Trivial Pursuit

In order to take attention away from burgeoning government budgets, government overspending, and massively failed Big Government Programs, Big Government advocates try to get candidates and voters to focus on relative minutia, especially during elections.

They magnify the minor differences between Big Government alternatives to a problem - giving the impression that all options have been explored. They hope you won't notice that they refuse to put any small government option on the table.

They focus on minor spending items while avoiding discussion of the big ticket items. They're hoping you won't notice the piles of waste and overspending inherent in Big Government budgets.

They make mountains out of the tiny molehill-size differences between Democrat and Republican candidates so voters will believe they're being given a real choice. They paint their personalities, styles, and stands on issues as vastly different - when their policy proposals are nearly the same. Voting for one Big Government candidate or the other will have virtually the same effect on the lives of everyday voters.

Trivial pursuit bias is often accompanied by emotionally charged issues that divert attention from the big picture. Examples include the death penalty, abortion, gay marriage and breaches of ethics. Mention of these topics serves to distract voters from issues that are far more likely to affect their everyday lives: high taxes, loss of American wealth, astronomical government spending levels, and lost individual rights.

Example 1:

The legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts has been covered ad nauseam. Yet a Massachusetts poll showed that only 5% of voters in the state consider it a top voting priority.

In contrast, the Massachusetts news media almost completely blacked out Ballot Question 1 to End the Income Tax in 2002 until paid advertising publicized the issue enough that they were forced to cover it. Still, it was so under-publicized that a former Boston Herald columnist - a 25-year veteran of the Boston mainstream media - admitted on his talk radio show that he wasn't even aware Question 1 was on the ballot until he went to the polls to vote!

Example 2:

Carla Howell, President of the Center for Small Government and sponsor of the 2002 ballot Initiative to End the Income Tax also ran for governor in 2002. She was invited to a gubernatorial debate at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. But then a consortium of TV and newspaper outlets - WCVB (ABC), WHDH-TV (NBC), WBZ-TV (CBS), New England Cable News, WGBH-TV (PBS) and the Boston Globe - blocker her participation by refusing to cover the debate if she was included. Only Republican Mitt Romney and Democrat Shannon O'Brien were permitted in the debate.

In the absence of this third party candidate for governor, who was sponsoring what was possibly the boldest tax cut initiative in American history (and which won 45% of the vote!) the debate between the Republican Romney and Democrat O'Brien was little more than a game of Trivial Pursuit. At one point, the two of them spent several minutes bemoaning rubbernecking (yes, rubbernecking, the practice of passersby leaning and staring out of their windows at a car accident) and attempting to appear more disgusted than their opponent by this phenomenon. In their 60-minute debate, they managed to completely avoid the topic of the state income tax, even though the voters would soon be faced with a choice to end it altogether. Nor did they talk about the terrible unemployment problem in Massachusetts, despite the fact that over 157,000 jobs had been lost in the state in the prior 2 years.

Under pressure from voters who complained of Carla Howell's exclusion, the candidates and the media agreed to allow her and other third party candidates into two subsequent debates. During those debates, Howell touted her ballot initiative to end the income tax. The Democrat, the Republican, and the media had avoided discussing it as much as possible until that point. After that debate, taxes and jobs - two issues of huge importance to everyday voters - rightfully became major focal points of the 2002 Massachusetts election.