, he has all these degrees. Setting aside the point that his marks are still unavailable (I am right in that, am I not?) and the fact that so much of academia is totally on the left and loves the idea of big government, there is the basic point that these people know less than anyone else. True in every country.

  5. Another example would be sportswriters. They all participate in their pre season picks for football and are almost always dismally wrong. Nobody remembers or cares later in the season when the picks turn out to be wrong. Again slow learners – why do we listen to them or pay them?

    For politics, I wish I would have opened a “Dick Morris is wrong” blog some time ago – it would have been a huge hit.

  6. Shannon Love Says:
    September 17th, 2008 at 9:23 pm Jdm,
    Yes, about once a year I take about a month long break from the news and politics. I feel a lot better for it.


    I do that more often.. I’ll take week-long breaks. Break from the Apocalypse.

    Sometimes a lot of stuff happens in a week, and its overwhelming to catch up.

  7. I am the sort of person, or used to be, who never really payed attention to politics. It changed, a bit, after 9-11, but I see myself returning to that state of ‘being’ again, and, to be honest, I’m not sure that ‘paying attention’ in the partisan blog reading sense is really better than tuning it all out (I’m only talking about myself, here).

    I remember being totally unaware of all that “Clinton business” in the 90s. I am completely serious – I remember a German woman really getting into it with me at a dinner party, “why aren’t you paying more attention?” was her basic, and incredulous, point. I don’t know. The frenzy turned me off, plus, I was busy with this business of living.

    Anyway, what I really mean is that I would totally ignore all things political until the time of the election, and then, listen to the debates and try and think things out for myself. My lack of knowledge was balanced out, a bit, by my calmness and equal willingness to listen to both ‘sides’. If you don’t pay attention, you don’t make partisan mistakes, I guess. Sometimes the political blogs (not this one) make you think everyone is bitter and angry, but, they’re not, so you can get fooled. People are busy living….

    The people I really envy are like my father, who does pay attention to everything, attends all these political events (it’s easy because he lives in an early primary state) and then makes his decision based on what he thinks is good for the country. He is not partisan and is not angry and likes all the politicians he meets. He says in person they are very different and often sound much more knowledgeable. In the 2000 election he met George Bush in a small event in a park and said he was very nice and President Bush talked to my father for quite a bit. There were very few people at the event. My father liked talking to him. He also likes Obama, and, he things Sarah Palin has enough experience. See, the partisan blog wisdom just doesn’t compute for him, and, he’s a mathematician!

    He votes D and R equally and his ‘picking presidents’ track record is *perfect*. I won’t tell you who he’s supporting this time around, I want to see if he gets it ‘right’ again :)

  8. MD,

    In perfect world, we wouldn’t have to pay attention to politics and we could just get on living. I often quip that favorite president was Calvin Coolidge because his schtick was sitting out on porch of the white house in rocking chair reading the paper and never saying anything. He’s mostly noted for doing almost nothing in office, by intent, which I think a great achievement.

    We must remind ourselves that the fate of the republic does not turn upon any particular election. We must fight broad long term political trends but hyperventilating about any particular election is really just a waster of energy.

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