Want to squander time while aggravating your mind? Agonize over who wins debates. Let opinion polls do your thinking. Don’t trust your sense of trust.
This election isn’t a poll on how voters feel about the economy or the Iraq war. It is all about trust — at a time when no one can predict what new horrors await.
Doesn’t it matter who wins debates? Not really. Debate outcomes contribute little other than exhilarating or devastating fragile election-year psyches.
But, aren’t polls political-snapshot equivalents of an EKG? Not really. You’re a lot safer betting your life on a cardiologist’s opinion than wagering on Dr. Gallup’s best guess as to what millions of Americans he never met are thinking.
Actually, you’re not relying on what a little black box with electrodes adhered to your chest has to say. You are trusting your heart doctor to make the correct analysis of that data and take the best course of action for your well-being.
You’ve chosen that particular physician, why? Because of his tranquilizing bedside manner? Because he never makes a slip of speech, as you’ve done countless times? Because he may come across as “cool” on television? Because he’s recently out of a prestigious med school? Because he has white hair and reminds you of your father? Because he’s a male? Because she’s not a male?
No. You’re relying on the cardiologist to save your life. Why? Because you trust that doctor. If you don’t, you’d better find one you do trust.
How do you define trust? You don’t, because you can’t. Trust is very much like faith. People who trust their doctors also say they have faith in them.
Trust and faith are co-mingled attributes that make it so awkward, at times impossible, for believers to justify their faith to those without faith.
When you trust or have faith in someone, you . . . well, you just know it. You don’t waste time trying to quantify or explain it. A Supreme Court member once said he could not define pornography, “but I know it when I see it.”
In politics, when times are good and few feel in peril of losing what they hold dear or have long believed, trust doesn’t come in for much discussion.
When times turn bad, trust is the first thing people seek, even though they don’t do a lot of talking about it. It’s personal, and that’s one reason opinion polls are so inept at reflecting the true extent of trust in an election campaign.
We are in such times of peril right now. The big thing on people’s minds is where they can place their trust. Do they care whether the doctor they can trust is a Democrat or a Republican? No. They want the doc who can save them.
In the late 1950s, the South was in emotional flames over the issue of racial integration. The Supreme Court had just issued its highly controversial ruling outlawing racial segregation in public schools. Most Southerners wanted none of it, and many got quite ugly about it.
A respected state senator, LeRoy Collins, was running for governor of Florida against strong, pro-segregation opponents. As Collins drove a young newsman back to his hotel after an extended interview, the reporter asked a thorny question he had been saving up, “What are you going to do about integration?”
Collins stopped the car at a red traffic light and remained silent, thinking. Cars behind began honking as the light turned green, red, and green again. Finally, Collins turned to the reporter and said, “I’m going to do the right thing.”
As the campaign developed, it became obvious Collins would not go counter to the Supreme Court ruling. Even though most Floridians disagreed with the court, many vehemently, Collins was elected governor by an enormous margin. He was the kind of candidate those voters trusted “to do the right thing.”
He became the only Southern governor who stood up for that unpopular court decision — during times when crises arose that no one could have predicted.
Which candidate for president, which candidate for vice president, will most voters decide on Nov. 4 they can trust “to do the right thing” — even when no one knows at this point what the crises, let alone the solutions, might be.?
John L. Perry, a prize-winning newspaper editor and writer who served on White House staffs of two presidents, is a regular columnist for Newsmax.com.
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