Sunday, March 18, 2012

The stupid bar, lower than ever during campaign season

Like most folks, I usually throw out the raft of daily junk mail without even opening it, silently praying for trees. Oh, I don't really do that. Just trying to get your attention. But when stuck for a rant, occasionally I will open one and actually read it.

On Friday, I decided to take a look at the latest detritus from Democratic National Headquarters. It is campaign season, and the crap also rises in a very bipartisan balloon. So I was very intrigued when the teaser read: "Enclosed: Democratic Party Ballot to Save Medicare." (Boldface theirs.) I was instructed to complete and return it before April 9, 2012, as if the Republicans were going to erase this entitlement shortly thereafter.

Okay, don't worry, my Republican friends. I knew right away this was Nancy Pelosi asking me for money. But again, I was desperate for a rant, and I knew I'd find something in this pitch to really piss me off.

I was asked to check three boxes, the first beginning, "YES, leader Pelosi, I will help protect Medicare..." Oh god, she's my comrade now. The second was to complete the ballot (as if this was a vote that really counted for something). And the third -- you guessed it! -- send money.

But here's what really got me angry. The stupidity level of the ballot questions. The first was, "I believe Medicare is an unbreakable bedrock promise and a vital social safety net on which millions of Americans depend and for which they worked their whole lives." Strongly agree, and so on, were the multiple choices. Well, we all strongly agree, don't we, even if the last part is ridiculous (anybody working before 1965 didn't know it was an entitlement because it wasn't yet law). But the next ballot question -- about House Democrats working with Obama to lower the price of prescription drugs (duh, another good idea that they have no control over) was another stupid one. And the third, well, was just blatantly a Republican bashing rallying cry, which I didn't really mind. Do they really spend money to tally the results?

I guess what really bothers me is not the bait-and-switch kind of plea for a party donation. Both the GOP and the Dems do this sort of thing every day. It's the ridiculousness of the ballot subterfuge and the stupidity of the questions. Does anyone with an intelligence level low enough to take this seriously actually have enough money to give to a political party of any stripe? I hope not.

The other takeaway from this is how polling questions make me crazy, as well. No matter how carefully and judiciously you frame the question, they are almost always leading towards a biased answer. Re-read that sentence if you care. I'm not even blaming the pollsters -- they're merely jury-rigging them in a subtle way so their clients feel better (rather than give them a true picture of where the people stand on a candidate or an issue). So when you see the results of an opinion survey -- no matter how prestigious the polling organization appears to be -- pay close attention to the plus or minus margin of error. It's almost always bigger. People change their minds all the time -- we're flip-floppers, too -- not to mention all the people who lie just to get the questioners off the phone.