Glaring Omissions and “Something Else”

The Washington Post-ABC News Poll published September 9, 2014 is as interesting for what it ignores as for what it reveals.

Question #13 asks registered voters which of the following will be “the single most important issue in your vote for Congress” – the economy and jobs, international conflicts, health care, the way things are working in Washington, immigration or something else? Eleven percent said “Something Else”.

The omissions of climate change, wealth disparity, and Citizens United (campaign finance reform) are curious and glaring. The poll assumes what the public cares about. By ignoring these matters that reach beyond partisan divides the poll demonstrates one of two things, Either the Washington Post-ABC New Poll is out of touch with those who live on Main Street or their bread is buttered by the Wall Street and the one percent.

Polling and news institutions not only measure public opinion; they shape public discussion by the choices they make about which questions to ask.

The American public is often smarter than given credit for. But its intelligence and its opinions on public policy issues are informed and shaped by the information we receive from the “Fourth Estate” which – in theory, if not always in practice – is independent from the three government branches of the U.S. Constitution. The “free press” is the people’s watchdog, monitoring the actions and decisions of the three constitutional estates and their complex bureaucracies and institutions. We look to the free press to do for its readers what the individual cannot do: investigate the way things are – who’s making the deals and why, who’s stacking the deck, and who’s dealing from the bottom of the deck.

As the ownership of newspapers, radio stations and television cable and satellite dish companies has shrunk to the size of the one percent who live on Wall Street, the press, like the the three constitutional estates, is not so free. While Republicans and Democrats argue about whether climate change is real and while congress fails to act, it falls to the Fourth Estate to exercise whatever freedom it may still have to raise the flag of the single most important issue facing not only the planet itself. The same is true with the moral issue of the wealth disparity and the Supreme Court’s decision that turns the American electoral system over to the highest bidder

The detail of those who answered “Something Else” shows t 14 percent of “white non-evangelical protestants” in response to Question 13. Among this subset – the “traditional” protestant churches (Episcopalian, Presbyterian, United Methodist, Congregationalist United Church of Christ, Unitarian-Universalist) – much attention has been paid from pulpits and from church position statements to the alarming growth in wealth disparity and the environmental degradation that has led us to the brink of “climate departure” when there will be no way back.

Nothing on the list of “single most important” issues is as long-lasting as climate change. It is the darkening global cloud under which all other issues exist. Framing the public discussion as a choice between the economy and jobs, international conflicts, health care, the way things are working in Washington, or immigration continues the myopic gridlock that keeps our eyes too low to the ground. It makes little difference whether one proclaims or denies that the changes in weather patterns are evidence of global climate change that call for action now to reduce carbon and methane emissions. We all know that something is happening here on the North American continent and around the “pale blue dot” (Carl Sagan) that is changing the planet as we have known it.

Enter Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (I) who answered “something else!” on “Meet the Press.” Congratulations to Meet the Press host Chuck Todd for widening the discussion.

8 thoughts on “Glaring Omissions and “Something Else”

  1. You and I disagree about climate change but on much we agree. I think the Citizen United issue is a false flag. The real issue is the political class of both parties cares about nothing more than protecting its privileges getting reelected, the public be damned. The only way I can see to change the dynamic is to have term limits. Whether it is corporations, unions, wealthy individuals, foundations,non-profits or NGO’s providing enormous sums to both sides, the money provides our rulers with the resources to maintain power. If they talk about Citizen’s United they pretend they care but they are not willing to do anything about the other organizations shoveling money to their campaigns.

    Another issue not talked about seriously, is we have burdened the middle class with horrific levels of debt to get a college education. The 10% can afford to pay for their children’s college, the 90% carry the debt and their children while starting a step behind carry a load that forces them to fall further behind.

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    • John, Thanks for taking the time to read and to comment. Money is what it’s all about, and the maldistribution of wealth. The poor and the middle class are getting poorer while the one percent is getting richer and richer. That’s a moral issue. That’s a SPIRITUAL ISSUE. That’s an issue for the Old Testament prophets. That’s a Jesus issue. That’s an issue for the disciples of Jesus. Elizabeth Warren has shone the spotlight on the college debt issue. I like her. I like her forthrightness. I like Bernie Sanders for the same reason. Did you happen to see the YouTube exchange between Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders on Medicare and Medicaid?

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      • I agree! Doug Kass has labelled the increase in food and energy screwflation which is perfect. Inflation of the most important items in the poor and middle classes budget are increasing at absurd rates while the Fed worries about deflation. No but I will look it up. The tragedy is the only things most of our elected reps care about is maintaining their power. I will look on youtube for the video.

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      • Thanks, John. It’s always the poor who bear the brunt of the burden. And the middle class is shrinking and on the downward slope toward poverty. Lunch at Bing’s! Is it still there?

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  2. Thanks for posting this Gordon. I think the American 4th estate is really a “free enterprise press” where the bottom line is maintaining a positive buying attitude among the public defined as “citizen as consumer”. Sometimes it feels like even the alternative press succumbs to this approach to information sharing. It is clear that we can speak of a failing ecosystem as one that resembles our obsession as a culture with continual stimulation of our senses to avoid dealing with our common need for real community. The “war for attention” our ecosystem is a victim of prevents us from authentic being. As a “free enterprise press” tries to increase control of our “attention” to increase consumption we demand more “distraction” to fend off the media’s attempts to dominate our attention. IOW, attention isn’t a normal state of mind but one imposed by the need for out economic system to generate feelings of insecurity/narcissism. Of course, as you have said many times, this is all rooted in our fear of death. Psychologists of consumerism like the father of PR, Edward Bernays, figured out long ago how to tap the pool of potential “attention” for the benefit of Madison Ave & Wall St. Emmanuel Kant, in the 1700s, actually began to think about “distraction” as a mode of self-defense by humans to ward off the development of an ecosystem that demanded “attention” in order to acquire domination as a more sophisticated type of social control. I think this is simply what has been identified as evil by Old Testament prophets who understood the rise of cities as places where existence became problematic because the city became a place where the definition of citizen/city was up for grabs. As urban theorist Gordon Childe has said, “the city is like a cross section of a fibrous tumor”. The OT prophets understood this as the central dilemma facing our species so here we are 4000 years later dealing with a body politic riddled with 1000s of metastasizing “cities as tumors” across the globe. Each city as “tumor”, is a collection of a city’s towers (aka banks) of crystallized guilt, generating a 24/7 plume of CO2 leading to a catastrophe for all species.

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    • Gary, this is very thoughtful stuff and, as usual, sends me to explore information I haven’t known or considered. FYI, MinnPost grabbed this piece within minutes of submission. As you know, MinnPost is not a free enterprise press per se, although its funding sources are fountains and donors who support its attempt to exercise greater freedom of scrutiny. Thanks for sharing. I also submitted to the Washington Post, and Pro Publico.

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      • Gordon, I agree that MinnPost is not the same as ordinary “free enterprise” 4th estate news. MinnPost is apparently now something that has come to be called the “5th Estate” which are news sites, blogs & other internet based info sites that have developed to counter established corporate ops.

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