Governing by Poll, or Whatever Happened to Basic Concepts of Right and Wrong

Posted on May 18, 2015


Polls are taken by pollsters on seemingly everything that goes on in American life.

Politicians, pundits, and for all I know the pastors of America tend to make their decisions on what the polls “say.” If you are politician, a pundit, or pastor who does not govern her behavior according to the polls, don’t get offended. But if you do sneak a look to find where the currents are flowing, read on.

The king of governing by polls was Bill Clinton. He had an unerring ability to shift his focus to take advantage of what the polls were telling him.

And, actually, he was politically very astute if we gauge successful politics as practicing the art of the possible, with the emphasis on learning and being able to compromise.

That the President found himself in some other compromising positions of course was also reflected in the polls, but he made a valiant effort to get off the hook by employing the art of “semantics.”

Semantics is defining what a word really means and then playing with some clever interpretations, which usually stretches, distorts, or just plain mangles the truth. If you forget what I’m writing on, google Clinton, Lewinsky, and the word “is,” preferably all three together.

Semantics will almost always garble or mangle the truth.

The truth in any matter is what everyone can agree to as its true meaning.

Let’s take murder for example. One of the Ten Commandments is “Thou shall not kill.”
But some say, well, it really means you shouldn’t “murder” since soldiers “kill” each other legitimately in warfare.

What the Commandment means, they say, is that you shouldn’t kill someone without cause. Then we slip down the slippery slope of semantics.

Polls are sometimes substitutes for the truth in any matter.

If pollsters had been around when Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mt. Sinai, they would have taken a poll:

“Which is the most important Commandment?”
“On a scale of 1 to 10, do you think these Commandments are practical in the real world?”
“Do you think that men can obey all these Commandments?”
“And, while we are it, do you believe in heaven?”
“And do you believe in hell?”

I’m sure the shepherds being polled would have found this entertaining, getting their take on the Ten Commandments, as well as other Scriptural truths.

Politicians today ring up polls to find out what the public is “thinking,” or what trends prevail, so they can then act accordingly. We elect these guys to lead with honesty, truth, and intelligence, not just to conform to what the polls say. Judges are in the same category.

Today the Supreme Court is struggling with the issue of gay marriage. The Court is trying to take into account that for thousands of years marriage and sex was defined one way, and now a few want to claim the high ground and change it all. The judges, not me, are conflicted.

Racism is another slippery rascal. As Baltimore broke down in recent weeks into riots, cop attacks, burnings, and lootings by a “few misguided individuals,” or “thugs,” depending on your semantics and point of reference, the truth was sacrificed to rhetoric and a war of words as well as real war on the streets.

I kind of liked the mama who beat up her sixteen year old son on video to save him from himself as he went down the road of rioting and looting.

Her language was a bit coarse but her message was clear as a bell. You are wrong and I am holding you to account for it. She didn’t need a poll to let her passion and love for her son stop her from boxing his ears.

She also didn’t need some Ph.D. sociologist to tell her that she was just deceived by society and so was misguided, deluded, discriminated against, and needed to be reminded of the realities of her situation, and so, I guess, send her son back into the streets.

There will be many polls taken over the course the next year and a half as we move to the presidential election of 2016.

You will be asked to choose between, basically, those who think for themselves and speak the truth, or those who poll, poll, poll and then accommodate themselves to the “public’s will.”

If the “public’s” basic political intelligence is measured by a number of “man in the street” interviews I have heard recently, God will most certainly have to intervene directly to save us.

The Pew Evangelical Poll has just issued a poll on the decline of Christianity in America. Now we should probably take a poll on whether we want God to intervene or not. On a scale of one to ten….

Published in my OpEd column, The Port Rail, on May 17, 2015 in The Tuscaloosa News

Posted in: Politics