We are looking at you, Washington Post. We ask "why oh why can't we have a better press corps?" And the answer is that you decide we should have a press corps as bad as we do--by things like employing Michael Gerson.
John Sides carries out the intellectual garbage:
Michael Gerson’s Latest: Gerson’s latest column contains a strange critique of quantitative approaches to elections…. Gerson writes:
On the eve of the election, Nate Silver — baseball forecaster, online poker wiz, political handicapper — placed President Obama’s chances of returning to office at 86.3 percent. Not 86.1 percent. Not 87.8 percent. At 86.3 percent…. He is doing little more than weighting and aggregating state polls and combining them with various historical assumptions to project a future outcome with exaggerated, attention-grabbing exactitude…. The statistical analysts of politics have all their bases covered. If the state polls are correct, the aggregator gets credit…. If the assumptions contained in those polls — on the partisan composition of the electorate or the behavior of independents — are wrong, it is the failure of pollsters…. Note to recent college graduates: Strongly consider a profession in which one is right, by definition, 100 percent of the time. It beats poker….
An election is not a mathematical equation; it is a nation making a decision…. [S]preadsheets don’t add up to a political community…. The most interesting and important thing about politics is not the measurement of opinion but the formation of opinion….
There are two false dichotomies here. One is the measurement of opinion vs. the formation of opinion. In political science, we do the former so we can do the latter…. [F]ar more political science research actually focuses on the formation of opinion… not about averaging polls…. The second false dichotomy is between empirical inquiry and normative argument. Gerson says that political science, like the rest of social science, cares only about empirical inquiry—it has “precision envy”—and not about values…. That’s funny, because when I read political science, I see a lot of interest in topics like justice and equality…. It is easy to find political science research that marries objective analysis—even mathematics!—with “substantive political debates.”
And Greg Weeks:
Two Weeks Notice: Michael Gerson… begins by attacking Nate Silver and ends by attacking political science. The thrust of his argument is that trying to be exact is a bad thing, and his way of arguing makes virtually no sense…. Lots of things wrong here…. I consider myself a social scientist, not because I fetishize the natural sciences, but because I am interested in understanding causal relationships that explain political behavior…. I need to root out lots of the objective facts that Gerson finds distasteful…. [I]t is not fair to claim that those who use quantitative methodologies have no interest in justice or equality…. And yes, it's true that Nate Silver doesn't say much about poverty or other issues. But why should he? One critical methodological challenge is making sure you're accurately measuring what you want to measure. Silver wants to know who people will vote for, not whether they are poor, or why they're poor…