Driving to work the other day, I was listening to a local talk radio program that was discussing the possibility of U.S. military action in Syria. A caller asked the host why he was citing polling data, which showed the vast majority of Americans were/are against any U.S. military action in Syria, when the host was behind the idea of a surge in Iraq, which the majority of America was against, at that time. The host seemed to be caught off guard by the question. He promptly changed the subject and got the caller to agree with a separate point the host was making before jettisoning the caller back into obscurity.
This exchange got me thinking. The caller was right, but not entirely. We use polling data when it suits us, but disregard it when it doesn’t. The host was suggesting that the Congress should pay attention to what their constituents are telling them through the polls, since they are our representatives. The problem with this thinking is that we are not a Democracy, where the mob rules. We are a Representative Republic, wherein we elect others to represent our thoughts and desires in how this country will move forward. It is up to us to vote for someone that we think would truly act as we would, or close to it, were we there to make the decisions ourselves. Of course, sometimes the person that gets elected is not the person that we voted for, so it would be ridiculous to ask him to act as you or I would.
We should expect our representatives to act according to their principles, not to be swayed by public sentiment. If you don’t like the decisions that your representative has made, the chance to vote for someone else, or run against them yourself, in the next election, is always just around the corner. We need to get away from using or disregarding polls, at our leisure, to make a point, when we could easily make that point through our own convictions and researched analysis. Asking your representative to look at the polls is, essentially, asking them to be lazy. And, when that request returns lazy results and lazy behavior, we lambast them for that, too. Perhaps if we were the ones that lead by example, our representatives and leaders would follow us.