US news

It’s Time to Answer the Phone and Exaggerate the Truth

In today’s social media-saturated world, lies spread like wildfire while genuine political communication seems to have broken down entirely. Gone are the days when a pollster could get an accurate read on the sentiments of Americans just by calling telephone numbers at random. However, understanding the limits of political polling is just the first step toward aggressively confronting the lies.

Vintage traditional home telephone on wooden table © JoeyPhoto /

April 15, 2024 04:19 EDT

Demographics are a challenge. I am an old guy who still has a landline and a television that isn’t smart at all. I do have a cellphone that I know how to turn on and off but only answer when I can figure out how to do so quickly enough. I always answer my landline when I am home. I don’t stream anything, but I do fish in streams in places that don’t have cellphone service. You get the idea — a neo-Luddite in waders. Also, I have never received a phone call from anyone on any line asking me if I support Joe Biden or Donald Trump, believe that Biden is actually president or believe that Trump is a dangerous grifter.

I wish someone would call me, because I would tell them in no certain terms that some old people would make fine presidents and others would be disasters. I surely don’t support a portion of what Biden seems to support, particularly with respect to international issues. However, I just as surely believe that he is capable of doing the fundamental job of being president of the United States — digesting written and recorded material and then listening to trusted advisors as they provide the information and counsel necessary to make critical domestic and international policy decisions. Biden has been doing this for the past three-plus years, and the nation is the better for it.

On the other hand, though I am old enough to know that my mind may not always remember your name, it is surely sharp enough to know that Trump is one of the two or three worst presidents that the United States has ever seen. And I can still tell that he is a rampant narcissist, that he lies without conscience or concern and that he should have been relegated to institutional walls of shame throughout the nation long ago — not to mention outfitted with a prison jumpsuit that matches his faux hair color. Yet it seems that around half of the people who do get phone calls asking political survey questions are blind to what seems so apparent to me.

How did the survey class get so out of touch with the feelings of Americans?

So what’s wrong, where is the disconnect? I wish I knew for sure, but I just have to think that a good chunk of the problem is that the people who design and execute public opinion polls in general, and political surveys in particular, are simply mired in some procedural time warp. They seem to be operating in a time when reaching a viable and random cross-section of the voting public and getting their honest input was as simple as picking up the phone. This wistful ideal cannot exist in a world in which a great section of the populace believes that texting is the most effective means to communicate ideas that are surely more complicated than “Be there soon.” Almost no one answers the telephone anymore, landline or cellphone.

Most importantly, the science of who does what and why is a constantly moving target in a world in which people called “influencers” emerge from their cocoons for a mere moment in the sun before being replaced by a different species of influencer. So, even if you think you have figured out how to reach a representative sampling of the populace to survey, the selection algorithm is likely past its prime before it is ever implemented. And there is still the problem about determining who it is that actually picks up the phone.

Diverging for a moment to America’s pandemic response is instructive. Try to figure out why basic public health messaging failed so miserably during the COVID pandemic and in its aftermath. “We are working really hard to develop a COVID vaccine, but before we do, wear a mask and keep your distance.” This was the distilled and easy-to-understand message from public health officials that never got close to the public acceptance that it should have had. 

Instead, many of the well over a million Americans who died due to COVID did so needlessly, simply by failing to receive and accept the basic public health message. On the other hand, Trump’s message about injecting disinfectant, constantly understating the problem and openly rejecting basic public health measures laid the groundwork for the dunce dance that overtook the nation and continues to this day. Try to take a survey of that morass and even come close to matching statistical reality yesterday or today.

Just this one example should make you laugh every time some commentator or politician says: “Look, voters are smart.” Really? Even if “smart” suggests only an innate intelligence, the American adult population is so saturated with purposeful disinformation and uninformed misinformation that being “smart” can’t keep up with much of the nation’s pathological addiction to willful ignorance. Depending on voters being “smart” is a fool’s errand.

How can progressives ignore the polls and aggressively confront the lies?

So, somehow, there has to be a way to connect those who want to tell us what we think with some strong dose of what many of us actually do think about the issues of the day, in general, and Trump and his cabal in particular. Shouting from rooftops or at the television has failed. Locking pollsters and those who rely on them for contrived commentary in a big room somewhere might help but would leave gaping holes in cable news election coverage. Redoubling our efforts to tell the truth about the dangers of Trump and his cabal and the accomplishments of Biden and his team still leaves an unsettling feeling that the message isn’t getting through. (Remember: “Wear a mask and keep your distance.”)

Even in the present political and social environment, progressives continue to underestimate Trump, as they have since he began his corrosive march into politics. And, perhaps most importantly, progressives have allowed themselves to be both traumatized and hypnotized by the continuing presence of a serial liar, overt racist, psychotically narcissistic grifter in our midst sucking up so much of the political and social dialogue. This is the very dialogue that progressives seem to believe could eventually penetrate the wall of willful ignorance and indifference that rips caring, conscience and morality from the national vocabulary.

In meeting the challenge, it is unfortunate that many of us are simply ill-equipped to lie in the face of lies or even exaggerate known facts to make a point. But lies often penetrate where wise men fear to go. Since meaningful response to Trump’s serial lies has been muted by media treatment of him as a larger-than-life figure, he emerges as a kind of faux hero that is a staple of America’s delusional treatment of its own history and present narrative. The rest of us are left watching sand slip through our fingers.

So, start answering your phones all the time and hope that it is a pollster. At worst, it might be a friend who would just like to chat for a while. After ending the call, get to work on somebody’s campaign and focus on getting out the vote for Biden and Democratic candidates. And, most importantly, feel free to exaggerate the truth in a convincing way for this cause.

[Hard Left Turn first published this piece.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


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