Polls, precedent, and prognostication can make good entertainment, but they are ineffective tools for making public decisions. We must supplement them with frequent and constructive communications between citizens and leaders.
On this, day three after record numbers of U.S. voters choose one candidate over another, we are no closer to understanding collectively what Americans want and need from our government. That does not stop us from twisting stories into facts, and ultimately, wishes into budgets.
In every recent political news story and op-ed, the author or reporter is guessing what the results of millions of individual votes mean for the bigger picture. Some writers are using exit polls to gauge what people are thinking. Many are predicting based on historical events. I suspect that many are simply going from their gut. Here are some samples:
Voters want U.S. out of Iraq
-- Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette
We know you want a better way of life, and now is the time to seize it
-- President Bush
Voters ... want to see Congress take a stronger role in providing checks and balances to the President's actions in fighting terrorism
Voters Still Want Tax Cuts
-- Wall Street Journal
We Know What Voters Want ... Voters are looking for good jobs, for help from soaring health care, energy and college costs
-- Jesse Jackson
This is all rhetoric. It is not specific or actionable. It cannot be measured. Voters may seem to be saying they want "change," and a "fresh approach," but that is no wind to set our sails to. We have not directly told our leaders anything practical and useful. For now, we can only hope that heaven knows what we want, and that someone is listening.