A few days ago, he did an interview with NY Magazine about it.
In that interview, he trashes op-ed columnists:
Instead he plays up "Data-journalism" which lets the data drive the story without ideology. (It's a bit unclear from the interview exactly what that will mean- I'm sure we'll find out over time.)
So is his criticism fair or valid?
I think it's half-right. At a big picture level, there are two things that *should* drive decision-making: (a) moral considerations, and (b) practical considerations.
The moral considerations are your beliefs about what's right and wrong. What's important and what's not? How important is freedom vs. security? What rights (if any) do I have?
The practical considerations are the facts and dynamics on the ground. How does it work? How many people did guns kill last year? Who did the killing? Who got killed? Where did it happen? Does increasing guns increase or decrease violence?
People's moral considerations are founded on belief, and unfortunately, humans tend to fit the practical considerations to their moral considerations. They will over-emphasize evidence that fits their beliefs and under-emphasize or ignore evidence that doesn't. And so in that sense, Nate Silver is exactly right- most op-ed columnists have their political beliefs and then cherry-pick facts that fit the narrative they want to see. This stands out sharply when comparing Nate's data-driven election forecasts to pundits narratives during election time. The pundit's behavior is highly disingenuous yet utterly predictable. It's basic human nature.
And Nate falls victim to it as well, and that's where he's half wrong. While Nate's left-of-center, I don't think that's where his blindness is. Nate's deep belief is in the technocratic, utilitarian trust in data to find the right solution. But excellent as Nate is on the practical stuff, his moral stuff is basically non-existent. He almost seems to think it's irrelevant. He can tell us who will likely be President, but he can't tell us who should be President.
We need more people like Nate Silver explaining how the world works and collecting and synthesizing the data for us. But the hard work has only begun when you have that picture, for that picture can't tell you what you should do. It helps you make much better decisions, but it can't make decisions for you. Moral considerations are at the heart of most political decisions, so it's simply inescapable, even if you can't measure it.
I agree with Nate that most op-ed columnists are very smart people blinded by ideology. I wouldn't really trust most of them to make moral decisions either. Examining moral considerations is even harder than examining practical considerations, because you have to be extra cautious about your own beliefs and biases. (And everyone has their own beliefs and biases.). People are even more willing to dismiss moral considerations that disagree with them than they are to dismiss facts that disagree with them.
In short, I think Nate is right to focus on practical considerations. But he's wrong to dismiss moral considerations.
(That's why I founded Wielding Power.)