About Sam Wang, the PEC, and Nate Silver and 538

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Anyone with a serious interest in electoral politics ignores the Princeton Election Consortium and one of its founders, Sam Wang (disclosure: he is the son-in-law of close friends of close friends; the only way I would ever have heard of him, without stumbling on him) and speculates about November at his or her peril.

It was because of Sam and his team (and they are academics in utterly other fields and disciplines—Sam is, himself, a neuroscientist—they also happen to be statistics junkies of the highest order) that I didn’t really sweat either the 2008 or 2012 Presidential contests. People always cite Nate Silver and his now independent organization, 538, and fairly justly, but by comparison, they are publicity hounds and not quite as accurate on all counts. Sam does it for love and deep intellectual engagement, and with no axe to grind; Nate Silver has a brand and a business.

In all events, in this new turn in the 2016 campaign, with Bernie Bros and other acolytes showing their impetuosity and their, one hopes, extremely brief departure from objectivity, and with the general public riven in fear and fascination by the specimen named Donald J. Trump, it turns out that, unsurprisingly, both 538 and the PEC provide a largely ignored platform of reason and scientific probity (with the usual caveats from them that you simply never hear from the media about the reliability of all these numbers at this stage—and more importantly, why they are reliable or not, important or not). It is on these, reason and scientific probity, that you should be scaling and indexing your hopes and fears. If speculation is necessary, leave it to the pros.

Most of the rest, including what you think (and yes, what I think) is mainly bullshit and seats of the pants.

Nate Silver says, do all the micro demographic comparisons you want, mainly the split between votes for Sanders and votes for Clinton is a portrait of the constituency of the Democratic Party at this time in this country. Bernie and Company, read it and weep. It’s not called a Democratic primary (or caucus) for nothing; and folks, remember, Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat. Ask him. Like it or not (I mainly don’t either). It’s simply facts.

Sam Wang, as you can read here, says, among other things, that Trump is no, not one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (or maybe all four of them at once), he’s more likely the inevitable manifestation of where the Republican Party has by crook, and by design, allowed itself to go in the past 40 years. Republicans, take heed, you bred this monster, slouching towards Bethlehem.

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