Because public opinion is so often ahead of politicians, there may be many candidates changing their minds – or pretending to change their minds – on a variety of issues within a year or so, when the next presidential election starts heating up.
This has already started happening. For instance, Mitt Romney, who was briefly considering another try at the presidency, said one of his major platforms would be an effort to decrease poverty in the nation. Romney has changed his mind so often on so many issues, including his own RomneyCare, it was enough to make voters’ heads spin – an identity confusion that led to his loss last time.
Expect to hear candidates change their minds soon on the following issues: income inequality, raising the minimum wage, more affordable access to post-secondary education, raising some taxes on the wealthy, trade agreements that discourage off-shoring of jobs and the need to fight human-caused climate change. Polls have long shown most Americans of all political parties are trending favorably toward those issues.
A recent example is climate change. A Jan. 30 story in the New York Times reveals a poll shows two-thirds of Americans are more likely to support a candidate for president who supports government action to curb global warming and less likely to vote for candidates who question or deny the science of human-caused climate change. That includes 48 percent of Republican respondents to the poll.
Those who said they are less likely to vote for a candidate who believes human-caused climate change is a hoax include 67 percent of respondents, including 48 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of Independents.
The poll was conducted by the New York Times, Stanford University and a nonpartisan research group called Resources for the Future.
In the last presidential election, the Times story notes, every Republican candidate (with the exception of Jon Huntsman) and some Democratic ones questioned or denied human-caused climate change and said they opposed policies to decrease greenhouse-gas emissions based on the human-caused premise.
This time around, Charles and David Koch, those wannabe “kingmakers,” are vowing to spend $1 billion, give or take some loose change, to help elect a president to their liking. The Koches, by the way, are the inheritors of their father’s Koch Industries, an international conglomerate that deals in petroleum, natural gas, chemicals, asphalt, energy and commodities trading, among many other products. The Koch brothers have made it known any candidate in the presidential primary who advocates action against climate change will lose their financial backing. Bob Dylan said it best when he sang, “Money doesn’t talk; it swears.”
Fortunately, human history is filled with good examples of how money can’t buy love or even, in some cases, elections.
Some candidates, wise to public opinion, have begun saying, like ostriches, “I am not a scientist” when asked if they believe in human-caused climate change. It’s a nifty way of throwing off the question.
Polls aren’t foolproof, and popular opinion isn’t always necessarily right. Nevertheless, so many recent polls, including the one on climate change, are harbingers of new attitudes in the making among Americans, among voters, that candidates – in order to win – are going to have to adopt, or pretend to adopt, those attitudes.
It will be most interesting in the next two years to see just how many leopards of all political parties can actually change their spots.