In my view, basing our politics on polling is a fundamental mistake.
I don't say that polls aren't accurate. They are often extremely accurate. If done correctly, they can definitely tell us what people are really thinking, right now.
The problem with our reliance on polling is that what people "think" about the reality of things is not "reality" itself.
"Reality," in the human and political world, is the result of what we do, based on what we think. So, what we "think" is highly relevant as we seek to understand the current realities with which our politics has to grapple. Polls, however, do not tell us the "truth" about reality. They tell us what people are thinking now. The question for a healthy politics is different. The question isn't "what are people thinking now - and hence what is political "reality?" The question for politics is "what should people be thinking, and what realities should we be seeking to create?"
"Scientific polling," which is the phrase that defines good polling, leads us in the wrong direction. In the world of Nature (a world that we do not create, and upon which we are ultimately dependent) "science" is equivalent to "knowledge." Of course, scientific knowledge is always, in one sense, a "hypothesis" about what is real, but the object of scientific knowledge is an increased understanding and grasp of what is "real."
In the human and political world, which we create by our actions, based on what we think, "reality" is not something that exists independently of our action. Therefore, "scientific" polling, telling us what we think now, gives us no genuine information on political "reality." In our world, there is no "reality" unless we create it. Therefore, if we "believe" the polls we will always confuse what currently exists with what is possible, and what is "true." This is what I think has mainly happened to President Obama and the Democrats.
In our political world, realities are created through actions based on political choice. There is debate, and discussion; there is conflict and controversy. In the end, there is a decision, and that means we are always free to make a new choice, to think something new, and to do something new.
That's why "speaking truth to power" actually works!
Friday, March 11, 2011
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