The Democratic primary season is upon us, so that means the field of 2020 (not the year, but the number of presidential candidates) will try to endear themselves to the electorate. This year’s crop of politicians – young and old – will employ a series of clichés that their predecessors did, making observers who have covered these contests every four years roll their eyes, cringe, and consume a glass of scotch.
Just as human beings need food, water, and oxygen to survive, politicians need power, tax money, and polling data. They may think we’re so naïve as to believe that they care about our well-being, but we have been around long enough to realize that those who seek and hold public office concern themselves only with advancing their careers and bribing the populace with their own money.
Polls, Polls, Polls
It is inevitable: as soon as the Democratic primary season begins, there will be a handful of candidates who will perpetually poll in single digits, which in this cycle will most likely be Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) or former Mayor Julian Castro. Other presidential hopefuls will continually lag behind the frontrunner, sitting in third or fourth place throughout the electoral contest.
During media scrums, debates, and one-on-one interviews, they will be asked the age-old question: Will you suspend your campaign if your polling numbers do not improve? The answer has become a political cliché at this point: The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day.
…they’re sticking to their convictions no matter what the surveys suggest.
There are several purposes for this contrived response. One is to convey the message that they’re sticking to their convictions no matter what the surveys suggest. The other is to show that they’re not conceding defeat so as not to stop donations from coming in. Another is to completely ignore answering questions related to the numbers, using vacuous polemics to disguise their political demise.
But if everyone knows that this tired trope is disingenuous, why do politicians get away with using it all the time?
Perhaps we’ve become numb to it, so we don’t put up a fight anymore.
The 2018 midterm election was the costliest in U.S. history. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, incumbents and candidates spent $5 billion on advertising, campaign expenses, and polling.
Let’s face it: We know that every politician of every political stripe spends a vast portion of their resources on everything related to polling, from the pollsters to big data technology. Candidates will not make a move until they have studied the numbers; they will not take a position on a major policy until they determine what the public thinks. If they do utter a particular stance on an issue, and they see that voters maintain a contradictory view, then they will backtrack.
We recently saw this with Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA). In a town hall, she wanted to abolish private health insurance in favor of government-run healthcare. A day later, seeing that the public did not have an appetite of dismantling their insurance plans, the Harris campaign squirmed its way out and attempted to clarify her support for legislation that expanded health insurance to all.
The only candidate in recent memory to be honest about their fixation about the polls was President Donald Trump. During the debates, he repeatedly highlighted his great polling numbers while slamming his opponents’ standings. It was a breath of fresh air because he didn’t try to insult voters’ intelligence by claiming he was indifferent to the numbers.
We all know that politicians wake up first thing in the morning licking their index fingers and erecting them in the air to see which direction the winds are blowing. Many politicians, whether in office or out, do not have principles, only adhering to political expedience and whichever audience they’re speaking to.
This was evident during the Iraq War. A considerable number of House and Senate Democrats voted for the invasion, only to tergiversate because there was discontent among the American people about this blunder. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) has been accused throughout most of his career of being two men trapped in the same body, flip-flopping on everything from abortion to health care to auto and bank bailouts. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the epitome of saying anything to get elected.
Why do politicians behave in this deplorable manner? Go along to get along.
Consistency is rare in the political arena.
Whether you’re an R or a D, it is more than likely that you have swapped positions to attain or maintain power. You cannot, as eminent libertarian commentator Tom Woods says, violate the 3×5 card of allowable opinion because you need to appease your masters and ensure you satisfy the public’s tastes, not going against conventional wisdom.
As the saying goes, there’s no accounting for the public’s taste. This is why it is difficult to rise to higher office on a campaign of dismantling the Federal Reserve System, abolishing the Ex-Im Bank, or withdrawing from NATO and the U.N. An independent and contrarian opinion is not permitted. Otherwise, you will face the wrath of the establishment – just ask President Trump, former Representative Ron Paul, or Rep. Gabbard.