The Pundit’s Lament

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"The Pundit’s Lament"

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Marc Ambinder posts the following data from Pew along with the observation that it shows us that “Republicans like McCain.” And indeed they do. Which, from the viewpoint of professional status, is pretty depressing news. After all, conservative pundits hate John McCain. But if conservative pundits can’t make self-identified Republicans dislike John McCain then maybe all pundits everywhere are powerless.

I could try to console myself with the view that maybe Bill Kristol is just incredibly persuasive but I doubt that’s right. Rather, I think the tendency is for people who participate in the political media to drastically to drastically overstate its importance. After all, the only people who pundits can affect are the relatively small number of people who consume political punditry. What’s more, the consumers of political punditry are, by definition, people with an unusually strong interest in politics. But the people most open to persuasion are the people who don’t take a strong interest in politics.

On top of all that, I think Kevin Drum’s right that strident campaigning by a pundit tends to be ineffective and annoying. Anyone who’s undecided is undecided because their gut tells them it’s a close call. Table-pounding does more to suggest that the pounder lacks perspective than it does to persuade. But if to be effective you can only try to nudge people gently, then it’s just going to be very difficult to have a large effect.

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