Poll This

We need to get polls out of politics.

Watching the 1st Democratic debates last night, NBC had to take commercial breaks, and during some of them, an analyst was discussing polls during the 2016 election, and where these primary candidates are now, and what the polls need to look like for them to win.  It’s such a horrible time suck, that they were spending these precious minutes going over popularity as the most important factor of their candidacy, right in the middle of this debate, which I felt was full of so much substance.

Many people discussed the winners and losers of the first night, and I came away with such a different take.  Yes, Julian Castro got to show how excellent of a candidate he is, and how the press has completely ignored this heavy weight.  The rest of the candidates each had their highs and lows, but I only mean that in that it was a big stage and it was a big challenge to walk away from that 2 hours of debating back and forth with the most memorable sound bites and wording of their promises to lead.

But in point of fact, Julian Castro has been largely ignored in the polls. On the debate stage, we all got to hear how he communicated his ideas, his experience, and his intelligence.  Not everyone can do that.  Many brilliant people are horrible communicators.  Many people, who lack intelligence and morals, are somehow effective at selling what they want people to buy.

But now, talking heads are back to polling.  The candidates will do it to. They have to. If they didn’t do polling and pay attention to polls, they would be walking a tight rope, without looking.  I just envision an election cycle, where there is no polling.  I detest polling.

It’s not just that they generally only pull likely voters. It’s that we’re supposed to care who is leading in popularity, which is not always the best indication of who it has the best ideas, or who will be most effective at implementing their vision. Someone may be a lofty orator, and be capable of energizing a crowd, with an impassioned speech. That doesn’t mean they can get bipartisan support, or effectively pass the legislation that will put their plans into effect. If people were left just evaluating the qualities, their rhetoric, their resume of service, and they’re voting record if there is any, we might end up with better public servants. We shouldn’t treat our civic process like a popularity contest.

It is the way we make the process of our democracy, where we elect public servants, a game of politics and who is trending.  That’s what’s infested our government and it has caused rot in our institutions. It’s allowed disingenuous people rise to the top of a crowd, when they would be at the bottom, based on merit.

In suggesting that politics should have a place in the process of public service, is to suggest that we should make sport out of representing the people and living up to the promise we have yet to fulfill, as the leader of the free world.

Our promise is that every country can and should be one that guarantees the inherent right to be free. It’s also an ideal that we can achieve common ground from different backgrounds and peoples, based largely on the principle that we would be a living proof of this, as a country of citizens from all over the world. We are a country of countries. We were born that way.

Only those descended from Native Americans are natural born of this land. The rest of us came to be here, through a lineage that either willingly came here, fled oppression or violence, or in the case of People of Color, were imprisoned and enslaved, having been forced to immigrate to this land. Today, we are made up largely of immigrants and descendants of immigrants or survivors of human trafficking and slavery.

When it comes to public service in our democracy, debate is vital to the health of our democracy. We just saw that with the first Democratic debate, last night. It is possible for people to stand on the stage, and have different ideas on how to lead our country towards that promise.

They did this while showing respect for their fellow candidates, showing respect for all citizens, and showing respect for the institutions they are running to serve in and lead.

We also saw that candidates can agree, and that’s not something we typically see in political campaigns. It shouldn’t be considered bad strategy, to find consensus with each other, because you’re having to play politics. The more we can agree on solutions together, the more we can actually get done. That’s the end goal that we’ve gone away from, because in the world of politics, it’s about who’s idea it was, and who gets credit for it, and if you agree, then maybe you are just a follower and not a leader. It’s a false and damaging notion that takes us away from our greater mission. That is one of government service, public representation, and delivering on the right to a government that is truly by the people and for the people. It’s not meant to be by one person and only for the wealthy few. It’s not meant to be for one race, one religion, or one orientation.

Imagine if we had a campaign for public office, and an election cycle, with out polling. I know it doesn’t seem realistic to suggest such an idea. I’m certain polling exerts would enjoy ripping me a new one. Let’s just keep in mind that this notion of campaigns being a debate on the ideas, and not politics, that’s what our lauded founding fathers intended us to do.

It just seems that polling is so fickle and shallow. It’s about who’s trending or popular, but we don’t know why they are receiving support. It’s not black and white in any way, but completely gray and muddy. There is no one definitive reason a person’s poll numbers might go up. It could be because of something they said. It could be because of an allegation that is floated, which might later be dispelled. It literally could be because someone farted in public. Talk about which way the wind blows.

The problem is that once a poll is released, it now tends to push the next poll. Now we have polls pushing polls. But after that, now the public starts to see someone’s got the race in the bag, and that either depresses turn out because everybody is sure that person will win, or it just builds their momentum because now they’re the popular person so let’s jump on the bandwagon.

Maybe if we didn’t focus on this arbitrary and meaningless number, we might be able to focus on who is more authentic, has the facts, comes with the receipts, has the resume of public service and advocacy, conveys the depths of their experience, and whatever else you think should be factored in. I personally believe morals and ethics are tantamount.

That’s something you have to watch out for over time, by seeing how they vote which is why I think that when people run for office they shouldn’t start at the top. They should start local and work their way up. I value experience, and I also value seeing the proof in the pudding. I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve seen of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a committee hearing, and the byline of the video will say that she brought the receipts.

It’s the perfect metaphor because she is proving in her questioning that she’s prepared. She came to do the job, she’s fighting for the people, she’s using facts and reason to question these people on our behalf, and she’s proving why her district was right to elect her. She’s not taking PAC money. She’s not dealing in back rooms with lobbyists. She’s serving in a local restaurant, to bring attention to the unlivable wages of wait staff. She is engaging in government and grassroots activism. She is really in it for the people. We have a lot of these true, sincere public representatives in our Democratic Party. In Congress, at state levels, and I can at least say where I live, at the local level.

I just voted in our local primary, and the candidate I was supporting didn’t win. He would’ve been a real representative for our community. Instead we got the former TV personality, who I do not believe is in it for us. We shall see. You better believe I’ll be keeping my eye on her, and she better represent us well, or she’ll be gone in the next election.

As citizens, we generally have disdain for politics. Our voter turnout is abysmally low. I consider it the shame of this country that our citizens brag about being so patriotic, but in a local election year less than 30% of registered voters turn out to the polls.

I challenge every city in this country to organize and turnout the vote and show up for this year’s local election. Don’t just wait for 2020. We got a bump in 2018, but that doesn’t mean we are done. Voting and democracy is not a one time act. It must be maintained, and we must be diligent. We must demand transparency, and we must demand that our government is by the people and for the people, the way it is supposed to be.

We have a long way to go to get there. The only other option is that those in power stay in power, and refused to leave. Once it gets to that, we won’t be able to take it back. We need to have a government that is transparent, is accountable, and shows all the receipts. I want to see the facts, the math, science, and I want to have real debate on the moral imperative of our government to ensure our freedom and to serve us all equally.

We come together and pool our tax dollars for a common wealth, and people represent us in a commonwealth of ideas. Let’s not go broke, when we have every potential within us to fill the bank.

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