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Votes, not polls, are what count

By Al Mollo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 29, 1998
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It can be argued that there has never been a more anticipated mid-term election as the one to be held in less than six weeks. Nearly everyone on Capitol Hill is holding their breath to finally see what the American people have to say about the job they're doing.

Not only will this election offer a better indication of the public feeling toward President Clinton's investigation, but it will also send to Washington the group of men and women who will be responsible for determining the fate of this president.

Recent polling data, which shows widespread support for the president, has lifted a considerable weight off the shoulders of Democrats.

However, it may be these very polls that will suffocate any hopes the president and his party still cling to.

As an intern in the office of Newt Gingrich, I answered last Thursday 136 calls from people all across the nation who wanted to express their thoughts concerning this hot issue. At the end of the day, my tally sheet that went into the Speaker's mailbox read: "121-15 in support of pushing forward with impeachment."

Although many of the staff become frustrated at the constant ringing of the phone, I value the experience. I am the one who hears the words of Americans who are reaching out to the Speaker of their House.

I am the one who hears the teacher from Boston ask me how she is supposed to explain to her students that lying is wrong. I am the one who hears the young mother from Oklahoma City tell me she didn't want to explain what oral sex is to her 9-year-old daughter just yet. I am the one who hears the senior citizen from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., plead with me in a pre-written statement not to allow the president to get away with this.

Obviously, this cannot be considered a fair indicator of national feeling as a whole. However, it will prove foolish to anyone who chooses to ignore these people who make up what the mainstream media defines as the minority.

These people are "spitting mad," as one woman from Mobile, Ala., put it to me. They are still mad over what Bill Clinton did in the Oval Office and his dishonest cover-up. They are mad at what they feel to be phony polls. And they are mad, mostly, at the belief that Bill Clinton may in fact "get away with it" once again.

Just as they were the ones to call for a week to get through the speaker's phone lines, they will be the ones to get in their cars this Nov. 3 and head to the voting booth.

This, along with the expected low turnout and Democrats' sense of comfort in the polls, just may produce huge Republican gains.

There are some polls, however, which should not be completely discounted. These less-reported data offer a much more interesting indication of what can be expected on election day.

CBS and the New York Times conducted a survey last week which what the most important issues facing the nation were. The two most given responses: the Clinton scandal and moral values.

This interest in the Lewinsky matter should come as a surprise to many in the Washington press corps who have been all too eager to report a public desire to just forget about it and move on.

Though, that Americans do not want this issue to simply go away. They feel they have been misled and their values undermined, and they want restitution.

Perhaps most interesting is what polling groups all across America are learning in regard to this national push toward morality. The scandal and investigation have resurrected this public sentiment and created a desire to return to the fundamental values which this nation was founded upon.

The same poll asked if Bill Clinton shared the values of most Americans. Not surprisingly, just 30 percent said that they did. Most people do not think it is acceptable that he lie after swearing by God and law, or have sex with someone more suitable to be friends with Chelsea.

This fundamental truth will be evident this November. Americans are disgusted over this nonsense they are force-fed daily from the media in these polls. They explain to me that "I have never been polled" and that "no one I know has ever been polled." The truth is that like most Americans, they haven't.

However they soon will have their voice heard. They will be polled in the only poll that matters.

On this great day of democracy, it will be the people this country - not Kenneth Starr, not Newt Gingrich, not Henry Hyde - but these ordinary Americans, who will hold in their hands the fate of the president.

Al Mollo is a political science senior serving an internship in the office of Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. His column, From Atop the Hill, appears on alternate Tuesdays. He can be reached via e-mail at