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Guest Commentary

Confessions of a margin of error maker

11/4/2015

I stopped lying after I came out as an unapologetic gay man, now a long time ago. Being a closeted gay man was really the only secret I had, and lying to keep that secret was pretty much all-consuming and utterly exhausting. It seemed like I didn’t have the energy to lie about anything else. Once the coming out exercise was complete, it’s been largely clear sailing for telling the truth. Moreover, it has freed up a tremendous amount of energy that I’ve directed toward more productive, worthwhile endeavors. Lying has simply lost its appeal for me, despite the fact that I was rather good at it.200275078-001

I do make one exception. As is true of so many Iowans leading up to the first-in-the-nation caucuses, or folks in New Hampshire that hosts the first presidential primary, I am bombarded by pollsters, online, by mail and by telephone. We are being poked, prodded, dissected and analyzed, demographically, politically and otherwise. The results are faithfully published by news media as if the information — with whatever “margin of error” — has some relevance to anything.

I regularly lie to pollsters.

I’ve been a 94-year-old (lie) African-American (lie) Jewish (lie) female (lie) who uses social media at least daily (lie) who plans to attend my Republican caucus (lie) where I will support Donald Trump as my first choice (lie) and Mike Huckabee as my second choice (lie). I’ve supported “traditional” marriage exclusively (the exclusivity part was a lie), and opposed abortion in every situation, including cases of incest and especially rape, figuring God works in mysterious ways (lie, lie and lie). I’ve extolled the virtues of the NRA (a lie; the NRA has no virtues), and I’ve opposed any restrictions on the types or quantity of weaponry available to self-proclaimed patriots (lie), who should be able to acquire armaments at gun shows or wherever without background checks designed to weed out felons, domestic abusers or the insane (lie).  I’ve expressed disbelief in the phenomenon of climate change (lie), and I’ve insisted that if the climate is changing, humans have nothing to do with it; it’s God’s way of ushering in the End Times and the second coming of Christ (lie times two).

Mind you, I’ve not been able to lie about all of those things in a single interview or survey. I prefer to mix-and-match them in order to maintain some semblance of credibility. And, I suspect that because I have always been so responsive and taken the time to provide my meaningless input, I’ve perhaps been contacted more by pollsters than have others. I think taking up the time of pollsters may reduce the time they have to pester other hapless Iowans and New Hampshirites, (or whatever you call people who hail from New Hampshire). I figure I’m doing a public service. You’re welcome.

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Candidates whose campaigns are driven by the polls tend to pander to crazy stuff that appears to be supported by the polls. If the polls indicated a substantial body of the electorate believes the earth is flat, there’d be candidates catering to them and giving voice to such beliefs.   It’s good to be able to know them for who they are. The Bible warns against false prophets, but provides precious little guidance for identifying them. Their pandering is a “tell.” Another public service. You’re welcome.

The only polling that counts will be the votes cast on caucus night or at the ballot box.

Between now and then, I recommend that you entertainingly join me in public service. CV

Jonathan Wilson is an attorney in private practice with the Davis Brown Law Firm in Des Moines. He lives in Des Moines, owns a small farm in southeast Iowa, served on the Des Moines School Board for 12 years, and has two children and four grandchildren. He can be reached at JonathanWilson@DavisBrownLaw.com.

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