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We Need Not Be Slaves To Polls
February 6, 2002
by Jeremiah Bourque

Polls, polls, polls. Why aren't we fed up with them by now?

The polls say that the President is omnipotent. He can do no wrong. He is trusted. He is popular. He is unstoppable.

Why do we even care?

One of the criticisms of the last President was an over-reliance on polling data, specifically reliance on the blunt and cynical advice of "Little" Dick Morris. There is a simple reason why Clinton needed that poll data: His strategy was to triangulate between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, pigeonhole them, and rise above their seemingly petty concerns. In his latter days, he was so focused on personal survival that broad, unpopular moves would have been threatening to his own political survival, and possibly, his own physical freedom. His 60+ approval rating was his lifeline.

This really isn't the point.

Why are Democratic party leaders in Congress, who are expected to be ideologically, politically, and morally strong, leading others by word and deed, cowering in fear? So what if his approval rating is high? Damn the polls! There are serious issues to be discussed. There are seriously wrong proposals to be shot down.

What about the hospital cuts? What about the reduction of the total amount for New York reconstruction being reduced to 15 billion, out of a promised 20 billion, by including direct payments to victims as if that in itself is sufficient to rebuild the damaged parts of the city? What about the backtracking on education requirements for airline screeners just as traveler's papers are being proposed for internal flights?

None of the above should have anything to do with polls, and everything to do with good government.

Does anyone remember Michigan's governor, John Engler? I do. The man's name was dirt for several years in that state. Then, when election time came around, the fact that he really had cut taxes, not just talk about it and then find a convenient reason to renege on that, he was elected in a fairly ridiculous landslide. The voters simply could not believe that he had told the truth to them and was committed to what he had said he would do. Once they saw that he was worthy of their trust, keeping in mind that this was quite some time ago and that the economy was coming out of a recession, not plunging into one, they rewarded him.

Leadership is not about being a follower of the mob. It's difficult for self-professed populists to be leaders in the true sense, but they ultimately must either lead strongly or become crushed by the mob. After all, this is not supposed to be a mob-ruled nation, but a representative democracy. The representatives must take personal responsibility for the success or failure of the Republic.

Remember all that gunk in Starship Troopers - movie or book, doesn't matter in this instance - about citizenship? About how it's more precious and more meaningful to those who fight for it, and how those who put themselves on the line for it, come to gain the wisdom and respect for it that leads to good government? Why wait for a war? Let's have our elected representatives put their offices, their fortunes, and their reputations on the line for the sake of the little guy. They have little to lose, for leadership is instinctively followed, and cowardice instinctively punished, particularly in a time of so-called war. It's riskier to put one's head down.

The GOP is planning to dump its soft money before it may be made illegal by the upcoming vote on Campaign Finance Reform. This should be a direct indication of what kind of fear can be put into this greedy party that genuinely believes that money can get it elected.

The trust of the public must be earned, not demanded on a silver platter. It simply isn't going to do for Democratic representatives to wait for the public to come to them, and only then gain courage. It's not enough.

Only a spine can overcome a mistaken belief in omnipotence. Let's keep this in mind: The President genuinely believes that God chose him for this job. It is up to us to keep him accountable, or to suffer the consequences should we fail.

This is too important a job to leave to those who cower from polls.

Jeremiah Bourque is a rogue scholar turned constitutional activist.

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