Friday, November 18, 2016

The Election's Real Significance

There is consternation in the halls of Washington, academia and the media over the Trump Surprise. The opinions were virtually unanimous: Trump would not win. He would continue only in stand-up. There was worry over the future of the Rube-publican Party itself, the defeat would be so devastating. Clinton's people celebrated on the plane the day before the election. The people who advise and steer our lives, indeed who want to advise and steer our lives, had investigated the evidence and come to a conclusion.

Then he won. The people who see themselves as the ones who should assess us, evaluate us and guide us were completely wrong about this basic act in the democracy. Our patient, tolerant, scolding leaders had no idea what was afoot. Trump's win was immediately parsed: He did not actually win, he won only in the Electoral College. The win was part of a poorly diagnosed syndrome, the Brexit-Columbian FARC-Vote Syndrome. Then the win was darker, indicative of unseen deep currents in the voters; racism, misogyny, xenophobia were likely involved. There were some evils that could not be plumbed.

So the self-appointed experts retreat into the safety of obscurity, mystery and evil. Magic is likely next. Their error is everyone else's fault, it seems. But that still sidesteps the real question: Why can't experts be right, even when the problem is hard? And if these experts are wrong about this--after all, polling data and sampling studies are pretty straightforward--what are these people able to do?

If experts can not assess a simple election, what should we trust them with?

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