Author of "This Is Rage" and "Endless Encores"

Posts made in December, 2012

The Last Word on This Election Year

By on Dec 30, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

All week I have been trying to devise a clean getaway post for the year 2012 and it has been a struggle.  Then performance on demand, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan did the heavy lifting for me in this weekend’s edition of her column, Declarations.  Because I can’t say it any better than she does, here is an extended excerpt from her article on what she got correct and wrong in covering this year’s Presidential Election, in particular, what she got quite right: In writing about what struck as the president’s essential aloofness, I said there were echoes of it even in his organization. I referred to a recent hiring notice from the Obama 2012 campaign. “It read like politics as done by Martians. The ‘Analytics Department’ is looking for ‘predictive Modeling/Data Mining’ specialists to join the campaign’s ‘multi-disciplinary team of statisticians,’ which will use ‘predictive modeling’ to anticipate the behavior of the electorate. ‘We will analyze millions of interactions a day, learning from terabytes of historical data, running thousands of experiments, to inform campaign strategy and critical decisions.’ “ This struck me as “high tech and bloodless.” I didn’t quite say it, but it all struck me as inhuman, unlike any politics I’d ever seen. It was unlike any politics I’d ever seen. And it won the 2012 campaign. Those “Martians” were reinventing how national campaigns are done. They didn’t just write a new political chapter with their Internet outreach, vote-tracking data-mining and voter engagement, especially in the battleground states. They wrote a whole new book. And it was a masterpiece. Hats off. In some presidential elections, something big changes, and if you’re watching close you can learn a lesson. This was mine: The national game itself has changed… For those who followed the FiveThirtyEight blog by newly minted celebrity Nate Silver most of the year, the numbers were the story, and the importance of understanding the underlying truth to the numbers brought a new tone to political commentary.  Data tells a story, but the story is seldom obvious.  You have to dig through numbers to see what they are saying.  Statistics don’t create strategy, they inform it.  You try an unending number of contact experiments in outreach, measure...

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