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Op-Ed: We Need Smith — Now 

More Than Ever

Greg Orman

February 3, 2020

Fifth in a series.

Over the past week we’ve shared some insights from comprehensive polling of over 2,000 voters. The survey was originally designed by Patrick Caddell, the math prodigy, pollster, and political strategist who played a key role in getting Jimmy Carter elected president in 1976. Dubbed the Smith Project by Pat, who died last year, the survey analyzes voter attitudes on a range of issues, position statements, potential presidential matchups, and introduces a hypothetical new “Candidate Smith.” This project started in earnest in 2013, and continues today, but its roots go decades back.

During the 1980s, Pat sensed a growing distance between Washington, D.C., and the rest of the nation. In some senses, this disconnect was the logical outgrowth of a nation still dealing with the shredded trust between Americans and their elected leaders over the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, which led to the resignation of Richard Nixon. Pat, however, believed that the causes ran deeper. He was convinced that the foundation of the discontent was driven by a political elite more intent on serving themselves than the public. His belief in this alienation between voters and their elected leaders only grew as the years passed – as did the level of alienation itself.

As our survey findings have revealed, this discontent is far greater today than it was when Pat first presciently identified the chasm between Washington and the rest of us. The new poll finds that 83% of Americans feel some level of alienation, with 46% -- almost half of Americans -- being classified as “very” or “extremely” alienated.

The American people have abundant reasons to feel this way. In 2013, researchers from Princeton and Northwestern universities studied 1,779 policy issues and determined that the interests of average Americans have a near zero, statistically non-significant, impact on public policy. Not surprisingly, special interests and the economic elite – the entities and individuals who primarily fund political campaigns – had a meaningful impact on policy outcomes in Washington.

At a time when median household income has been essentially stagnant for two decades and concerns about income inequality have finally started to receive the attention they deserve, it’s also telling that the five wealthiest U.S. counties are all suburbs that ring the nation’s capital. Coupled with reelection rates for a highly unpopular Congress that routinely run over 95%, the American people certainly have the evidence to believe -- as 84% of them do in our survey -- that, in the words of the poll, “the country is run by an alliance of incumbent politicians, media pundits, lobbyists, and other powerful money interest groups for their own gain at the expense of the American people.”

The poll, done by RealClear Opinion Research, also found that Americans were feeling under attack themselves: 77% of respondents agreed with the statement “I feel as though my beliefs and values are under attack in America these days.” And 76% agreed that the “state of politics in our country is so bad that I fear our society is splitting... Continue Reading.

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