Posts Tagged ‘Peggy Noonan’

Reality Pierces Republican Bubble

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Last week’s election was a big victory for President Obama and the Democrats.  But aside from a win for the Democrats, the election was also a win for the pollsters — you know, the trained statisticians who make their living surveying public opinion? These guys were under attack this year by Fox News and the conservative media. According to the perpetually paranoid over at Fox News, the pollsters who were showing Obama leading in the Electoral College for the entire year were just as liberally biased as the overwhelming number of scientists who believe in global warming and the statisticians in the Bureau of Labor Statistics who showed a decline in the unemployment rate in the run up to the election.

Even to the bitter end, Fox contributor and Harvey Fierstein impersonator Dick Morris was predicting an electoral college landslide for Romney, and the conservative media bought it hook line and sinker. I always try to keep Mark Twain’s maxim about statistics in mind, but when you have different polls with varied methodology all telling you something that’s at odds with your view of the world, that’s a pretty good indicator that your assumptions might be incorrect. Morris was contrite this week, explaining that he assumed a turnout more in line with 2004, but it’s not clear that there was any evidence to suggest this except the personal opinions of him and others on Fox.

I was having this debate months ago with my conservative uncle whose comeback for “the polls are showing you behind” was always “not according to Scott Rasmussen.” Rasumssen was was the king of the 500 person automated poll which assumed a strong Republican turnout based on responses to questions regarding party identification. Rasumussen’s polls consistently showed a Republican bias of a few points, which can make a real difference in a close election. But a little knowledge can be dangerous and Rasmussen’s polling bred a cottage industry of bloggers contesting the polling in the presidential race by adjusting the party identification mix the pollsters were predicting based on their interviews. The website unskewedpolls.com was the most prominent of the naysayers and they “specialized” in taking other peoples polls and recasting the results by adding more Republicans to the mix.

Meanwhile, the conservative media shills needed to find a visible scapegoat and they found it in Nate Silver, a statistician who turned to election prediction in 2007. Silver had a great record in 2008, predicting every state except Indiana for Obama. In the wake of that election, he was hired by the New York Times as a blogger, where (in case you were wondering) he did well predicting the Republican Congressional landslide year of 2010 as well.

Silver’s model was projecting an Obama win for most of the year based on his narrow but steady lead in the Electoral College polls. Oftentimes, his percentage prediction of an Obama win seemed over-optimistic, so you could quibble with the confidence level, but it’s hard to look at a guy who leads for most of the year in enough electoral college states to win the presidency and argue that he’s not the favorite. Plus, this is a statistical model. One assumes that if Romney was showing the same swing state resiliency, then it would have shown the same result for him.

By the Monday before the election, Silver had Obama at an 85% chance of victory. Meanwhile, the folks at Fox were still telling their viewers that Romney had the momentum and was going to win this thing. Dick Morris, George Will and others predicted a Romney landslide. Perpetually smarmy Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote a blog post that Monday in which she predicted Romney would win the election based almost completely on… a feeling she had. Business Insider called it “the most anti-Nate Silver column imaginable,” not because she spoke about or even alluded to Silver, but because her analysis was almost completely devoid of empirical facts. This seemed like bravado at the time — a way to embolden the troops before a big fight–but in the aftermath it looked like they spent so much time in their own bubble that they couldn’t imagine any other objective reality where a majority could vote for Obama. Last week James Fallows likened it to the dismay attributed to Pauline Kael in the wake of the 1968 election when she couldn’t imagine how Nixon could have won, since “no one I know voted for him.”

To a certain extent, this makes sense. If you spend all your time talking to white Republicans who think that Obama is leading this country on a dangerous slide to socialism, that’s going to color your analysis. To be sure, Romney did carry white voters by a big margin and if the electorate turned out to be as white as they all seemed to think it would be, then we would have been looking at President Romney. But with all of the evidence pointing the other way, these guys should have known better. I have to imagine that there’s more than a few Fox viewers this week who feel like they’ve been had.

Happy Independence Day!

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

Here’s a nice reflective piece by Peggy Noonan on the writing and editing of the Declaration of Independence.

Watched some episodes of the HBO miniseries “John Adams” last night.

Love watching those larger than life characters of George Washington,  Alexander Hamilton,  Adams, Jefferson, Ben Franklin, (not to mention Abagail Adams) portrayed so well.

The story of the Adams/Jefferson relationship is one of the greatest subplots of the Revolutionary War. The men were polar opposites in political views, geopolitical orientations and personal styles, but managed to keep a running correspondence into the twilight of their lives. They died on the same day, July 4, 1826, exactly 50 days after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Their debates still echo down through the decades and centuries, as we debate the true meaning of freedom, liberty and natural rights (which came up (but then were quickly extinguished) in Elena Kagan’s snoozer of a confirmation process this week).

Is it a larger abrogation of your freedom for the federal government to take a large percentage of your income and make you buy health insurance? Or is it more significant for them to want to regulate what a pregnant woman can do with her body, whether the state can decide who you marry and whether the police can stop you in the street and demand to see your identification because they suspect that you might be an illegal immigrant?

The framers couldn’t have imagined the country that we live in today, but the debates about how to define the natural rights that were the template for both the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights echo through the centuries in our debates today.

Happy Birthday America.

Immigration Reform Needs to Start at the Border

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Here’s a good article from Peggy Noonan on the border, among other things.

I don’t agree with all of it, but I’m with her on the border.

Like many American’s , I support a “comprehensive immigration reform” that provides a “path to citizenship” to people who are here illegally, but sign up and meet certain criteria. It’s unreasonable to think that we’re going to deport 12 million people.

But if we don’t close the border and start enforcing the immigration laws, then we’ll just have another 12 million to legalize in another 20 years. And everyone knows that, which is one of the reasons why we can’t seem to get a reform passed.

Now, it’s not just an economic and cultural issue, but also a national security issue.

I don’t know if the nutty Arizona State Senator is right that 2 Korans were found at the border, but I do know that it would be easy for Al Qaeda to fly someone into TJ or El Paso and hire a coyote to get them across. Plus, the increasingly violent drug war is seeping right across that border.

We should do whatever needs to be done. Build a fence, militarize the border. If the National Guard can handle it, then send them. I not, bring in some of the troops we have deployed all over the world (Germany, Japan, etc) and get them on this. It’s time for us to start nation building here as well as abroad.

The costs estimates for a border fence vary, but they are in the tens of billions over a 25 year period. With the trillions we have planned to spend, we can raise a little extra cash to do this. 

Once real efforts are made towards that, then we will see support for a more comprehensive plan. And that plan ought to start with verifiable non-falsifiable national ID cards for employment. Civil libertarians on the left and paranoid militiamen on the right will squawk, but most Americans should know that (in a past 9-11 world) we need that. Employers who don’t demand this documentation before hiring should be fined. Not being able to get jobs will go even further towards reducing the incentives to come.

If you’ve been here for a while, you should be able to meet certain criteria and sign up for that “path to citizenship.” But if you choose not to, and you’re caught, you’re goin back. And if you showed up after the deadline, you can go back too.

I think most Americans would agree with almost all of what I said, but it starts with the border. If we can’t get that right, then there’s not gonna be support for any of the other stuff.

Obama would do himself some good to move to the center and take on what the people who went before him were afraid to do. I won’t be holding my breath that he’ll be any more responsible than the other presidents, but it would be the right thing to do.