While most modelers pegged Clinton’s chances at greater than 90% (in some cases 99%), Silver had Trump as a 35.2% chance few days before the election. That was pretty darn good handicapping.
You are confusing prediction with handicapping, which is surprising given how much you have talked about poker and probabilities and black swans. If I were grading Nate Silver, I would give him an A+, because that is the grade he earned. I even heard him talk about the possibility of systemic failure in polling and got ridiculed.
What’s the point of his kind of political analysis? The usefulness? There is none. The vast majority of people (who know of him) think he has some predictive up or down power. That’s what he wants (likes), even if not accurate. Then people in the weeds can show up to say “oh no you missed his point, it’s his great handicapping skill.” Yeah, I see how clever this mathturbation is.
Wall Street always overflows with Holy Grails—those predictions, strategies, secret formulas, and genius interpretations that promise otherworldly knowledge and riches if you just trust. They are most often delivered in the investment world through a black box—a closed system where the inputs and outputs are known, but the internal analytical workings are left top secret, only for the high priests’ consumption. Black box positioning goes far beyond markets, however. It is not surprising in a modern, interconnected age that when you take a very smart guy, rows of computers, proprietary formulas, and code that only the one smart guy can see, and then add a string of successful forecasts, boom—you end up with a nerdy, made-for-social-media superstar who suddenly makes prediction cool for the proletariat.