Pundits Who Are Often Wrong But Never in Doubt
A pundit, according to my dictionary, is “a person who knows a lot about a particular subject and who expresses ideas and opinions about that subject publicly such as by speaking on television and radio shows.”
You may recall that a year ago not one of those pundits “who knows a lot about a particular subject” – politics in this case – took Bernie Sanders seriously. After all, wasn’t he the socialist from hippy Vermont, the disheveled gray haired guy in his 70s who wanted to turn the United States into Sweden? No way this old man could possibly be a threat to the one they -- members of the pundit class -- deemed was Madam Invincible; the one they predicted would smile and wave at the adoring crowds on her way to the coronation.
Name one pundit who predicted that Sanders, a Jewish guy from Brooklyn, would come within a whisker – a couple of coin flips, actually – of knocking off Hillary Clinton in America’s heartland. Name one of those wise men or women who a year ago saw Sanders demolishing the Clinton machine in New Hampshire – by 22 percentage points no less!
These same pundits said Donald Trump wouldn’t run. Then they said he’d burn out in the blink of an eye. They said he jumped the shark when he insulted a POW who was tortured by the North Vietnamese. Wrong, wrong and wrong.
Which pundit a year ago predicted that a narcissist with a tendency toward gratuitous nastiness and vulgarity would in mid February 2016 be the odds-on favorite to win the GOP nomination for President of the United States?
And just a few days ago these pundits who know so much about politics assured us that it was a three-man race to the finish line. Tell that to John Kasich and Jeb Bush. Kasich came in second in New Hamshire and Bush came in fourth -- but tied Ted Cruz in the delegate count and finished one delegate behind Kasich.
You would think given the kind of political season it’s been that the pundits, if they were really as smart as they think they are, would adapt; would learn the meaning of the word humility and spend less time making predictions.
No such luck. Even before Bernie Sanders took the stage to tell us how bad billionaires are, the pundits were telling us that Bernie’s campaign effectively was over; that he had no chance in South Carolina; that Hillary Clinton had the African American vote locked up; that Sanders had a nice Iowa and a gratifying New Hampshire but make no mistake: It was now over.
They may be right. But I won’t be shocked if they get this one wrong too. Whatever Hillary is offering black voters Bernie is offering more of it. I’m not predicting Sanders will win South Carolina. I’m simply saying given their track record, it’s not a good idea for members of the chattering class to be so damn sure of themselves. But introspection is not something that comes naturally to a lot of journalists.
And there’s one more thing the pundits didn’t see coming. Sure they and everybody else knew that Hillary was going to play the gender card; that she was going to say, “Vote for me because I’m a woman.” But tell me: Which pundit predicted the strategy would blow up in her face? Which pundit predicted that women – especially young women – would overwhelmingly reject the tired assumption that she was somehow entitled to be president because of her gender?
Which brings us to what I think was the most despicable single moment of the New Hampshire campaign. It came when Madeline Albright, at a Clinton rally with Hillary standing by her side, told the crowd “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Hillary loved it. She broke out in laughter. Except, the joke's on her.
Memo to the guy who runs the operation down in hell: Open the gates, a whole bunch of women are heading your way.
Women went for Bernie 55 percent to 44 percent for Hillary.
Yogi Berra supposedly said, “Making predictions is hard, especially when they’re about the future.” He also said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Pundits, take note.