The Backlash Mirage

A man journeying across the desert sands looking longingly toward the horizon for any sign of an oasis will often see one. It’s called a mirage. Chances are you’ve never seen one in the desert, but we all see mirages reported regularly in the MSM.

There was one in USA Today this week–a classic example of a reporter seeing a public opinion mirage. In this case, reporter Susan Page was looking longingly at a national poll for a trend away from a moral agenda.

The article begins:

WASHINGTON – The controversy over Terri Schiavo has raised concerns among
many Americans about the moral agenda of the Republican Party and the power of
conservative Christians, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll finds.

In the survey, most Americans disapprove of the efforts by President
Bush and Congress to draw federal courts into the dispute over treatment of the
brain-damaged Florida woman. She died last week.

The reporter quotes George Mason University professor Mark Rozell saying the Shiavo case created a “clear backlash.”

But the poll’s main finding was that the majority—55 percent—of Americans disapproved of Congress getting involved in the local Florida case. The question itself was loaded, asking if respondents thought that the Republicans are “trying to use the federal government to interfere with the private lives” of Americans. But even if the question was fairly worded, the sentiment that individuals are supporting is a limitation of the involvement of the federal government.

Does USA Today, or anyone, really believe that because Congressional Republicans were moved by the plight of one woman and took extraordinary action to try to save her life that they they’ve switch roles with the Democrats, and that they have become the party of large, intrusive government? You can accuse the Republicans of becoming more and more like the Democrats when it comes to increasing the size and scope of government. But it’s absurd to use one case to suggest the Democrats are now the states-rights advocates and the Republicans are the federalists.

I haven’t understood the polls on the Schiavo case, generally. Certainly the wording greatly influenced the responses. But somehow, probably as a result of the coverage of tghe MSM, the majority of Americans believed that Michael Schiavo was telling the truth about Terri’s wishes, and did not want government to go against the end-of-life preferences of an individual. I do not understand why most Americans (not to mention the trial judge) did not see the tragic conflict of interest that was created when Michael Schiavo took a common law wife and began a new family. That conflict negated his ability to be a credible arbiter of life and death.

In the Schiavo case we saw great political theater, desperate actions to save lives, judicial ineptitude at best and perhaps malfeasance, and heart-wrenching grief.

We did not see a backlash against the “moral agenda of the Republican Party.” That’s a mirage.

–James Jewell
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About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group (www.valcort.com). Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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