The opinion poll as news, Rush Limbaugh pronounced yesterday on his radio program, is nonsensical. I happen to agree.
Of course, that’s probably the point at which Mr. Limbaugh and I part company, being poles apart on most things political.
But his point is an important one, I think: the news media does no one a service by soliciting our opinions and then reporting them back to us as if it were news to tell me what I think.
Of course, this tendency is not limited to media outlets. The, in my view, by-far worse example is governance by opinion poll.
What does it matter, as asked yesterday, whether I think ebola or the enterovirus is the more dangerous. There actually is a way to factually ascertain which is the more dangerous. Asking me is not the way. And my opinion will not change the facts.
This is but one problem in governing by opinion poll: I, the voter, am not the best expert from whom to solicit advice for any topic with the sole exception of one: what I think.
But what I think, as a voter and a citizen, while relevant to political discussion, discourse and decision, is not determinative. It is merely one of many factors and, I would posit, perhaps the least important of all.
For the simple fact is that I might be wrong.
And we are a representative republic, N. O. T. a democracy.
It is an important distinction and we the people seem to have forgotten it.
A representative republic has built into it the recognition that majority rule is not always best.
A representative republic presupposes statesmanship as a craft that is learned, practiced and perfected.
A representative republic presupposes that our representatives will actually listen to each other.
A representative republic presupposes that our collective wisdom is actually superior to our individual wisdom.
Of course, that presupposes that wisdom is actually something desired by the nation as a whole.
So how about this.
How about WE, THE PEOPLE, who hold the truth that we don’t always or even often know best to be self-evident, IMMEDIATELY STOP – cease, desist, refrain, from answering all these confounded opinion polls.
Let’s stop worrying so much about what we think and about being heard and worry more about doing the hard work of governance – by making informed choices in our voting, by taking the time to learn what the big questions of government actually are, by listening to our opponents, who just might have something to teach us (yes, for me, that includes Rush Limbaugh, even when or perhaps especially when I do not agree with him), by rolling up our sleeves and getting to work.
Make no mistake about it. Good governance requires work. Effort. Commitment.
And the work, commitment and effort are ours.
There is no amorphous ‘they’.
There is only us.
We have the government we’ve worked to have.
So if we do not like it, it is up to us to get busy.
And getting busy is not limited to electing our favorites.
Getting busy includes getting behind those with whom we disagree in common cause for our collective good.
It presupposes that those who disagree with me love their country as much as I do.
It presupposes that the work of being a citizen matters.
It presupposes the basic and fundamental understanding that bitching about something is not doing something about it.
We cannot afford to be front porch whiners, complainers, kvetchers.
And hey, this governing thing also requires, I suspect, stepping back in appreciation for all our many blessings, recognizing them for the gifts they are.
That is the pathway of humility.
A little dose goes a long way.