I see a lot of people on TV who are described as pundits, but most of the time they don't know what they're talking about. A lot of college professors are often referred to as pundits, but I wonder about them. Some of these so-called intellectuals have been so isolated from the real world for so long, it's hard for them to tell night from day.
The Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines a pundit as: "A person who gives opinions in an authoritative manner, usually through the mass media." That sounds like me. I work for a newspaper. I've been on more than a dozen radio programs this year. I've been on the Pennsylvania Cable Network twice in the past three months. I'm sure this qualifies me as a pundit.
The one thing the definition of pundit doesn't cover is whether pundits have to be right more often than they’re wrong. A lot of pundits get things wrong.
The pundits never thought the outrage over the July 2005 legislative pay raise would last more than a few weeks. It's 13 months later and we’re still talking about the pay raise. At least I am. The pundits didn't think it was possible for a Pennsylvania judge to lose a retention vote, but tell that to former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro, who was tossed out by more than 800,000 voters in November 2005. The pundits said the legislature would never repeal the pay raise, but the politicians did just that.
A prominent Pennsylvania pundit kept saying right up to the May 2006 primary that only a handful of incumbent legislators would lose. Wrong again. Seventeen lawmakers lost in the primary, including the top two Republican leaders in the state Senate. Considering that the re-election rate for Pennsylvania legislators had been 98 percent, the defeat of 17 incumbents was a political seismic shock. And don’t forget that 30 other legislators "retired" instead of facing the voters.
Now the pundits are saying that Gov. Ed Rendell will coast to re-election this November. The pundits also say that Rick Santorum's days in the U.S. Senate are numbered. They also see Democrats winning control of the U.S. House and Senate.
As someone who's been right so far about the political winds of change in Pennsylvania, I'd like to offer my predictions for the coming elections.
Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org