A Gathering Voices post by Beth Pyles
Listening to Terry Gross’ interview of Jeff Daniels about the new television series The Newsroom, I was struck by Daniels’ observation that television newsrooms have a calculus that tells them before they speak the words what the impact on the audience will be in terms of ratings. For example, when they say something negative about someone like Sarah Palin, whether it be Fox, MSNBC or CNN, the network has already done a risk assessment as to whether their ratings will go up or down and by how much.
Now I understand why you and I and our leaders are governed by opinion polls - how can we not be when the reportage is?
Our thoughtful responses, our concerns are fair game. But our opinions - our uninformed and unformed, biased, prejudiced, ignorant, counter-intuitive, counter-productive opinions should and do mean absolutely nothing.
Except that now, they mean everything.
So how about if we the people decide to let Rasmussen and Gallup and the rest go the way of the Edsel – not a bad car, but hardly the best way to get where you’re going?
If where we are going is to decide our next leader, who the collective "we" thinks might be the one, especially when the “we” does not reflect considered, thoughtful content, but merely statistical compilation - where there is no there there –is absolutely meaningless and worse, it’s harmful – because it presumes to predict a race not yet run.
If we're tempted to think predictions do not affect outcomes, just watch the numbers leading up to a horse race - the same horses are in the blocks, but the odds change not by the horse, but by who’s betting on them and how much, as if bettors are somehow good predictors of the future – if they were, it wouldn’t be betting now, would it? It’s worse when it comes to presidential politics, to stretch the metaphor a bit: how do you suppose the horse race would be affected if the horse knew about the minute-by-minute adjustment to his odds of winning?
Suggestion: just say no to opinion polls. Don’t answer their questions. It’s the only way to stop this madness of governing by what I think when I may not and generally do not know a thing about the issue.
They have a right to ask; but we have a right not to answer, not to stand up and be counted, not to tilt the wheel. Then maybe, just maybe, we’ll stop talking and start listening to the guys and gals who would be our leaders and appreciate them as candidates not because we like them but because they represent the best choice for the job.
After all, it's not prom queen and king we're voting for -- or is it?