Columnists > Voices

Bad hearing aides

It's not that they won't hear the polls; they simply can't

Issue: "One nation under God," June 26, 2004

There's bewilderment in Washington, D.C., these days among the folks backing the Federal Marriage Amendment. The FMA would make it official U.S. policy that marriage be defined exclusively as the union of one man and one woman.

Unambiguously, polls show that most Americans not only agree with that position, but would like to see the Constitution amended to that end. But just as plainly, politicians haven't got the message. Confronted with the opportunity to offer their support for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, only 46 of the Senate's 100 members have indicated that they'll back it-and that makes no sense.

The statistics, as reported to the Alliance for Marriage by the Wirthlin polling organization, do indeed suggest it should be almost irresistible for any politician wanting to be on the winning side. When asked what they thought of a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union only of one man and one woman, the American public responded like this:

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» Strongly favor: 57 percent

» Somewhat favor: 10 percent

» Somewhat oppose: 7 percent

» Strongly oppose: 23 percent

But the statistics become much more persuasive as you go on. When you break down the results by gender, you find two-thirds support from both men and women. By ethnic background, the same thing: 67 percent of whites, blacks, and Hispanics favor the amendment.

When the pollsters looked at educational background, the statistics were telling. Support by category was like this:

» Some high-school background: 69 percent

» High-school graduates: 75 percent

» Some college: 67 percent

» College graduate: 59 percent

» Post graduate: 47 percent

Apart from the fact that increased education seems generally to do little for traditional marriage, there's still not much here that would threaten an officeholder wanting to back the amendment.

And finally, even when broken down by political affiliation, there seemed to be nothing to instill fear at the polls:

» Support among Republicans: 79 percent

» Support among Democrats: 56 percent

» Support among independents: 63 percent

So why-once more-is anybody so reticent to add his or her name to such a supposedly easy issue? I'd suggest it may be another one of those predictable times in history when the people are way ahead of the intelligentsia. The political class in this case simply doesn't know how to listen to the voters because they've spent so long allowing their hearing aids to be tuned by outside influences.

Such politicians-and their human hearing "aides"-have, for example, been schooled in educational systems dedicated over the last generation to say the exact opposite of what the Federal Marriage Amendment says. America's educational systems have been unrelenting in proclaiming the doctrine that no one should be judged or shunned for having a different point of view.

Even if they hadn't been listening to their schools, but only to the major news and entertainment media systems of America, the politicians and their aides would have been influenced to respond similarly. In that case, though, arrogant cynicism would have been added to their refusal to put boundaries around any definition of marriage.

If, on the other hand, these politicians were listening only to corporate America and its big-time policy-makers, they still would have found a habit of cautious deference. And amazingly, even the nation's biggest denominations have sounded either a false or an uncertain trumpet on the issue.

I too am dismayed at the loss of nerve among our political leaders-even when not much nerve is called for.

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.


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