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Americans Think, Believe and See
by N. L. Wilbur
2010-10-31 08:09:20
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I’d never leave the house if I read every “new poll” showing what the majority of Americans think, believe, say and see (which is probably the reason I don’t often leave the house…). In a country that finds solace in regurgitating old maxims like, “Don’t worry about what other people think,” there sure is a lot of fascination in what other people think, as conveyed from hundreds of new public opinion polls each week.

Consider the range of issues and non-issues that somehow manage to catch out attention when a friend forwards them via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter:

• Majority of Americans Say Abstinence Effective

• Majority of Americans Sees Too Much Political Correctness

• Most Americans Believe Tiger Woods is Sorry

• Most Americans Believe Jesus Speaks to Them

• Majority of Americans Confused on Climate Change Basics

• Most Americans Believe Government Is Broken

• Most Americans Believe Digital Billboards Help Drivers

Much of the talk in recent weeks – that is, when political discourse isn’t circumambulating the shrine of socialist, Muslim, anti-colonialist demagoguery that usually comprises conservative chatter – has been about polls showing that “Most Americans Disapprove of Congress.”

Public opinion is not irrelevant. Hatred, as Fox News reminds us daily, is very much deserving of our attention. (For example, “Americans Hate Journalists” and “Americans Hate Sarah Palin.”)

But in order to understand hatred, or “severe, across-the-board dislike,” one must look beyond the surface of poll-based “statistics” and draw one’s own conclusions about the slime-sucking bottom feeder known in polite crowds simply as “Congress.”

[Image]Worse than a neo-Nazi in the choir of the First African Baptist Church of Savannah… worse than a living, breathing Iraq War veteran standing on Fred Phelps’ door step… worse even than a Muslim Manchurian Candidate running the country, members of United States Congress outrank lawyers, Jews and pedophilic priests as the most mocked and jeered at professionals in America. (It probably doesn’t help that Congress is full of lawyers, Jews and pedophiles.)

Congressional approval is currently just a hair over 20 percent, according to an average of all approval polls. (It’s safe to say that the one in five Americans who support Congress aren’t the same one in five Americans who believe Barack Obama is a Muslim.)

Conservatives of late are quick to cite the Congressional approval ratings as proof of how unhappy the public is with the Democratic Party’s “socialist” agenda. I hate to induce those squishy-faced looks of confusion by turning this argument on its head and demanding the use of intellect, but sometimes a surface-level analysis of polls just doesn’t do justice, and I’m not a believer in the old maxim that says ignorance – especially arrogant, bigoted ignorance – is bliss.

I know how difficult it can be to crunch numbers, and I admit I’m no pro, but is it really that difficult to ask the simple question how 58 percent of Congress (Democrats) can be responsible for an 80-percent disapproval rating? Can one safely assume that the 312 Democrats in Congress are solely responsible for the 20-percent approval rating of a 535-member branch of government?

Just on its face one should be able to see the problem with the assumption that the approval rating reflects only a distrust of Democrats. Republicans make up 41 percent of Congress, so if they’re not to blame, then the approval rating of Congress should be, at a minimum, 41 percent. Right?

The problem with this assumption is three-fold: First, assumptions make an ass, in this case, out of conservatives who spew it as evidence that American is revolting against Democrats. Secondly, there are Democrats who favor the Democratic Party but still don’t view Congress favorably. Take me as an example. I look at Congress and I scoff, both because A.) Democrats, despite their many victories this session, are still spineless worms who couldn’t sell a free glass of water to a dust-sucking goldfish in the Sahara; and because B.) Republicans, despite their ability to rally their base simply by obstructing even routine government business, are still manipulative demagogues who rely on rhetoric rather than their voting records to sway the masses into their corner. If a pollster called and asked me whether I approved or disapproved of how Congress is handling the biggest issues facing American today, I would say no, emphatically. And I don’t think I’m alone (although I’ve yet to conduct my own poll to prove it).

The third problem is that polls taken across the country consistently show that despite “general” Congressional disapproval, the voting public still favors Democrats over Republicans in handling all of the major issues important to Americans. An Associated Press-GfK poll gave Democrats a 7 percent lead in the favorability category; a Bloomberg poll marked the Democratic Party’s edge at 4 percent; and an NBC/Wall Street Journal survey gave Democrats a 9 percent favorability lead. As I stated in R.I.P. G.O.P., Republicans are expected to pick up seats in the November midterm election not because the public supports their (historically foolish, anti-middle-class) agenda, but because the minority party can campaign against their opponents, while their opponents are forced to campaign for themselves. If modern media consumption tells us anything, it tells us that violence is attractive, and sex sells. And Americans love underdogs. Overcoming the party of power works.

This point applies to Obama’s approval rating, as well.

It’s not rocket science, and it’s not nearly so controversial (in certain circles) as Darwinian science, but I felt it was my job to spell it out, if for no other reason than to save Republicans from looking like dunces in public for espousing such idiotic theories. Sometimes pointing out the obvious is the best thing a patriotic American can do for his fellow countrymen.

I’m not confident that Republicans will henceforth stop citing the Congressional and presidential approval ratings as some kind of referendum on the Democratic Party, but I had to try. Consider this my weekly humanitarian effort. (My effort last week was to try persuading an Intelligent Design advocate against publicly championing his belief that Noah took baby T-Rex dinosaurs onto the Ark. I failed, but at least he’s not gaining so many followers that polls today show a majority of Americans believe his theory.)

Man is a beast, but not all beasts need be embarrassing to the animal kingdom.


N. L. Wilbur is an award-winning reporter and commentator turned politics junkie and critic. He writes regularly for MuddyPolitics.com.

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