When given permission, we say we dont know: In its new national poll, the New York Times/CBS News threw an important wrinkle into the health care discussion. (To review the full poll, just click here.)
At the Times, the new poll is discussed on this mornings front page. And uh-oh! The following crucial question is highlighted in a graphic (click this):
NEW YORK TIMES/CBS NEWS QUESTION: Do you mostly support or mostly oppose the changes to the health care system proposed by Barack Obama, or dont you know enough about them to say yet?
Uh-oh! Normally, pollsters dont give us rubes the option of saying that we dont know enough yet. But by God, when they give us that option, we take it! This was the response to that question:
Mostly support: 30 percent
Most oppose: 23 percent
Dont know enough to say yet: 46 percent
Holy moley! After all those speeches and prime-time pressers, the biggest chunk of the public, by far, doesnt know what they think yet! But then, this pattern will sometimes emerge when pollsters give respondents permission to admit that they dont really have an opinion.
We discussed this point long ago. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/1/99.
In that instance, a group of respondents were asked if they favored or opposed charter schools. A second group was asked the same questionbut they were give a third option: I haven't heard enough about that to have an opinion. Sure enough! The polling numbers massively changed when respondents got that third option. Among the first group of respondents, 62 percent said they favored charters. Among the second group, only 23 percent signed on.
Back to the present: In this new poll, 46 percent say they dont know enough to have a view about Obamas proposals. This important dynamic rarely emerges from more traditional questioning.
If you build it, we will come. And if you give us express permission, well admit that we dont really know.
Also taken to be important: The good news! By a large margin (65-26), respondents said they would favor the government offering everyone a government-administered health insurance plan like Medicare that would compete with private health insurance plans.
The bad news! In that question, respondents werent given the option of saying they dont really know enough. Nine percent said dont know or no opinion anyway.
The conundrum: For an unexplained reason, the reported answers only add up to 90 percent. In four previous polls, these three types of answers (yes/no/no opinion) had always totaled 99 or 100 percent. (Question 57.)
Conundrum correction: Ignore that correction! We added wrong.
Special report: Liberals [HEART] race!
PART 4PATRICKS FULLER STORY: Is opposition to Obama based on race? Presumably, some of it is. But certain liberals seem able to conjure no other thoughts about our politicsand progressive interests really arent served when such analysts dumb us all down. Example: The third part of Gen Robinsons triad last Friday was as about dumb as dumb gets (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/24/09):
ROBINSON (9/18/09): Of course it's possible to reject Obamas policies and philosophy without being racist. But there's a particularly nasty edge to the most vitriolic attacksa rejection not of Obama's programs but of his legitimacy as president. This denial of legitimacy is more pernicious than the abuse heaped upon George W. Bush by his critics (including me), and I can't find any explanation for it other than race.
I'm talking about the crazy birthers. I'm talking about the nitwits who arrive at protest rallies bearing racially offensive caricaturesObama as a witch doctor, for example. I'm talking about the idiots who toss around words like socialism to make Obama seem alien and even dangerouswho deny the fact that he, too, is as American as apple pie.
Really? When Obamas critics toss around words like socialism, Robinson cant find any explanation other than race? Sometimes, we liberals love the smell of racism so much that were willing to dumb ourselves way, way down in pursuit of its novelized stories.
Socialism and socialized medicine have been buzz words in our politics for a very long time. But when Robinson hears such words thrown at Obama, only one thought comes to mind.
Robinson is very brightbut race can bring out the dumb in us all. Two weeks ago, South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson yelled, You lie, at Obama. Wilsons statement was foolish on the meritsand stupidly rude on the etiquette. But then, what could be dumber than the reaction of Margery Eagan, a columnist at the Boston Herald? When it comes to Flat-Out Dumb, We Irish can surely match any known group. Eagan got herself a good snootful, then set out to prove it:
EAGAN (9/13/09): Dingbats. Crackpots. Wing nuts. Just plain nuts. That seems to fit much of South Carolina. We're the cradle of liberty. They're the cradle of secession and, until 2000, flew the Confederate battle flag over their Statehouse.
South Carolina brought us slavery's great apologist, Sen. John C. Calhoun. South Carolina congressman Preston S. Brooks, in a legendary 1856 attack beat Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner so viciously that Sumner couldn't return to the Senate for three years.
This behavior continues. South Carolina's junior senator, Jim DeMint, has urged his fellow GOP-ers to break Obama by frustrating any health-care reform. If we're able to stop Obama on this,'' he said, it will be his Waterloo.
That passage is so dumb it hurts. But thats the way We Irish think, even when were Stanford graduates, once raceand the white southget drawn into the tale.
Headline: Why blame Joe Wilson? His state is just South of civilized. (Not making that up.)
Is South Carolina full of dingbats, crackpots and just plain nuts? Were entirely sure that the state has its shareand it has a gruesome racial history, of course, a history full of violent crime and vast suffering. (Eagan may not know it, but the racial history of our shared cradle of liberty is nothing to brag about either.) But crackers! Jim DeMints plea concerning Obama closely matches a similar plea made by Bill Kristol in 1993concerning the health plan of a white Democratic president, Bill Clinton. But so what? To Eagan, this has to be a racial pleathe equivalent of beating poor Senator Sumner! But then, Frank Rich believes that crazy people will take their cues from what Joe Wilson didthat Wilsons stupid shout, You lie, was tantamount to yelling fire in a crowded theater.
We liberals do get worked up.
In short, there can be many strains of crazy when we start discussing race. Eagan was exhibiting a secondary, but journalistically significant strainthe craziness We Irish can sometimes exhibit when talking about the white south. Within the press corps, We Irish played an outsized role in the decade of war against Clinton and Gore. If you think that wasnt partly driven by our dim-witted regional narratives, you may not understood how foolish We Irish can actually be.
Good God! Chris Matthews has even been playing the fool of late, posing as racially lofty! Everything he did to Clinton and Gore now offends him when done to Obama!
But then, race can bring out the dumb in us all. We Irish can be very dumb in this areaand we white pseudo-liberals can be even worse. We love our pleasingly narrow constructsand to drive them, we tell pleasing stories. In the past few days, weve even been telling stories as dumband disrespectfulas the one which follows, concerning Bill Sparkmans recent death. Allison Kilkenny posted this garbage atwhere else?the Huffington Post:
KILKENNY (9/24/09): As details continue to emerge, investigators claim they are trying to determine whether the death was a killing or a suicide, and if a killing, whether the motive was related to his government job or to anti-government sentiment. Lucindia Scurry-Johnson, assistant director of the Census Bureaus southern office in Charlotte, N.C. said law enforcement officers have told the agency the matter is an apparent homicide but nothing else.
Setting aside the fact that this would be the mother of all bizarre suicides, Johnson seems oddly confident that this was not a political killing considering the word Fedshort for Federalis a loaded label that usually indicates anti-government sentiment. Federal means Big Government, and the word has taken on a derogatory meaning in right-wing circles where fear and paranoia reign supreme. I agree with Johnson that this seems like an apparent homicide, but its not nothing else. By utilizing the branding Fed, the killers were clearly trying to make a political statement, namely Obama: Stay Out.
The word definitely packs an ideological punch, but not only is it anti-government, its anti-Obama.
The killers were clearly trying to do that! Thats so dumb it hurts. Its also deeply disrespectful of the nightmares of raceand of the life of Sparkman, which is just the latest narrative toy in the hands of people like this. In our view, Rachel Maddow has been working almost this hard in the past two nights, trying to make this unfortunate story fit the pre-approved form we pseudos would vastly prefer.
Why did Bill Sparkman die? At this point, no one seems to know, except his presumed killers. (Or killer. If he was killed.) Many possibilities obtain, not just the one for which Kilkenny prays. But then, why did Wilson yell, You lie? Thats hard to determine too. But silly hacks like Eagan/Matthews/ Kilkenny/Maddow will happily hand you the novelized tales which make thrills run up liberal legs. In the process, they work to dumb the liberal world down. Most likely, they hurt progressive interests:
Their type frequently do.
We had planned to talk today about Gene Robinsons other statement from last Fridayhis statement about the improving racial interaction he sees in his native South Carolina (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/24/09). We saw and heard similar things when we spent some time in South Carolina in late 2007. (We were very struck by some things we saw and heard.) We liberals rarely mention such societal progress. We prefer to stick to the pleasing tales in which our tribe alone stands out.
That said, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick spoke to similar issues on last evenings Hardball. People who actually care about race will perhaps try to tell complete stories. People who actually hope for more progress will perhaps understand that loud, promiscuous racial name-calling is only one way to achieve it. Like Obama himself, Patrick (hes black!) knows another wayand a fuller story. He spoke with guest host Mike Barnicle:
BARNICLE (9/24/09): You know, speaking about the national debate, race has been injected into several elements of it, the national debate, most recently by former president Carter...Whats your take on former president Carters take on it, on race in American politics with regard to the president? Whats your personal take on it?
PATRICK: Well look, race is with us in this country. And I think we always struggle to strike a balance between acknowledging the extraordinary progress weve made in this country, much of it during my lifetimeIm 53, really incredible transformationsand at the same time acknowledging that we still have work to do. That is a balance that we, I think, in this country struggle to acknowledge, that there are people who say nothing is happening, and there are other people who say its all over. We still have work to do.
I think that there are high and broad emotions on both sides of the health care debate, and Im not at all convinced that all of that is driven or even much of it is driven by race. I think that it has to do witha whole lot to do with the unknown, and that for many people, were talking about stepping out into new territory.
As Patrick notes, a lot of people have done and said the right things in the course of our lifetimes. Not all such people are liberals. Later, Barnicle tried again. Patrick kept showing his deeper insight, telling that fuller story:
BARNICLE: One last question. On the coming together thing, we keep hearing every time something occursthe election of Barack Obama, your election, your campaign for reelectionthat when race is discussed, everybody says, you know, Well, its going to be nice because now were finally going to have a good national conversation about race. I dont think weve ever had one. Do you? Do you think weve ever?
PATRICK: Well, not really. Not really. I mean, in some ways, weyou know, were hungry for it, and in other ways, were not entirely ready for it. But itll come. I think the most important thing is to acknowledge that race is with us, but it doesnt explain everything that goes wrong in my life, private or political, or in the lives of other people of color. And people of color know that, by the way, and I think most of the general population does as well.
People of color know that, Patrick said. Many white pseudo-liberals dont. We love our self-flattering tales about racetales in which we alone belong to the one good, pure, moral tribe.
We live in the cradle of liberty. They live in the cradle of secession. It rarely gets much brighter than that. Do you really think that sh*t helps?
Dingbats? Crackpots? Just plain nuts? People! Look whos talking!