Looking around the internet news sites today, I obviously found plenty of stories about the Wisconsin recall. Disturbingly, but unsurprisingly, virtually all of the coverage I found talked about whether Scott Walker would survive the day, whether the GOP would still control the legislature, what this means for Obama and Romney in the fall, and how this would affect the fight between labor unions and corporate America. What I couldn't find was how this would affect the people of Wisconsin. When did the media lose its way, and how can we get it back?
Opinion polls bring in the worst of two worlds: a simplistic view of politics as a sporting event with winners and losers, and the veneer of scientific impartiality. The internet has magnified this with easy, immediate access to polling data and psuedo-scholarly authors who torture these data until they confess. But politics isn't a sporting event - it's the process of who gets what, when, and how, and the lives of citizens of Wisconsin will change dramatically depending on who won the recall election today. I know it's easier to talk about jobs data as good for Obama's re-election or good for Romney, but underneath those data are millions of Americans who remain unemployed. I'm not nearly as worried about Obama's and Romney's futures as I am about the futures of those who continue to suffer either through underemployment, unemployment, or having given up completely in the job market. I'm not nearly as worried about who will win Ohio in November as I am about replacing automotive jobs lost in the Rust Belt. And I'm certainly not interested in blame, I'm interested in solutions for these people.
It's easy to get wrapped up in winners and losers, and honestly it's easier than actually thinking about how our lives will change based on electoral outcomes and what is better for America. The media is at least complicit in this, and is quite likely to blame. I hope for better, but meanwhile I'll continue to marvel that people like Nate Silver are taken seriously as statisticians and that they drive the agenda more than those who actually think about the impact of these elections on regular people.