Why Do Pundits Make Predictions?

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 25 2012 @ 6:43pm


Knowing how dangerous predictions can be has led me to be careful about tossing them around willy-nilly, but I've also noticed something else: People like predictions. When I've made an emphatic one, it tends to get more links and tweets. Whenever I see friends or relatives whom I haven't seen in a while, or meet someone who finds out what I do for a living, invariably I get asked what I think the outcome of the moment's political conflict is going to be.

Jonathan Bernstein, on the other hand, defends his Pawlenty postings. Kevin Drum's view:

[P]redictions stir the pot, and unusual predictions stir the pot even more. This — controversy, provocation, contrarianism — is the coin of the realm for political pundits. 

My belief that Palin would run was debunked – and in its debunking, helped me think some more about her.

I have two working theories, in so far as I think about this farcical fabulist at all any more. The first is that she really is a grifter, who knew when to cash in. The second is that she is an attention-monger and destiny-seeker who realized, especially after the McGinniss book, that she didn't have enough talent or brains to overcome the tsunami of gossip, scandal and investigation into her real life that a run for the presidency would bring. So she took the money and run. In some ways, I actually thought she was more sincere than that. And more delusional. But the cynics were right.

A friend told me last night over a Jager that I romanticized politics. I'm not sure I do. But predictions and narratives and personalities are integral to readable political journalism. It is a theater at times, and the performances require aesthetic and human judgments as well as technical and policy ones.