Being a pseudo-wonk, I listen to a lot of nerdy radio and see a lot of nerdy television. I hear beaurocrats and politicians volley back and forth reciting tired old lines about what the American people want. And I see and hear and read lots of polls.
“Polls,” she spits with disdain.
I’ve ranted before about the “Which presidential candidate would you most like to have a beer/barbeque with?” poll. As if that’s the best way to determine the leader of the free world. Have you been to a barbeque? Was anyone there someone you would want leading the country? Didn’t think so.
(Huh. Craving ribs now.)
But there are other polls that are equally ridiculous, and politicians refer to them to make their points. Media outlets use them to demonstrate that they’re paying attention to their viewers. And we wind up thinking they somehow matter.
Polls on whether the US should raise the debt ceiling
Like 99.4% of Americans have any idea what that even really means. Oh, we know that there’s a limit to how much debt the US can accumulate. And it seems to follow that if the debt ceiling is raised, the government will just spend more money. And we don’t want that. But do we have any actual idea of what it means to raise the debt ceiling vs. not raise it? Do we know a single detail apart from pundit formulation? This is the US government; it cannot possibly be that simple.
Don’t take that poll. You can’t answer the question.
Polls on whether the US should go to war
Don’t get this confused with the President talking to Congress about it. That’s a whole different thing. I’m talking about polls asking Joe Schmoe on his couch with his beer and his cheese puffs if the US should go to war. Joe Schmoe of Cheese Puff County has no freaking clue of the dynamics of international policy and implications thereof. The government keeps a lot of that stuff on the down-low. FYI.
Polls on whether the US should get out of Afghanistan (merely) because bin Laden is dead
What makes us think we have the slightest idea of what is actually going on over there? We think that because one wackaloon is dead, the whole problem is fixed? That would be nice, but it’s sure not true. This wasn’t Hitler. Times have changed and Al Qaeda is a splinter-cell group. Bin Laden might have played a big role, literally and ceremoniously, but he’s not the only guy who can give commands and make plans. Also Al Qaeda isn’t the only game in town.
Cut to some politician: “The American people want us out of Afghanistan!” Well, sure. But the American people have no idea what they’re talking about. If the American people were trusted to run war strategy and plan attacks, we’d all live in Greenland. All those who think danger is over because bin Laden is dead: you are dismissed from future poll-taking.
Polls on whether Osama bin Laden should have been killed
Seriously? This isn’t a no-brainer?
Oh, but Americans love to be asked for our opinions. We think it’s our patriotic duty to have an opinion. This is why we have bumper stickers and defend the stuff they say with our right to free speech. We believe we’re entitled to an opinion on everything, and particularly everything the government does, even if there’s no way we can understand that on which we’re forcefully stating our opinions because we’re not privy to all the information. And then we expect the government and the world at large to act in accordance with our (largely uninformed due to laziness) opinions.
This is the same nation of people, you understand, who regularly wear tube tops and “Juicy” sweats to Walmart, and need lids on our coffee with a message explaining that the coffee is hot. If there is no warning that the coffee is hot, we have the right to sue when we dump it in our laps while we drive. And we have the right to sue if someone takes a picture of us in our trashy get-up and posts it on the internet.
And we think we’re smarter than the Senate Foreign Relations Committee or the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
All kindsa rights. No kinda sense.
We don’t live in an actual democracy. God, that would be a hot mess. We live in a republic. We elect people to represent us. That means we don’t always get to have a say; we get to ask them nicely to do what we want them to do, and they take it into consideration. And sometimes they do what we ask (because they want to get re-elected), and other times they exercise the fact that they’re a hell of a lot more informed on the nuance then we are, and they ignore us, and that’s good.
Sure, sometimes they’re the idiots. But usually they know more than we do about the floor votes they cast, if not when we elect them, then when they walk down the hall to the chamber.
Of course, it doesn’t have to go as high as the federal government. One woman recently complained that the US Postal Service ruined her wedding day because a box – containing her dress, her flower girls’ dresses, her flowers and all the decorations for the wedding in the US Virgin Islands – was never delivered. It was supposed to arrive on May 12th. The wedding was May 14th. This woman says, “Needless to say I didn’t get the wedding of my dreams and that was due to inept postal system (sic)…. There are numerous people who have fail victim (sic) to the post offices inefficent system (sic) and lack of customer service. The government needs to be held to some accounting for their processes.”
You put everything you needed for your wedding in one box. You’re an idiot.
You shipped that box with approximately zero wiggle room for delivery. You’re an idiot.
You think you needed those items to have a dream wedding. You don’t know what a marriage is yet.
You blame the postal system instead of yourself for being inept. You’re ignorant.
One cannot “fail victim” to anything. You left the apostrophe out of “office’s” and you spelled “inefficient” wrong. And the government no longer runs the US postal service.
Question: do you vote? Because you have the right to vote. You have the right to sue the USPS, I guess, if you want. You have the right to complain to other people about it. But you ain’t got no kinda sense.