It looks like the 2020 presidential election is just about over.
Much of the media seems to report that the pre-election polls tell us what we need to know about the candidates. The pundits forecast just what the winner will do after taking office.
Have polls, promises, and pundits settled matters more than 13 months before we vote? That would leave no chance for a candidate to stumble or any event in those months to change the result.
The outlook could be really boring. But there’s good reason not to accept the political speculation.
Polls use a sample of the voting population to find out what voters think. To be reliable, polls should be based on a random sample of the whole population. But most people won’t respond to polls. Pollsters adjust the results. In many polls, people select themselves, departing completely from a random sample.
A poll tells us what would happen if the election were held today. But the election won’t be held for months, so why discount the effects of the campaigns and future events? Besides, who even knows if the questionnaire is fair? Few of us can see if the questions are neutral.
Despite all this, the Democrats use polls to screen out their debate participants. They also screen based on the amount of money candidates have raised. That virtually invites billionaires to run and exalts the role of money in politics.
How are voters supposed to judge candidates? By their promises and programs. If candidates differ on national health insurance or gun laws, voters are expected to believe that a candidate’s promises are what we will get if they are elected.
That seems to be what the candidates want us to believe. We never hear them say, “This is what I will propose and, if elected, I will work with both parties in Congress to come as close as possible to achieving this policy.” Of course, that’s the most we can expect.
Recent history has shown a president will be lucky to make any progress, especially if the White House and the majority in one house of Congress are controlled by different parties.
We distrust government because politicians don’t keep promises. But voters ought to remember that presidents and Congress need to agree, making keeping promises virtually impossible.
The myth that a candidate’s promises produce presidential results is heavily promoted by political pundits. And they insert themselves directly by their analyses.
In a single debate statement, a Democratic candidate made the bold claim that he would seek to take back assault rifles. The pundits immediately concluded that all Democratic candidates would be negatively affected by that one candidate’s promise. That may be the GOP line, but it’s doubtful that anybody knows its effect, if any.
Sitting in their snug studios inside the Washington beltway, pundits profess to know immediately how voters from Maine to Hawaii will react to campaigns and candidates. If nothing else, such a snap analysis is an insult to voters.
Many people aren’t yet paying much attention to next year’s election. Others may remain open to persuasion at least on some issues. Right now hurricanes and home runs matter more than an election so far away.
That leaves the pundits free to make their picks. President Trump could win with a minority popular vote thanks to the electoral vote, they say. So his popularity with only 40 percent or less of the voters doesn’t matter.
Pundits focus on the possible impeachment of Trump and its potential effects. That seems to go well beyond the interests of voters in having Congress get some work done in the remaining 15 months (out of a total of 24) for which it was elected.
The pundits are making their picks, dismissing many Democrats. Can a single debate miscue eliminate a candidate? Trump has shown that some voters will ignore significant defects if they like the results on issues that matter to them.
There are still months of political campaigning ahead. Campaigns take too long, but they cannot be prevented or ignored. Staying on the sidelines, voters are being treated more like sheep, led by so-called experts, than citizens. Voters cannot safely wait until the last few days of political campaigns to think about their choices.
In this historic campaign, voters should not leave it to the media minds. Question their predictions. It’s never too soon to get involved, at least by focusing on the candidates and the issues.
Beware of giving too much weight too soon to the three “p’s” — polls, promises, and pundits.