Every person who enters into a relationship with another human being always wants to hear their potential partner say the words “I love you” in some form or other. All of us do, and sadly we succumb to the temptation to give little hints to the other person as to what it is we really want to hear from them.
Most of us have succumbed to that temptation, particularly as teens or young adults. Then we hear those magical words, and we’re in heaven. The fact that the person telling us that they love us is frequently lying, and may have an ulterior motive, is ignored. We heard the words that we really, really, REALLY wanted to hear. They took the hint! Hoorah!
Of course sometime later, either shortly thereafter or occasionally after a lengthy courtship, you find that the words you were waiting to hear were not spoken from the heart, were not even vaguely true, and that you’ve been played for a fool. You find that the words were only spoken as part of a planned seduction.
Sounds an awful lot like a political campaign, doesn’t it?
The worst part of the “I love you…NOT” disappointment is when it dawns on you that you gave the liar the script that they would use to break your heart. You didn’t just hint. You didn’t just imply. You actually told them, sometimes in great detail, exactly what you wanted to hear.
Even when friends, co-workers, parents and others who might be concerned for you try to tell you what you are doing, you ignore what they say. After all, who knows better than you?
Now imagine that you were being courted and that the suitor didn’t have clue, not a hint, about what it was that you want to hear. When asked “What’s your favorite color?” you could respond “Oh, I don’t have a favorite. What’s yours?” If the question was “What kind of music do you like?” you give the same answer. Those questions and non-answers would tell you a lot more about them than they would learn about you. And it would begin to make the questioner a bit desperate. How could they entice and seduce you if they had no idea about what words you wanted to hear them say?
This little parable is very applicable as the campaigns for 2012 shift into high gear. Many of us will be contacted by polling organizations, and those who are will often feel flattered that someone, anyone, wants to listen to their opinions on the important issues of the day.
Sure they do.
So you answer the questions put to you by Pew, Zogby, ABC/ Wall Street Journal, NBC, CBS, Fox and the Huffington Post with great enthusiasm.
Some of these polls are not funded by political candidates, but many of them are. If the candidates haven’t funded the poll then they are getting the same information for free. That’s the only difference. And the one tragic thing that polls do is give candidates the right way to say “I love you” to each of us.
Think about that for a second. The more poll questions that we answer, the easier we make it for politicians to lie to us effectively. If polls show that the vast majority of Americans favor government supported healthcare, the more politicians will find that they, too, favor government supported healthcare. Imagine that!
The best preventative for this sort of self-inflicted seduction of the body politic is abstinence. Complete abstinence. Borderline verbal chastity. In other words, don’t answer even one question, if it comes from a pollster.
This will undercut the ability of politicians to tell us exactly what we’ve told them that we want to hear. The candidates will have to tell us, without prompting, what they themselves think. Or more accurately, what they would be guessing that we want to hear.
In addition to the enjoyment of watching politicians wriggle while trying to say nothing that might offend anyone, non-responsiveness to pollsters offers the bonus of silencing the many self-described pundits who pontificate at length about what poll numbers really mean. What could they talk about? Think of all the dead air time on television and radio that we could enjoy.
Recognize that there could never be total cooperation in any effort to neuter the polling process because some people will almost always cooperate in their own seduction. We could, at least, be aware of the value of the responses from such people. There would always be some who are either in a rabid fringe group, such as the Democratic Party in San Francisco, or are too self-absorbed to realize how a poll would be used to seduce them into voting a certain way.
In any event, a boycott of polling would undermine any claim that the poll is a “representative sampling” of opinion. That alone would make candidates unsure of what to say to guarantee votes. Insecurity in a candidate is a healthy thing for a democracy.
Besides, I want to hear Obama complain about the lack of transparency. That alone would make the effort worthwhile.