Democratic Underground  

Who Cares What Millions of People Think?
February 27, 2003
By Dan DeLisio

In what has become a trademark exhibition of sneering contempt for the opinions of the average person, Mr. Bush once more demonstrated last week why he respects the will of the people and the processes of democratic governance about as much as King George I of old England and Marie Antoinette of that good country France did. Giving one of his infrequent press conferences, Mr. Bush attempted to airily dismiss the strong, principled opinions expressed by American citizens and the citizens of other democratic governments all throughout the Western world who recently took to the streets in a sea of humanity to decry Mr. Bush's seemingly insatiable bloodlust and eagerness to wage war on Iraq.

In an expression of complete disregard for the many principled expressions of concern by millions of people, King George Antoinette snottily declared: "Size of protest, it's like deciding, 'Well I'm going to decide policy based up on a focus group.' The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon the security - in this case - security of the people."

Would that that were truly the case.

Regrettably so near the birthday of George Washington, who reputedly did not tell a lie, this George lied through his teeth. If he doesn't make policy based on a focus group exactly why then did he approve the recent "Duct Tape Alert?" This less than helpful warning, which triggered needless public alarm and confusion, came about in large part specifically because his handpicked director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge decided that advising the public to use duct tape and plastic sheeting to protect themselves from terrorism was a good idea because the idea was "run by" some "focus groups" (link).

Although the duct tape may have been a hit with the focus group, safety experts roundly derided the advice, and the average taxpayer was left to rightfully wonder why he is paying such a handsome premium for homeland security if this is the best that the administration can come up with to keep us safe in a time of crisis.

The simple basic truth is that this is most assuredly a poll driven, politically obsessed administration like few others. In point of fact, as ex-director of faith-based initiatives John DiIulio noted, from his personal, first-hand observation of the how the administration truly runs, there is very little attention paid to the details of sound policy formulation by White House staff. Instead staffers devote the majority of their attention and time to thinking up new ways to sell regressive policies politically.

DiIulio aptly described this White House as one run by "Mayberry Machiavellis." Indeed Andy, Floyd, Goober and the gang spend close to one million dollars annually on polling to find out how best to peddle and pitch their policies and make them palatable to the average voter who will be hurt by them (link). So once again, as always, the true reality stands in direct opposition to Mr. Bush's hollow pronouncements.

However, Bush's usual hypocrisy aside, the fact of the matter is that the recent mass protests and public action cannot be considered by any stretch of rationality to have been "focus groups." Focus groups are artificial creations of the modern mercantile age. They are chiefly a marketing tool used to measure the reaction of prospective consumers to various products or advertising campaigns.

As such, a focus group is a purely unassertive entity, completely directed and controlled by the corporation or organization that created the group. The members of the focus group are merely passive responders since all of their activities are done in response to the preplanned and carefully scripted formulaic directions of others. The members of a focus group demonstrate no independent thought, passion or creativity.

By contrast, the peace rallies this past weekend were genuine outpourings of heartfelt concern by individuals who felt compelled, on their own initiative, to take to the streets and make their voices heard. They did not come together as a group because they were being paid a few measly shekels for their opinion on a flavor of toothpaste or a better smelling brand of deodorant or some other silly, quickly forgotten commercial purpose. No corporation or government or politician was soliciting the opinion of the peace marchers and asking them how they felt or what they wanted. Indeed, the New York City mayor's office, in conjunction with the Bush Administration, did everything they could to thwart the largest group of Americans from ever expressing their opinions (link).

No, the individual peace marchers did not choose their course of action because they were following the orders or directions of a corporation or government. They chose their because they were following a much higher calling, namely their own personal consciences. Theirs was the ultimate act of altruism borne out of concern for the welfare of their fellow human beings, not out of any crass monetary or selfish personal concern. Each of them, of their own volition, made the choice to actively and peacefully seek to avert this potentially horrific and quite unnecessary war which the Bush Administration so desperately wants.

They did so because they recognized that this was perhaps their last chance to change a dangerously shortsighted policy that may wreak incalculable havoc on innocent civilians and the course of world history. In short they were acting in accordance with the best historical democratic traditions of mass popular, peaceful action to achieve the betterment of mankind. They were, in the words of our First Amendment, peaceably assembling to petition their governments for a redress of their grievances.

Rather than acknowledge these grievances, however, and seek to explore other peaceful avenues to end this crisis of his own making, Mr. Bush reacted Tuesday in his usual dismissive manner. Although most political leaders would be loathe to dismiss an expression of popular sentiment of this size Mr. Bush is not like most political leaders. Having attained his present office against the will of the majority of the voters, he has governed in a manner that demonstrates he is utterly deaf to expressions of popular will - particularly where, as here, they collide with his personal ambitions.

Since his appointment to the Presidency, Mr. Bush has treated the people's representatives, Congress, with a uniquely contemptuous scorn. His administration has hidden behind an iron curtain of secrecy and stonewalled legitimate requests for information on their mountain of secretive activities. To please his corporate masters, he has gleefully gutted years of carefully crafted environmental and worker safety protections with nary a thought about the incalculable havoc such gutting will wreak on the safety and health of every American.

He shamelessly raids the treasury to enrich his CEO country club pals with no thought to the staggering burdens which future generations will be forced to bear. He unilaterally, without legal or moral basis, asserts the unfettered right to detain American citizens without trial and without representation.

He can't stand the sight of protestors so he pens them up in "First Amendment Zones" whenever he comes to a town to speak. On the rare occasion that he does inadvertently come face to face with someone who disagrees with his policies, he scornfully brushes them off by telling them "who cares what you think" (link). He is also on record as saying that he thinks certain people have "too much freedom," and he has expressed his fondest wishes that the USA be a dictatorship with him as dictator so that his job would be "a heck of a lot easier."

These are but a few of the many egregious examples of his conduct which irrefutably demonstrate his apparently deeply held belief that he has the divine, god-given right of a king to govern on his personal whims and by his personal decrees - Congress and the will of the people be damned. Thus his statement last week is perfectly consistent with that belief. To him protestors are an unsightly inconvenience but nothing to be concerned about since "who cares what they think anyway."

Although Mr. Bush purports to be acting in a manner that he thinks is best to protect the security of the American people, the fact of the matter is that the security of the American people is not best protected by an ill-conceived, unneeded and costly war. Saddam Hussein has been peacefully contained and substantially disarmed over the last decade with an aggressive UN inspection regime. During the time that the containment and inspection process has been followed Hussein has not given weapons to terrorists nor has he attacked his neighbors. There is absolutely no reason then why a sustained aggressive inspection regime cannot destroy whatever few remaining weapons he possesses and neutralize whatever slight military threat his sanctions-depleted armies may still pose to his neighbors. War is not necessary to achieve these aims, particularly when our own intelligence people have indicated that a war and occupation is likely to provoke more acts of terrorism against the US (link).

The bottom line is that Mr. Bush has decided to go to war, and like a petulant child, he has stamped his feet and told us that he will get what he wants no matter what we say. He has now made it abundantly clear with his Tuesday statement that he won't be deterred or phased one iota by popular expressions of the will of the people. Essentially he has once more thumbed his nose at all of us and told us to "eat Texas cowpatties."

There is, of course, only one remedy for this contemptuous disregard of the will of the people. We the people whom Mr. Bush has scorned must continue to pressure other more reasonable individuals in our respective governments to find a peaceful alternative to war. We must also speak out with equal passion and vigor to demand that that our representatives stop Mr. Bush's pillaging of the world's environment, stop the assault on the safety and livelihood of workers, stop the mortgaging of our future and the wanton destruction of fundamental human freedoms which have been enshrined in the constitution of the United States and the charter of the United Nations. We must turn out again and again in large numbers at public meetings, congressional offices and, most importantly, at the ballot box.

Contrary to Mr. Bush's mistaken belief, our government and the other democratic governments of the remainder of Western world comprise more than any one single person. They are institutions comprised of many men and women of goodwill, and, as such, they are strong enough to discern and respond to the true needs and concerns of the people which they exist to serve. The age of kings ruling by fiat is long past. The recent protests showed that government of the people by the people and for the people has not perished from the earth, and that it remains the single best hope for a brighter, peaceful, prosperous future for all of us.

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