24 May


Louise Annarino

May 24, 2012

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

It is estimated that William Shakespeare coined approximately 135 phrases in common use today. The quote above is a line spoken mournfully by Juliet on her balcony, as Romeo lurks below in the bushes. It is one of Shakespeare’s most memorable lines. Juliet has been taught that Montagues are bad. Romeo is a Montague. In coming to know him she learns that this is stupid point of view. Whatever his name or family affiliation, he is still the same person.

Obviously, this is a lesson many of us still need to learn. Political strategy developed and perfected by Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, Grover Norquist et al. over the past 30 years continues to demonize opposition candidates within and outside its own party. Ironically, Newt Gingrich himself was a victim of this strategy during the 2012 Republican presidential primary.

The 2012 Republican primary was very ugly. How ugly? So ugly it stunk. Last night, Dan Rather told CNN’s Erin Burnett that the 2012 campaign is the worst campaign he has covered; and, he has covered eleven campaigns.  When he says, “There have been bad ones before, but this is the worst so far,” he is not exaggerating.”I hope I’m wrong about this,but I think by the time we finish with this campaign, not only will it be a three billion dollar presidential campaign – three billion dollars – but it will be ugly enough to choke a buzzard before we get through with it.”1

Media buzzards are circling the candidates, waiting to pounce on any sign of weakness as measured by daily polls. At the close of this piece is a list of poll info sites. Reviewing them may be fun, but not necessarily very useful. Watching them over time, one realizes that a single media story can shift the results temporarily; an aggregate of stories can shift it substantially.

Call in more buzzards, the admen, to create stories funded by PACS and SUPER PACS; some true, others created out of whole cloth without a stitch of truth.  Does it matter if the ads are true or false? “…a rose by any other name would smell…” as bad. To most of us, the whole thing stinks! Are we so overwhelmed by the stench of lies we can no longer smell the roses of truth?

As for the polls, they are not “truth” either. Even the best efforts fail to consider large numbers of our populace. A recent report on the 2010 census with strong outreach to historically undercounted persons, shows both an undercount and an overcount, although an improvement over past years.

The overcount was “due mostly to duplicate counts of affluent whites owning multiple homes.”  On the backside of the count, the census missed about 2.1 percent of black Americans,1.5 percent of Hispanics (1.5 million people), about 5 percent of American Indians living on reservations and nearly 2 percent of minorities who marked themselves as “some other race”. “While the overall coverage of the census was exemplary, the traditional hard-to-count groups, like renters, were counted less well,” Census Bureau director Robert Groves said. “Because ethnic and racial minorities disproportionately live in hard-to-count circumstances, they too were undercounted relative to the majority population.”2

The disparities of the census count which occurred in every community over many months makes daily polls made via landline phones even more suspect. Who are these people who have the time to answer the phone and answer questions? Not the working poor. Not young men seeking to make their fortune by sheer effort of will, not minorities suspicious of white people asking a lot of questions.”We remain deeply troubled by the persistent and disproportionate undercount of our most vulnerable citizens — people of color, very young children and low-income Americans,” said Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and chairman of the Census Bureau’s 2010 Census Advisory Committee.2

The breakdown analysis of the census shows the following:

—Renters were undercounted by 1.1 percent, while homeowners were over-counted by 0.6 percent.

—Broken down by age, men 18 to 29 and 30 to 49 were more likely to be missed in 2010 than other age groups, while women 30 to 49 were over-counted; that is a pattern consistent with 2000. Adults 50 and older had over-counts of their population, while some young children ages 4 and under were missed.

—The District of Columbia had the highest shares of people who were missed, at 2.2 percent. West Virginia had the highest over-count of its population, at 1.4 percent.2

Polls and the census are useful tools; but they are merely tools, not truths. Political ads are useful tools; but,they are merely tools not truths. Too often these tools are being used to tell us “Montagues” are bad. Unfortunately, that messaging leaves us with no good choices. Such a paradigm undermines our faith in our  political system.

What can we do? Look at the record of accomplishments for each candidate;is it broad and deep,or narrowly focused? Watch how each candidate plays to a specific audience; does he factually present his record, or play on people’s fears and racism? How do the candidate’s surrogates describe their candidate; with a recitation of the factual record of each candidate, or with an ad hominem attack on their candidate’s opponent? Does the candidate talk down to voters, or respect them as equals? Does the candidate acknowledge our current situation in a realistic manner, or in a bombastic fashion?

Whom do we trust to assess candidates? Not political ads. Not polls. Not news analysts. Not all these buzzards! Trust yourself. Use your head. Set aside the stupidity of thinking a person is bad because of his name, the color of his skin, or even his party affiliation. Look for truth. Feel it in your gut. Replace fear with knowledge. Learn to know the candidates as well as you know your self; even if it means you have to learn to know your self first! This is your country. This is your election. Own it.

  1. http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2012/05/dan-rather-worst-presidential-campaign-124418.html
  2. http://hosted2.ap.org/OHCOL/0798b35a2b9245c790110b1366b5cc82/Article_2012-05-22-Census%20Accuracy/id-51befaeae7d3442c967b4e951b5466e5

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