One of the things I’ve seen a number of people point out in blogs and comments on blogs is that various progressive policies do well in polling. A majority of people in this country appear to agree with those, and in some cases, it appears that there’s a very high percentage of people who think that a particular progressive idea is a good one. All of which is nice, but it raises the serious question of “If everyone likes it, why isn’t it in place?” The answers are that 1) the general idea may be popular, but not specifics; and 2) overall popularity does not mean it’s popular in every area.
There’s a saying that “the devil is in the details,” and that’s often the case when we’re talking about national-level ideas. Let’s take a simple proposition: No child should go hungry in this country. It’s a simple statement, one that you’d have to work to find someone who would disagree with it. I’m not saying that you couldn’t find someone, but as a general proposition, it would have have near universal approval. Add to this the reality that there are children going hungry in this country, and you could say that a program to solve that issue would be instantly passed.
Which is where the details come in. Just how bad is the problem? Where is it? What plans do you have to deliver food to children? Who is going to pay for it, and how much? Is it going to be effective? Who is in charge? What foods do you plan on serving? All of those are things which are up for debate, and argument. How do I know that? I simply have to look at the past and current arguments over programs meant for just that purpose. The old “who, what, where, when, why, and how” are the cause of political battles on this issue. A “simple” proposition, one that is “overwhelmingly popular” turns out to be quite a different one when you start getting into details of specific proposal.
The other aspect I mentioned is that it may be generally popular, but it’s not popular everywhere. I run into this on a regular basis where I live. I’ve mentioned an example in a previous blog post, where a state agency is popular in other areas of the state, but it isn’t popular in this area. Take something to the national level, and look at how the federal government is structured. Two senators from each state, regardless of population. At least one (and possibly more) representatives from each state. Now take something “simple” like a poll showing that a majority of respondents approve (or are not against) marriage rights for LGBT’s. Sounds like a slam-dunk to get a marriage equality bill through Congress, right? Except that you have to look at how Congress is made up. Is it equally popular in Kansas, Texas, Arizona, Alabama, Mississippi or Louisiana, or are they overwhelmingly against it? If states like that are not in favor, the case you’re looking at is 12 Senators right there who would do their level best to block it, because that’s what their states want. A “general poll” applied to the population may show that many in California, New York, etc. are for it, but there’s a lot of other, less-populated states who are against it. Which means that for all intents and purposes, it becomes difficult to get it through the Senate, or the House.
Which is why quoting polls does not mean that a given progressive idea is a “gimme.” It’s great that it seems to have popular support, but until you can show that on specifics, and turn that into actual legislative votes in hand, it’s simply a popularity poll. Nice to know, but it doesn’t mean action or results. Turning those polls into actual programs and accomplishments means a long hard slog to get them into place, and more often than not, getting it in small increments. That’s something that a poll doesn’t do.