Obama’s Historic Victory and the Revenge of the Nerds
By Bob Cesca: As I wrote on Twitter last night as the networks called the election for the president: Thank you, America. Seriously. Thank you. Gratefully, American voters decided to reject a CEO shape-shifter and re-elect the leader who not only rescued the economy from disaster but who passed a law that will allow me and millions of others to receive affordable health care.
I assure you, I will not take the results of this election for granted. And I won’t forget how dangerously close we were to coming up short. There’s still a pile of work to do to fight back against the cynical, obstructionist Republicans and dark money groups who came this close to winning.
We’ll surely spend the next several weeks evaluating how President Obama won the election and how Mitt Romney lost it. But I can’t help but to think that too many voters decided that Romney was out of touch and regressive, while the president was diligent, tough, honest and, in many ways, historically successful (see aforementioned rescue from a second Great Depression). That said, Romney nearly pulled it off using the same kinds of slippery, under-the-table techniques that are too-often used by corporations to deceive consumers and investors.
Speaking of trickery and deception, this election is a massive victory for, affectionately, the nerds, and a major loss for obsolete pundits who think they can continue to get away with making prognostications based on “gut” and anecdotal observations. Nate Silver, Sam Wang and the others have developed objective algorithms for averaging poll data to formulate election projections — a process that makes the average David Gregory/Chuck Todd/Mark Halperin pundit seem like self-important Magic Eight Balls. As of this writing, Silver’s projections were spot on. The pundits and their “guts” were not.
Silver became an ongoing whipping-boy among the traditional press and cable news people. Joe Scarborough accused Nate Silver of being an “ideologue” because he projected the election based on math and data and determined that the president had a significant chance of winning. Niall Ferguson, David Frum and countless others, including many liberals, criticized Silver for suggesting that first debate performances don’t generally determine elections. Peggy Noonan, however, wins the award for the most archaic, amateurish prediction for the election. She recommended that we ignore the data — she really said that — and, instead, we should pay attention to yard signs, rally crowd sizes and the perceived mood of the candidates themselves. I’m astonished that someone as experienced and self-serious as Noonan could write something so ridiculously greenhornish. Yard signs? I was surprised she didn’t cite the weekend football scores as bellweather signs of an impending Romney victory.
I’d like to think this will thin the herd and jettison some of these disposable hacks to their rightful place in the Newseum archives. Actually, I’d love to see an exhibit there in which visitors and posterity could watch all of the pundits speaking from their “gut” and perpetuating the well-worn dramatic news media presidential election script — right next to the charts and formulas of the nerds who embarrassed those pundits.
In 2004, we observed how online fundraising revolutionized political campaigns. In 2006, YouTube changed how we keep tabs on our candidates. In 2008, social media helped to connect grass roots activists and volunteers. And in 2012, the nerds changed the way we follow the numbers and dealt a huge blow to the establishment punditry. It’s easy to see how these trends have made our politics stronger and more democratic.
But now we can rest assured knowing that the Supreme Court will not be handed over to conservative ideologues for another generation. We know that LGBT rights will be preserved and expanded. We know that Medicaid and Medicare will grow and prosper. We know that Obamacare will remain the law of the land and an historic achievement. We know that barring any fiscal cliff, the coming years will see an economic expansion and the creation of 10 million new jobs. We know that the presidency will remain in the hands of an eminently smart, thoughtful, strong leader. Over the coming days I will elaborate, but for now, we ought to be thoroughly satisfied by this achievement and remain determined to continue the fight. I’m old enough to remember the dark days of 2004 and we’ve come a long, long way.