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Essay, Political

Majority of Smoke and Fog

I came across, this morning, an interesting work of theory surrounding the idea that our culture has gone so far as to consider polling to be an impetus for political action. Leonard Pitts Jr. over at the Miami Herald writes in regard to the recent Washington Post/ABC News polling on public support for marriage equality:

But lurking at the edge of celebration there is, for me, at least, a nagging, impatient vexation. That vexation is based in what is arguably an esoteric question: In extolling the fact that the majority now approves same sex marriage, do we not also tacitly accept the notion that the majority has the right to judge?

It’s a pretty simple question, really, and one that gets lost in our greater drive toward… well, something.

I’m no big fan of American Democracy, and this sort of observation makes my brain turn on. It seems very, very clear that after ten years of a 50/50 public opinion split between two moderate political parties we now see justification of a majority as some sort of policy decision. Indeed, when the GOP recaptured the house last cycle they spoke of their “mandate”. Gov. Walker is now “losing” because polling numbers show a binary split with his approval rating on the lower-side. Numbers numbers numbers, and always binary.

Seriously, though?

Pitts goes on to look, shallowly, at the issue,

But still, one draws up short at the idea that human rights are subject to a popularity contest. One shudders to think what sort of nation this would be if Lyndon Johnson, before signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Voting Rights Act of 1965, had first taken a poll of the American people.

I think that the article, itself, misses the point.

It isn’t that our rights are “inherent” or even that we’re born with them. It’s the fact that we have elevated the surface, jerk-reactions of the american populous and created a system of governance where we have two choice put forth by a poll or other concept of “public opinion”. This is circular. Political agenda is set by politicians, who then craft careful messages and rhetoric to bolster their position. The two parties create their own binary solutions and then bring that to the public, who are polled, in order to further justify the political agenda.

What’s missing is courage and change. We could ensure the safety and fitness of every needy family if we wished. If we were to do so it would inherently shift the binary questions. The base culture and actual environment shapes the framework. This is bullshit.

Compassion isn’t popular. Neither is helping out minorities. Really, I wish we would just do the right thing and then allow the public to smolder with some sort of entitlement that they know best.  Frankly, I’m scared of our system now that we’re cutting more and more funding from education. Of course, an uneducated public would just play further into the hands of the pollsters and parties who are so generous that they give us the impression of participation.

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