- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 20, 2003

Reclining politics

In response to Gary J. Andres Thursday Op-Ed column, “One camel, two humps”: I am always amazed that the continual statistical and demographic analyses of public opinion never take into account the most important political factor of all.

I personally believe this factor has never been named, so I shall claim the right to name it now. This shall now be called “Bobs Recliner Factor.” This factor has been alluded to, but never named or quantified, in many polling studies, particularly those comparing the difference in polling results of the general public versus “likely voters.”

Polling methods and reporting never seem to take into account the fact that responding to a telephone poll is a passive procedure. Conversely, putting down the remote, getting out of your recliner, driving to your polling place, waiting in line and then actually voting is an active procedure requiring enormous strength of will and determination.

Lots of people will whine and say something should be done about a problem when asked, but few (judging by past voter turnout) will take the personal responsibility to overcome their own Bobs Recliner Factor and actually vote.

Thus, Bobs Recliner Factor shall be defined as the fraction of poll respondents who will get off their duffs on election day. There are actually two Bobs Recliner Factors; one for an issue or candidate and one against.

Bobs Recliner Factor, if analyzed closely, probably would shed an immense amount of light on exactly why some unlikely candidates were elected, why some well-thought-out campaigns failed and why maybe traditional passive polling methods should be tossed in the trash.

In order to overcome Bobs Recliner Factor, a campaign must increase an individual voters belief that his vote will make a difference. This is why “negative campaigning” still works. If one candidates political positions cannot defeat a voters Bobs Recliner Factor, maybe the fear of the other candidates impending victory will get the voter out of the recliner.

It continues to surprise me that, as pervasive as opinion polling is, no one has used Bobs Recliner Factor to explain “voter backlash” turnout in off-year elections. For those elections, previous non-voters are saying, “Look what happened when I didnt vote last time. I cant believe those idiots voted that guy into office. I have to vote this time, before things get even worse.” Similarly, those who voted for the winner in the previous election say, “Look at the margin my guy won by last time. It wont matter if I dont vote in this election. There will be plenty of other people on my side to cover for me if I dont vote.”

Thus, an incumbents supporters may have a decreasing Bobs Recliner Factor, while the supporters of the defeated candidate (or party) may have an increasing Bobs Recliner Factor.

While analysis of past elections and their particular Bobs Recliner Factor impact may be interesting academically, a recent political development may destroy the factor altogether: the 2000 presidential election. Everyones vote counted. Everyones vote could have made a difference, one way or the other.

Voter turnout in local, state and federal elections since then has risen dramatically, and I believe the 2004 election will have the highest Bobs Recliner Factor for all candidates of all parties, and thus the highest voter turnout in many, many years.

The interesting thing to watch for, as the election season rolls around, will be whether the mainstream media will continue to trumpet passive polling results without taking into account Bobs Recliner Factor and how that translates into likely voters for a particular candidate.

BOB CARO

Corpus Christi, Texas

Get it straight

In his Friday Op-Ed column, “The outcome of 2004,” Barry Casselman mistakenly describes Wesley Clark as “a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” Such a glaringly uninformed assertion undermines the veracity of Mr. Casselmans entire piece.

JOSEPH W. HOLMES

Cedar Park, Texas

When to let him loose?

While I agree with Fridays editorial concerning the release of John Hinckley for “unsupervised” visits (“Hinckley on the loose”), it does not offer a solution to the issue of when to declare someone sound enough to return to society.

Let me offer this suggestion that I believe would instill a greater amount of confidence in the decisions made by doctors, lawyers and judges in these issues.

Remove all immunity for these decisions from those advocating for or recommending them.

If a doctor truly believes in his recommendation that a patient is safe to re-enter society, he should have no problem accepting responsibility for that recommendation.

If a lawyer truly believes he is honestly presenting the facts in asking that his client be released into society, he should have no problem being held responsible for the results of releasing such a person.

Finally, if a judge, having considered all the facts, is confident in his or her decision that the person poses no risk to the public, let the judge make that decision as any other citizen would have to make a similar one, without immunity from liability.

This might not guarantee that all people released into society would be truly rehabilitated and unlikely to be a danger. It would, however, go a long way toward giving the public confidence in such decisions.

I realize that the immunity to which I refer may be absolute, as in the case of a judge, and some cases may be virtual, as in requiring proof of gross negligence on the part of a doctor.

Is this pie-in-the-sky wishing? Of course. Our legal profession long ago took control of the law from the people and turned it to its own purposes. That is why we hear outrageous claims from defense lawyers every day about cases in which they are involved that they never have to prove or for which they are not held accountable.

ROBERT A. POGGI

Weaping what was sown

The Democratic presidential candidates have been criticizing President Bush for not allowing certain countries to bid on rebuilding projects in Iraq (“No rewards for naysayers,” Commentary, Wednesday). This reminds me of the childhood story of the Little Red Hen.

The Little Red Hen (Mr. Bush) asked, “Who will help me plant the wheat?” “Not I,” said Russia. “Not I,” said Germany. “Not I,” said France.

Later, the Little Red Hen asked, “Who will help me make the bread?” “Not I,” said Russia. “Not I,” said Germany. “Not I,” said France.

When all the dirty work was done, the Little Red Hen asked, “Who will help me eat the bread?”

“I will,” said Russia. “I will,” said Germany. “I will,” said France.

“Oh, no you wont,” said the Little Red Hen, and she rebuilt Iraq all by herself with the help of other nations that had shared in the work.

LORI VIARS

Lebanon, Ohio

Liberties and heresies?

In regard to the Dec. 10 article “U.S. meets sheiks to quell tribal land fights” (World): You would have done a great service to the understanding of the fundamentalist Islamic terrorists if you had described the laws applying to Muslim tribes. They are based on the Koran and the traditions of Muhammad, and govern the lives of the tribes and conflict completely with the laws of Western civilization that apply to nations.

Are there individual rights and freedom in Islamic law? Is individual liberty possible in Islamic tribes? No. Even the tribal chiefs must adhere to the “laws” of Islam. Democracy is heresy. Western civilization is heresy. Kill the heretics, they would say.

WILFRED O. BOETTIGER

San Diego


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