Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Political Analysts on TV

Now, I have a lot more important things to do, like clipping my fingernails or making sure my dresser is perfectly parallel to the wall, than to watch tv political talk shows.  But sometimes I'll sit and watch for a few minutes (and when I was younger I remember my dad watching them all of the time).  I've noticed that there are two types of "analysts" or "strategists" you see on tv political talk shows.

The first kind is the cheerleader, the my-party-is-going-to-win-and-here's-why guy.  You can safely ignore them, they are just there to fill up airtime.  The second kind is the person who actually analyzes the political scene and makes predictions about how things (particularly elections) will turn out.  Some of them are just terrible at this, like Dick Morris, who by my count is wrong on every prediction he makes.  Some, like the late Bob Novak and the hated Karl Rove, are actually very good.  They make reactions dispassionately, with no optimism and no pessimism.  I have learned from experience that Novak (before he died) and Rove are worth listening to.  I guess it's from simply observing the political scene and absorbing it for so many years, they are just in tune with what's happening.  Neither of these guys are always right, and it's not hard to find examples of their predictions gone wrong.  But these guys and others like them are right often enough, and in ways I didn't expect, to make them worthwhile (if you care about the political horse races, I for one think that election outcomes aren't nearly as important as they're made out to be because The System already has such enormous momentum and special moneyed interests guiding it and bureaucracy keeping it from deviating etc.).

The great thing about this type of analysis is that it's ideology-free.  It doesn't matter what a person's position on the flat tax is, or whether they voted for the porkulus bill, it's simply an objective matter of reading the political landscape, seeing how things are going, how voters in aggregate are feeling, etc., and making a prediction.  Two ideologically-opposite analysts, using the same methodology, could arrive at the same results.

But what I do not understand is why so few of these really-good-at-making-predictions guys are on the left.  I mean the left left, not the Larry Summers left.  I mean, I can't even think of one.  Left-leaning, sure.  Especially veteran ex-politicians who know how the Washington Machine works.  But actual socialist left?  Nope.

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