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August 3, 2016

America, Stop Listening to Pundits

There is no way that Donald Trump can be the Republican nominee, because wonder-boy prognosticator Nate Silver said it wouldn’t happen. And Princeton professor Samuel Wang – dubbed by the media a “poor man’s Nate Silver” – deemed it so impossible that “If he’s on either position of the Republican ticket, I’ll eat a bug. There is just no way. It’s impossible.”

But, of course, Trump is the nominee. And now lots of pundits want to save Americans the time thinking about the election by telling you what will happen next.

Which begs the question: why should anyone listen to the folks who have been dead wrong all along? I realize that cable news has the tricky assignment of filling 24 hours news programming, but at this point, how does any pundit have credibility?

Here’s just a sampling of what the political pros said about Trump:

Stuart Stevens, chief strategist for 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, last August: “Why would The Donald risk looking like a loser? Making political predictions rarely turns out well, but here’s one: Donald Trump will not be a candidate for president in 2016.”

Silver, editor of the website 538.com, last September: “I don’t think that Donald Trump is very likely to win the nomination in part because he’s not really a Republican.” Two months later Silver wrote a particularly condescending piece entitled, “Dear Media, Stop Freaking Out About Donald Trump’s Polls.”

David Brooks, New York Times columnist, proclaimed last December: “No, Donald Trump won’t win.” In doing so, he compared Trump to an exotic pink rug that one is mesmerized at first but then your more rational side rejects.

Let me remind you that analyzing politics is what these gentlemen are paid to do. In any other profession, being so spectacularly wrong would mean – to steal a line from Harry Chapin – that full-time consideration of another endeavor might be in order.

But in Pundit-land, such mistakes are just called “Tuesday.”

Which gets me back to my point. Given the track record of well, everybody, why would any right-thinking American trust that anybody knows what he or she is talking about? It’s hardly better among friends. On Facebook, we’ve created chambers where all we hear is our own opinions echoed back at us. And if you are looking for insight into the election, social media is the wrong place to look.

I realize that part of the problem is it’s not just liberals who doubted Trump. In January I wrote a piece, “If Trump Wins,” that pointed out that before Ronald Reagan won the 1980 election in a landslide, early in the process many Republicans openly questioned whether he was electable. For some time, that defined the narrative – until it was time for the American people to decide, and they said, hell yeah, he was. In many ways, that is exactly what happened with the GOP nominating process this year. The media overestimated the Republican establishment and underestimated how voters are fed up with politics as usual.

So here’s the hard truth: there is nowhere to go for spoiler alerts about the November election results. There are no experts to guide or reassure you one way or another. MSNBC will tilt every story towards Hillary Clinton; Fox News will do the same to help Trump. The Washington Post and New York Times will tell you what the establishment thinks. Conservative talk-radio will spew hate at Clinton.

And Silver will keep giving statistical likelihoods like he was never wrong. Even Professor Wang is back at it, now saying there is a 70 percent chance that Clinton will beat Trump to win the White House. I wonder if she loses if he’ll eat a bug….

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