Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character. – Horace Greeley
Popularity is a curious thing. Everyone wants it–especially politicians. No elected official wants to have an unfavorable rating from their constituents.
But what do these ratings really mean?
Does it mean we actually know what our elected officials are doing, understand the policies they are championing, and support or disagree with their positions?
It probably has far more to do with the fact that we have short memories and short attention spans.
For example, this week a new favorability poll was released about Senator Mike Lee. He has gained in popularity significantly over the last year, moving from a low of 40% last October to 54% this year.
It was no coincidence that it was also last October that Senator Lee helped orchestrate the government shutdown. A shutdown that had a negative impact on many Utahns.
Matthew Burbank, a political scientist with the University of Utah, noted the more Mike Lee was in the news, the worse his rating became and on the converse, the less he has been in the news, as has been the case over the last several months, the more favorable his rating.
And when he has been in the news, he has appeared to be showing a more restrained tone.
But let’s put this change of tone into perspective.
In 2016, Mike Lee will be running for reelection and challengers on both sides see him as vulnerable and are already lining up to challenge him.
The Swallow/Shurtleff scandal has also tainted Lee as he has been implicated in the corruption investigation related to online gambling.
He’s also the subject of our own FEC complaint concerning questionable campaign activities alleging possible straw donations and involving the short sale of his home.
He also went on record recently with his plan to block all non-emergency legislation this year.
It sounds like his tone may have changed but his actions certainly have not.
Ronald Reagan was fond of saying: Trust but verify.
As voters, we want to trust our elected officials, but we have a responsibility to verify.
And before we give them the thumbs up, we owe it to ourselves and to our country to make sure their true character is worthy of our favorable rating.