Date: Wed, 1 Jun 2016 01:41:30
From: Mitch Golden
To: Jim Naurekas
Subject: Regarding your recent blog post

I have been a longtime supporter and subscriber to FAIR, and so I was quite disappointed to read your blog post of May 29, "538 Sacrifices Integrity to Go After Sanders on Independents"

I note that below your article is the plea "Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective." This was a dictum not obeyed by your article, accusing as you do the 538 writers of "hackery". I think it's more appropriate to give authors with which you disagree the benefit of the doubt, and see if there's a way to interpret what they're saying in a way that doesn't make them look bad.

Your article mentioned 3 pieces in its critique of 538: (1) Silver's prediction that Trump would lose, (2) Enten's piece on "true independents", and (3) "The System Isn't 'Rigged'". Let's look at each in turn.

1) It's odd that you discuss this failed prediction of Silver's without mentioning Silver's own mea culpa on the issue, in which he cops to some of the mistakes you accuse him of making. "How I Acted Like A Pundit And Screwed Up On Donald Trump" The existence of such a self-critical piece would tend to weaken the case that he's just a hack. It would also have helped if you had pointed to your own record of predicting that Trump was going to win, rather than retrospecitively pointing out a mistake that many made.

2) What you quote from the article is correct, but it misses the point the article is making. The Sanders campaign has placed a great deal of weight on how it's doing with independents. However, as Enten shows, it's not clear that Sanders will actually come out with a substantial majority of "true independents", as he does with Democratic independents. Yes, he has a lower unfavorable than Clinton at this point, but that's not the same as saying that he is currently "doing well" with "true independents". OTOH, Sanders *is* doing well with Democratic independents. If one buys the argument that many of them will in the end vote for Clinton anyway, even if they had a higher opinion of Sanders, then the strength of the Sanders Campaign's argument is reduced.

In fact, in case one misses the point in this article, one could go back and read a previous piece, "The Hidden Importance Of The Sanders Voter" fron just 6 days before.

3) Your last discussion is, unfortunately, worst. You note that Silver and Enten wrote that if Sanders started to win "'d likely see the Democratic establishment rush in to try to squash Sanders, much as Republicans did to Newt Gingrich in 2012 after he won South Carolina..." Now Silver and Enten aren't explicit about how the "squashing" is supposed to be taking place, but the rest of the quite makes it pretty clear: the "insiders" are going to campaign for Clinton, helping her in the usual ways people do to help someone they support win votes.

Does this constitute "rigging an election"? You may wish to claim it is, but that would be stretching the language. At any rate, it's quite clear that Enten and Silver don't think so. Nor to I.

On the other hand, Sanders and his supporters HAVE been saying that the closed primary system "disenfrancises" voters, and that this is somehow unfair, especially to him. (See e.g. It is, therefore, not at all unreasonable for 538 to look into the effect of turning the primary election process into the system which the Sanders campaign advocated: open primaries. And it turns out that doing so doesn't "unrig" the system, because it wasn't rigged to being with.

As I said, I have been reading FAIR for a long time. I am not interested in media that presents one side of the story only, and goes out of its way to persuade rather than inform. Unfortunately, this blog post is on the wrong side of that line.

Mitch Golden
New York, NY