Nuts. The Democratic National Convention is over. Watching Bill Clinton, Jean-Francois Kerry, Joe Biden, Barack Obama and all the other preposterosities -- not least being the widely underdepreciated Sandra Fluke -- I fell under a spell. I thought the convention would go on forever. There would be no need for horror movies, action movies, extreme sports, cockfights or soap operas. I could enjoy them all in the comfort of my own home. All provided by the Democratic National Committee, safely watched over by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and probably select units of the North Carolina National Guard. Yet the convention ended, and now comes the surprise. President Obama actually received a bump in the polls, a modest one, but a bump.
CNN was up 6 points. Gallup was up 5 points. ABC News/Washington Post was up 1, and so it went until I came across something called SurveyUSA/Civitas. That poll had Mitt Romney up by 10 points, but I do not know who it was polling or why. Possibly, it was pulling our leg.
Remember, these polls came after the Democrats in convention assembled voted against mentioning God in their sacred document. Oh, sure, the mayor of Los Angeles, standing rather unwillingly at the podium, gave the vote to God on the third voice vote, but we all heard the vote. God lost. And there was the bloody business about Jerusalem. The Democrats want Israel's capital elsewhere. Where? I wonder. Finally, there was the Democrats' contrived controversy about a procedure that has been uncontroversial among Americans since the 1960s: birth control. Do the Democrats really think Mitt Romney is going to deny them their birth control devices, even colored condoms? Those devices are the Republicans' one foolproof way to ensure suppression of the Democratic vote -- even more effective than returning illegal aliens to their home country.
Frankly, the Democrats who came to Charlotte were about the most unsightly mob observable in these United States in years. Any bread line in the 1930s would have appeared better-dressed, and certainly its members would be more representative of mainstream America. Only an occasional group of Occupiers could have outdone the Charlotte Democrats in sartorial splendor, and most of them are certifiably deranged.
Yet in the end, the president got his bump, and it came a day or so after the Friday economic news, all of it highly unfavorable to him: job creation -- down from July; Americans seeking jobs -- down from July; the percentage of Americans working or seeking work -- down to a 30-year low. As for foreign policy, while Mr. Obama was wowing the gullible last week with his listless poetry, the Chinese and the Russians were snubbing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on her Syrian initiative.
Do not let these polls fool you. In 1980, similar polls showed Jimmy Carter leading Ronald Reagan almost to the very end. Mr. Carter was ahead of the old cowboy by 4 points in late September, by 8 points in October, and the Gallup polls had him ahead of Reagan by 6 points in the last days of the election. Reagan won by 9 points, sweeping 44 states. In 1988, Gov. Michael Dukakis at one point led Vice President George H.W. Bush by 17 points. He lost by almost 8 points. How to explain it, I cannot say with certainty. Some evidence suggests that the pollsters poll a higher percentage of Democrats than Republicans. Moreover, a recent poll from the Pew Research Center is suggestive. The electorate is growing impatient with pollsters calling them for their views on everything from deodorants to odors. According to Pew, "the response rate of a typical telephone [political] survey was 36 percent in 1997 and is just 9 percent today." My suspicion is that political polling has not been reliable for years. Increasingly, those who sit down with the pollster are politically committed respondents.
So here is yet more evidence of the Taranto Principle, which holds that when the liberal mainstream press fails to hold politicians accountable for their deceits and misbehavior, it just encourages more of the same. Just as the media give Democrats the impression they are in the majority, so do the great polling organizations. So keep it up, Mr. President: no to God, no to Jerusalem, and whatever message you want to send out about birth control. Your foreign policy is a masterpiece, especially in the Arab world. Your economy, well, it is still George W. Bush's economy.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor-in-chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. He is the author most recently of "The Death of Liberalism" (Thomas Nelson, 2012).
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