Opinion: Reality distortion is rampant in modern day politics

Kevin Griffin

Anne Buie

RS-Kevin2One of the greatest casualities of  the environment of political polarization has been one of the most fundamental: reality.

It is pitiable that reality should require a defense, but two recent events point to the necessity of the cause.

According to The New York Times, the unaffiliated Congressional Research Service withdrew a report under republican pressure, seemingly because the study debunked the idea that tax cuts help the economy.

At the same time, Nate Silver, an analyst known for accuracy, has received much heat over his model, which predicts that President Barack Obama has an 85 percent chance of winning.

Both of the studies in question are clear and rely on math and, as far as can be discerned, are sound analysis.

In today’s political climate, this cannot stand.

There seems to have been a not-so-organized conspiracy between politicians and the media to distort the actual state of things.

Whether the motivation is ideology or a media desire to sensationalize news to create suspense and garner ratings, there seems to be a desire to discredit certain objective information.

Sure, all models have their faults, but the two under controversy are quite sound. The CRS report fits in well with a significant body of work that refutes the idea that tax cuts are economically beneficial.

This deals a significant blow to core republican values, so it most go.

Similarly, Silver’s predictions fly in the face of the conventional idea that the race is a toss-up. His model itself is fairly sophisticated and takes into account polls from all across the country, as well as the Electoral College.

Despite the accuracy, the attacks continue.

This problem is easy enough to spot, but finding a way to overcome it is more problematic. However, a look at how the sources under attack have responded is instructive.

Disappointingly, the CRS folded and eventually removed the “controversial” study. An anonymous source close to the agency indicates this was due to republican pressure, rather than an issue with the study’s content.

Silver has stood by his model, while simultaneously maintaining awareness of changes in variables and explaining in a transparent way his predictions.

It is time that those who set out to objectively observe the world display the clarity and qualified confidence of Silver.

For the sake of sane discourse, it is vital that we all adopt the Nate Silver approach.


Griffin, a freshman journalism major from Madison, is the opinion editor.