Saturday, November 8, 2008

Seductive prognostication

After the polls closed on Tuesday, a friend and local legislative candidate called me to get the results from my town. I didn't have them yet, but I told her my guess: Narrow loss in one precinct and slightly larger win in the other, adding up to a narrow win for her here.

Fifteen minutes later, I had unofficial results, and I had been spot on. What a rush to have my finger on the pulse! (Or is that my pulse noticing when I'm given the finger?)

Predicting the Electoral College, I had the benefit of reams of polling, well explicated in many places, especially at Buoyed by Nate Silver's confidence there, I put my marker down at 353-185. Of course, it is true that I suffered for days after with flopsweat and fear of dark deeds. It's also true that I titled my prediction "Wild-ass guess."

True, I'm proud that, with Missouri still out, the only state I missed was Indiana going for Obama. If Mizzou eventually votes for McCain, I'll be 50 of 51, though anyone who knows the word 'predict' should be able to call D.C. for the Democrat well in advance. In fact, let me be the first to declare that Obama wins D.C. in 2012.

It feels great to be right with so little effort, and that, I think, is the attraction. It's why big media spends so much time gazing into crystal balls instead of reporting actual events which have already happened. Not only do they spend time predicting and outlining what a prediction will mean when it comes true, they also argue about each other's predictions, as if they could settle the question inside the half hour.

Looking into the future is a mook's game. Despite movies like Déjà Vu and Minority Report, it's not possible to know what's going to happen for sure. We'd be much better served by the media if they would concentrate on what is instead of what might be tomorrow.

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