How Nate Silver Provides Political Cover for Hillary Clinton

I went to highschool with Nate Silver in East Lansing. We were never friends, but we were briefly on the ELHS Debate team together, and I always liked him. When Nate rose to national prominence during the 2008 and 2012 elections, I was inclined to take a certain amount of hometown pride in the guy.

There were always signs that his political judgment left something to be desired. His commentary on Thomas Piketty was a travesty and his book The Signal and the Noise includes a fawning interview with war criminal Donald Rumsfeld. Still, none of that seemed to matter very much. Nate wasn’t a political commentator. He was a poll cruncher and a popularizer of important ideas about statistics and probability and he seemed to be doing good work in that capacity.

 Nate Silver and Hillary Clinton

Unfortunately, in the specific context of the 2016 Democratic primary, Nate’s political judgment has started to get in the way of his primary mission. In the dispute about whether Hillary Clinton is (as she insists) a “progressive who knows how to get things done” or (as the Bernie or Bust crowd believes) a corporate shill and a dangerous warmonger to boot, he’s repeatedly come to her defense, arguing that “the numbers” show that she’s about as progressive as her opponent in the race for the Democratic nomination.

In July of last year, for example, Silver wrote  that “[t]he policy differences between the Democrats aren’t all that…

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