THE POLLS, BY THE POLLS
AND FOR THE POLLS
"...[F]ew Americans even know (or care) what the Constitution says anymore. Most people accept the lazy notion that if it sounds good, the federal government should do it, whether it's eliminating guns or bombing Yugoslavia." --Joseph Sobran
Whether the issue is impeachment, invading our Bill of Rights -- or Yugoslavia, Bill Clinton's handlers, and his Congressional lapdogs, are predisposed to cite "public opinion" polls as justification for their actions du jour. While the design and manipulation of statistical instruments which measure public opinion is cause to view their accuracy with skepticism, the underlying notion of governing by polls is not consistent with the American form of government.
Article IV, Section IV of our Constitution establishes a republican government, not a democracy, or "dumbocracy," as some would say. The Founders were very specific in their opposition to a pure democracy, and their favor of republican government:
"[D]emocracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths." --James Madison
"Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide." --John Adams
"[In a republic,] it is not the people themselves who make the decisions, but the people they themselves choose to stand in their places." --James Monroe
"A government is republican in proportion as every member composing it has his equal voice in the direction of its concerns, not indeed in person, which would be impracticable beyond the limits of a city or small township, but by representatives chosen by himself and responsible to him at short periods." --Thomas Jefferson
If our republic degenerates into a poll-driven democracy, it would, as John Adams explained, "soon degenerate into an anarchy -- such an anarchy that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man's life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every one of these will soon mold itself into a system of subordination of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers of wealth, beauty, wit, and science, to the wanton pleasures, the capricious will, and the execrable cruelty of one or a very few."
James Madison explained in Federalist #10:
"[T]he delegation of the government, in [a republic], to a small number of citizens elected by the rest . . . [is] to refine and enlarge the public views by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations."
"There are several instances, which illustrate [Federalist #10]," says David Barton of WallBuilders, a historical research institute dedicated to the accurate understanding of America's founding. "For example, Presidents George Washington and John Adams, despite the strong sentiment of the populace, refused to join with France in further military actions against Great Britain following the American Revolution. In fact, President John Adams' commitment to that neutrality cost him his reelection as President. Yet, within a few short years, observers and even critics praised his actions as having saved the nation, for America -- still too weak militarily to have entered a conflict against Great Britain -- undoubtedly would have lost that war and her independence."
The current trend of governing by polls, Mr. Barton continues, is "an attempt to homogenize the nation [and] pressure our elected federal Representatives and Senators into [conformity with] the 'will' of the hypothetical, nonexistent, stereotypical 'average citizen'."
This week, Mr. Clinton reversed his declaration, "I do not intend to put our troops in Kosovo to fight a war," issued on the first day of air strikes against Yugoslavia. Then, he expected the war to be over in a matter of days. Now, if the Russians fail to sell Mr. Clinton's watered down exit strategy to Slobo Milosevic, he says he will use U.S. troops to achieve his floating objectives in Kosovo. And predictably, one can expect Mr. Clinton and his rear-echelon strategists to invoke "public opinion" every time there is a live microphone handy, to justify the use of troops.
The people under the American flag, "and the republic for which it stands" -- especially those in uniform -- deserve leadership in the White House and Congress, not policy driven by politically spun media poll results. But then, the impeachment process fully established that Mr. Clinton is no "George Washington."
PHILOSOPHY OF GOVERNMENT