What’s Your Opinion Worth?
In this modern age of high-speed communication, opinion polling has become an expedient political temperature gauge of how Americans feel about any given political topic at a particular moment in time. Politicians, especially presidents, seem fixated on using polling data as a measure of their overall effectiveness, popularity, and performance while in office. This is especially true during election cycles. Quite often senators and representatives of Congress test the political waters through polling data before publicly taking positions in favor or in opposition to certain high-profile legislation. With the use of social media sites and services like Facebook and Twitter, politicians can quickly get a feel for how their constituents are leaning toward any number of issues. But does opinion polling unduly influence the political decision-making? In other words, are elected officials more likely to do what is popular (rather than do what is in the best interest of their constituents) based upon an opinion survey?
Is opinion polling an accurate reflection of what is best for the country in any given circumstance? From President Obama's perspective, if the recent crisis in Syria was any indication, perhaps the answer would be, “No.” Clearly, opinion polls weighed heavily on the President's decision-making when gauging whether or not to respond with a limited American military strike in Syria, after a sarin gas attack on civilians was confirmed. President Obama had declared months earlier his firm conviction that the use of biological/chemical weapons in Syria would be the definitive “red line,” requiring a military response from the United States. However, when that line was actually crossed and the President was prepared to confront the Syrian government via military action, public opinion polls showed a wide majority of Americans opposed his response option. President Obama backed down from the military strike after positioning naval assets in the Mediterranean Sea. He rattled his saber and blinked. The Syrians (and their Russian ally) balked at his rhetoric and called his bluff.
Opinion polling ran quite contrary to the President's plans for military action. The British (America's greatest ally in the war on terror) refused to participate in any military action against Syria. The President attempted to rally support from his own political base with little success. In a rare and awkward reach across the aisle, President Obama courted hawkish Republican senators to muster support for a strike. That plan fizzled quickly. With no popular support for military action in the polling, the President was forced to settle for a diplomatic compromise brokered by the Russians. Though he had been enjoying favorable ratings through his first term in office with his polling popularity, the President was wounded politically by the double-edged sword of perpetual poll-checking. His inability to deliver on his own rhetoric in the Syrian crisis made him appear indecisive, weak, and without resolve. His inaction hurt American credibility among our allies and enemies around the world.
Leaders are expected to make decisions, especially United States presidents. When we vote a president into office, our decision-making, in terms of our national interests, is cast upon that candidate. Whether we like that person or not, regardless of party partisanship, how we feel about a president is irrelevant to the office being held. In other words, personal popularity, while desirable, should not matter as much to sitting presidents as the tasks set before them. How citizens feel one way or another about a president in office cannot make that president great. In truth, the decisions made by each office-holder in that regard determine greatness. Indecision is not what makes a president great.
A great deal is at stake where our country and its leadership is concerned. And our presidents are expected to lead well. Great leaders have to make unpopular decisions, even if their popularity is damaged in opinion polls by doing so. Only history can accurately judge whether or not popular or unpopular decisions were sound or in the best interests of the nation when they were made. Such evaluations are generally made in hindsight after a president has left office. In the thick of a crisis, public opinions make for interesting newscasts, but should not dissuade any president from the ultimate task of doing what is moral, sound, and in the best interests of the people.
That is my argument for why Americans should exercise their right to vote, and not participate or dabble in opinion polling. When you cast your vote, whether or not your candidate gains office, you register your opinion on public and national policy in a very real way. For all the opinion polls conducted in the last fifty years, which one brought about the fall of the Berlin Wall? Which one instituted Welfare reform? Which one put the Taliban on the run after 9-1-1? Which one helped much of Africa fight the AIDS epidemic? Which one ever brought our economy out of a recession?
What is your opinion worth? If you do not exercise your right to vote, I believe your opinion isn't worth much. For all the media banter, boisterous buffoonery in the streets, and bluster of the Operation Wall Street (OWS) movement, nothing much changed as a result. Why? There was a great deal OWS protesters were angry about, yet offered nothing tangible to vote upon. In contrast, after the passage of the Affordable Care Act (called Obamacare) by the narrowest margin in Congress, the Tea Party movement was born in response to a perceived government overreach. And during the 2010 mid-term elections, the Tea Party wrestled one-party control away from the Democrats in Washington, DC, by the power of the vote—not by virtue of some meaningless protest or daily opinion poll.
For the record, I am a conservative. I am not a member of the Tea Party, nor have I ever been. Incredibly, I have observed the mainstream media, elected members of Congress, the Democratic Party, and our President vilify the Tea Party as some radical, racist, anarchistic, and unpatriotic organization whose sinister designs were couched in undermining our American government and our way of life. It is difficult to find a party-line voter, and votes for Democrat candidates, who speaks favorably of the Tea Party. In fact, the term “Tea Party” is likened to a curse word on the left.
Of course most of what has been regurgitated by the left concerning the Tea Party is a blatant lie, which doesn't seem to bother anyone associated with the left. In reality, most accusations (except the racism angle) seem to more accurately describe the rabble of the Operation Wall Street movement. Unless you lived on the grounds of a prison, you could not possibly hope to find a more morally bankrupt collection of in-your-face ideologues, misguided misfits, clueless conspiracy-theorists, and leaderless law-breakers than within the ranks of OWS. Perhaps this seems like an unfair characterization on my part. Still, the numerous photos, videos, street interviews, the general conduct within the protests themselves, the myriad problems associated with the protesters, and hundreds of police reports during OWS operations fairly speak to my assertion.
On the other hand, there are no records of riots, arsons, rapes, shootings, stabbings, or violent clashes with the police at Tea Party rallies (as were commonly experienced at OWS protests across the country.) Still officials within our own government felt it necessary and reasonable to target Tea Party activists with unlawful, immoral, and fearfully heavy-handed harassment tactics through use of audits by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). By all appearances, the Tea Party seems to be focused on a single issue: limiting the role of government in the lives of its citizens. And our current government seems greatly adverse to being limited in any capacity, especially by the electorate, where expansion of government and spending tax dollars are concerned.
Let's face it. The Tea Party is unpopular with so many liberals because of its opposition to an ever-expanding government, which continues to be a political sacred cash-cow for many on the left. The super-hyped perception of the Tea Party movement (perpetuated by the media and government-expansion-friendly groups) is steeped in suspicious hatred of a Black president. That, too, is patently false. Yet it is a lie perpetuated so often by liberals in general, and the mainstream media in particular, that it is not only a popular notion, but it seems factual in its presentation. But it is a lie, nonetheless. And that, my friends, both left and right along the political spectrum, is immoral and unconscionable.
If you need to blame anyone for the mess in Washington, consider the record first. The financial collapse of our country and the continuing economic downturn was not brought about because of US involvement in Iraq or Afghanistan. It continues to worsen under the burgeoning weight of the unchecked growth of our government—a government consistently unwilling to constitutionally police itself; one steeped in political back-scratching, cronyism, graft, and intent on prostituting itself to the highest bidder through re-election war chests—filled with more opportunists per square inch than inmates have ink in their tattoos in a California prison.
Your elected representatives are willing to conduct social experiments on you, funded by you, for your own well-being. You can't even imagine all the good being done in your name, can you? Of course not. That is because too much government spending does very little good. In spite of the fact that many of these social experiments fail miserably, no one in Washington or Sacramento pays any penalty for failure. You, the taxpayer, continue to pay the bill for each experiment. That, too, is immoral and unconscionable.
Our government is currently operating in the red to the tune of about $17,000,000,000,000. That is about one trillion dollars more than this same time last year. And it is an amount of money much greater than the entire population of the planet. The government wants permission from Congress to spend even more tax dollars by raising the debt-ceiling once more. The last time the debt-ceiling was raised, the government spent more money and the national debt rose exponentially. Raising the debt-ceiling seems like the popular thing to do, but is it the right thing to do? Can anyone in our government do the right thing by stopping all the wasteful spending? Can anyone rein in this out-of-control government and debt? Apparently, the Republicans believe they can, even when the government throws a fiscal tantrum and shuts itself down.
Where will all the money come from to pay our massive federal debt? Our children, grandchildren, and perhaps great-grandchildren will inherit the national debt long after you and I are dead. But don't worry. The government will take half of what you plan to leave to your descendants with the death tax. And when your kids receive whatever is left, the government will tax that, too, as income. Just when I thought it could not get any more immoral or unconscionable…
Is what our government is doing okay with you? The Tea Party is right about one thing: our government is too big and overreaching. My opinion may not count for much, but my vote still does matter.
God, please save America! LORD, help us all.
(copyright 2013, Gregory Allen Doyle)