Sunday, April 22, 2012

Public opinion polls tell you what the public thinks? Yes but...

I just saw a comment on a previous post from someone who pointed out that "the People have the power to do whatever they want...the People have the power to enact any legislation, or turn out any politician they...please, any time they please, independent of any political party or who is in the majority in Washington. Those who are the loudest, and have the most to say... should say that, or shut up."

The people who live in the most naive fantasy universe are, paradoxically, drawn from the population of people who consider themselves the most realistic.

The fantasy is that public opinion is formed in freedom, and that, armed with this public opinion, a majority has the power to get the legislators--and, hence, the legislation that the majority wants.

This has not been true from the moment the United States was organized to this moment, now.

One example: Al Gore received the majority of the popular vote in 2000. Last time I checked, he didn't become President. Nor have fifteen other candidates through our history who like Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the election.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Pervasive gerrymandering--in both Republican and Democratic-dominated states--has led to incumbent politicians being able to pick their voters, instead of vice versa.

The electoral college system--unique among nations--means that one Wyoming voter has over three times the "voting power" of one California or Texas voter.

A nationwide vote suppression campaign by the Republican Party (under the transparent lie of "voter fraud") means that in many areas Democratic voters will find it harder if not impossible to vote--particularly if they're black or college students or old and/or rural, or have jobs they can't afford to take time off from to vote. And many Republican-dominated states now disenfranchise people convicted of a felony for life, on the assumption that all felonies merit a lifetime of not being a full citizen any more. By pure coincidence most of such people are black, courtesy of a system that penalizes blacks more for comparable crimes than whites, among other things.

And even if the voting franchise dice weren't loaded, the free will of American voters is hugely compromised by the vast and largely unaccountable sums of money being poured into a no holds barred, broad-spectrum propaganda campaign aimed at Democrats and particularly at a Democratic president.

I'm continually flabbergasted at how this pervasive campaign goes unnoticed by the media--mainstream and otherwise--in accounting for public opinion.

I remember a news story years about about how the villagers in a central American country got together and murdered an American aid worker because some local demagogue had spread the rumor that she was buying children to be trafficked to America.

And in Africa polio was about to wiped out when some Nigerian Muslim leaders spread the rumor that the vaccine was actually a White Western plot to sterilize African women. No one knows whether it will be possible to kill off polio in Africa now.

This isn't some "foreign problem." Here in America an amazing number of people--many with educations--believe, counter to all medical fact--that vaccinating their children endangers them, and that not vaccinating them is good for them.

People everywhere and everywhen are amazingly gullible when it comes to rumomongering when it panders to fears and antipathies they already have.

Thus in the coming election, it is not true that Americans--2/3 of whom have already made up their minds BTW--are basing their voting choices on diligent personal research focused on relatively unbiased information sources such as and Their ideas in a majority of cases reflect potent emotional narratives that were fed to them in many times a day doses.

And that, my friends, is how you can get people to vote against their own financial and other best interests.

Most other democracies recognize this and have worked mightily to keep money--whatever the source--out of electoral campaigns. People are highly susceptible to propaganda. I know this from my training in sociology in college, and I can feel its pull on me every day, and only my training in recognizing and dealing with propaganda protects me from being herded by it.

Lastly, one irony of this whole thing is that part of the propaganda missile aimed especially at less-educated white men is the term "sheeple" that they're invited to apply to Lib-er-uls. Well, Lib-er-uls can be herded, to be honest, but the very people who bandy this term of contempt around the most are the biggest "sheeple" of all.

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