Nate Silver was on The Daily Show, where Jon Stewart summed up his role as the defender of reality as, ‘you were like the Chick-fil-a sandwich for reality.”
Here’s the video from The Daily Show:
Stewart said that he was concerned that if Nate Silver’s election prediction was wrong it would have been seen as a defeat for math, and then, “like, gravity would have been up for grabs.” The Daily Show host asked if this was how Silver viewed it, and he said, “It would have been bad, I think, because for some reason 538 became invested with this symbolic power, and you know symbolic power is particularly rational, right, but it became this symbol for people who were believing in hey, let’s look at the polls. Let’s do some empirical research, right.”
Jon Stewart told him, “You were like the Chick-fil-A sandwich for reality. You were a totem that people held up.” Silver replied that he had some Chick-fil-A at the Democratic convention and that it was possible for people to sample in the other side of stuff and come away more informed. Silver continued, “What was surprising to me was that before the election you had people who were not just predicting Romney will eek it out in Ohio. It’s Republican leaning, etc, right? They were saying we’d have a Romney landslide in the swing states, and to come to that conclusion means that you know, I think you’re a little out of touch with reality, and you better be right. We get a test, and that’s the good thing about making any kind of prediction or a forecast is that you’re called on your, can I say bulls**t on TV, but you’re called on it.”
The dispute over Nate Silver’s projection was about reality. Republicans didn’t like the math, so they tried to invalidate it and replace it with belief. Math got the “science treatment’ from conservatives. Their behavior concerning Silver’s forecast was no different than how they treat the teaching of evolution in schools.
I am sure some people were arguing the political end of things, but for many others it wasn’t about Obama or Romney. It was about whether or not 1+1 still equaled 2. As Neil Cavuto of Fox News revealed yesterday, the entire conservative argument that the polls were skewed was based on the fact that the polls got the prediction for Scott Walker’s recall wrong. Since the state polls were wrong in one special election, Republicans decided that all polling not done by a Republican were skewed against them.
In short, they decided that 1+1 wasn’t two anymore. It was 37.5.
Their behavior towards Silver’s projection was an extension of their decision to filter out or discredit all information that disagrees with their beliefs. The right has created their own alternate universe complete with their own media, entertainment, facts, and reality. Their “reality” was that everyone hated Barack Obama, so Mitt Romney was going to win in a landslide. What they were trying to do is prevent Nate Silver’s numbers from polluting the straight from the from the lungs of Ronald Reagan air that they all breathe.
Republicans tried to discredit math, and math won.
Nate Silver and his forecast scored a victory for reality that will linger far beyond Election Day 2012.