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Jay Ambrose is an OpEd columnist for Tribune News Service.
If you watched TV news during this presidential election campaign, you would sooner or later know everything that matters, namely which of the two candidates is most likely to win, although not for sure. Maybe, on second thought, polling information doesn’t matter that much, at least not as much as who should win.
Like so much that now surrounds us, the absolute absorption in polls is next door to insane, not because it isn’t important to the tune of daily updates. But dwelling on the matter almost to the point that nothing else matters is absurd.
Consider, for instance, that early on in a campaign, you could have polls showing Candidate A is winning 97 percent to 3 percent. But it does not tell us the outcome because it has not yet been revealed that Candidate A once robbed a bank. And the day before the election, why care? You’re going to get the true answer pretty darn soon, although, in these days of mail-in commotion, it may not be that soon.
The main thing wrong with this overkill is that it does skip what actually does matter, namely issues along with character and capability. Consider the last debate between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden. We had the issue of fracking oil and natural gas and whether Biden was against it or not and Trump said Biden was against it and it would cost millions of jobs. Biden said he had never said he was against it, although he has as much, and he has made clear he hopes to start a program to eventually get rid of all fossil fuels.
What certain TV news analyses then focused on was what effect all of this would have on Texas and Pennsylvania where oil and gas are major industries with lots of jobs depending on them. Polls showed Biden doing unexpectedly well in Texas for a Democrat and also slightly ahead in Pennsylvania, a battleground state that is huge in who wins. Might his words hurt his standing and what would he do to work his way around it and what might Trump do to take advantage of it? Here are some other questions.
Is fracking a serious environmental hazard? And even if it is, isn’t it crucial to our now being energy independent? And hasn’t the use of the low-CO2 natural gas it produces done more than anything to lessen CO2 as it has been substituted for coal. And isn’t our energy growth, facilitated to some degree by fracking on federal lands, fundamentally important to our economy and therefore to solving social problems and enhancing our future? Are we really going to try to get rid of all fossil fuels, and wouldn’t this be totalitarianism worse than a virus shutdown? Is that crucial to fighting climate change, and if it is, shouldn’t we be looking more at nuclear energy as a replacement than unreliable renewable fuels?
And what difference does it make if China does not do anything?
The questions are endless, just as they are in reducing the military budget, enacting a national $15 minimum wage, packing the Supreme Court and getting rid of the Electoral College, for instance. And yes, these matters are discussed, but not nearly enough and too often simply in the context of what it means to standing in the polls. Time is so terribly, terribly wasted in dwelling so much on minor polling shifts that may or may not mean anything and have nothing to do with who would or would not serve the country best.