Our Trump State of the Union poll last week did not draw as many votes as it did the first year, but my column brought in a lot of emails. Let's look at the poll results themselves.
The question was: "After hearing Trump’s State of the Union speech, are you more or less optimistic about his presidency?" Last year, our readers voted in record numbers. A majority of 46.5 percent said that they were "more optimistic," while 40 percent felt "the same way about him as I did before the speech." Only 13.5 percent said that they were "less optimistic."
This year, more readers, 52.5 percent, said they were more optimistic. Another 26.1 percent felt the same way while "less optimistic" increased from 13.5 percent to 21.4 percent.
This tells me that (a) people have become more fixed in their opinions after a year of observing; (b) Trump is beginning to lose the undecideds; and (c) readers voted in lower numbers because "Trump fatigue" is setting in.
Keep in mind Mark Twain's old rejoinder: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." So be cautioned when reading too much into a statistical analysis provided by a senior citizen small-town publisher who took one class in statistics and studied political science as an undergraduate at the College of Wooster.
Self-deprecation aside, I seem to be good at inciting people to either love or hate my opinions. These days that is getting increasingly easier to do when it comes to politics.
Some Trump supporters were mad at me because I quoted a late night talk show joke about Trump that I thought was very funny. I have written before that I am not a fan of our late night comedians becoming so blatantly biased. This would never have flown in years past.
In truth, the original draft of my column had a paragraph on that subject too, but I ended up editing it out in my never-ending zeal to limit this column to just 750 words. I always tell young reporters that it is always easier to write longer than shorter, but that doesn't make it better. That's why we got away from paying freelancers by the inch!
This is a personal column, not an editorial. I gave credit to a comedian for a funny line. It was funny. He did make me laugh. However, I have previously suggested that the late night comics would be a lot funnier if they weren't always ripping the same person as part of their own personal political agenda.
As usual, both "sides" were mad at me. The liberal clan only noticed my jokes about Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. C'mon, man! How could you not think Nancy looked funny sitting their shuffling her giant note cards? Angry zealots on both sides, get a life! Lighten up, Francis!
The best letter I got was from a reader (obviously a smart one with good tastes) that liked my column and suggested a poll question. "Should the U.S. experience a crisis or come under attack, are you confident the president and Congress would quickly unite to protect the interests of American citizens?"
Winner, winner, chicken dinner. That is our new weekly online poll question of the week. As of this writing, the very early returns were running 71.1 percent "not confident." Me either. Our division makes us vulnerable and it is already being weaponized against us by adversaries like Russia, China and Iran.
My view is that our media and politicians are using today's social media tools to divide us into camps for their own selfish gains. Pitting Americans against one another. Reminds me of Sunnis and Shiites. Arabs and Jews. World War II. The American Civil War. It is scary and sad.
George Washington, in his farewell address, said: “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge ... is itself a frightful despotism.” He warned that “mischiefs of the spirit of party” would, among a litany of other things, serve to “(open) the door to foreign influence and corruption.” George went on to say that it was the “duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain" this factionalism.
Right on, George! He never told a lie, right? Like Francis from Stripes, we should all lighten up.