Today's magic number must be 26 -- as in 26 percent.
Because as if you ever needed proof that 26 percent of America -- that would be one out of every four people you see walking down the street, plus someone else's right ankle -- is totally bat-guano out-of-their-freakin'-minds crazy, check out this new poll just out:
The poll asked this question: "Do you think that Barack Obama legitimately won the Presidential election last year, or do you think that ACORN stole it for him?" The overall top-line is legitimately won, 62%, ACORN stole it, 26%.
Interestingly, it pairs nicely with this:
Respondents were asked: "When the president of the United States is traveling overseas, do you think it is appropriate for him to bow to a foreign leader if that is the country's custom or is it never appropriate for the president to bow to another leader?"
The numbers: Appropriate, 67%, Never appropriate, 26%. Even a majority of Republican respondents were okay with the bow, by a 53%-40% margin. Democrats weigh in at 84%-9%, and independents 62%-30%.
Now, how much do you wanna bet that those 26 percent in those two polls are exactly the same people! These are people who might as well walk the earth in a bubble made of plastic and little speakers blaring Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh 24 hours a day. People who will buy into any two-bit conspiracy theory that gets repeated enough -- remember that a) Obama won the 2008 election by 9.8 million popular votes and b) the known number of actual known fraudulent votes cast because of the voter registration crimes by ACORN workers who got paid for name like Mickey Mouse is zero and c) it's a long way from 0 to 9.8 million. And people who are easily distracted by the shiny object -- like the alleged symbolism of a presidential bow -- that will always lead the Drudge Report over the real issues of the day.
Now, 26 percent of America is indeed a lot of people. There's a bit more than 200 million voting-age Americans right now, so we're talking about more than 52 million red-blooded adults, enough folks to fill 1,000 Citizen Bank Parks with roughly 6 or 7 million more people to spare. Enough to put on a fairly impressive rally on the Mall in Washington if just a tiny percentage of them turned out. But there's another way to express 26 percent, and that would be as "Not 74 Percent," the too-silent majority group in this country that's a bit more inclined towards real commonsense solutions, to use a term that's been misappropriated by a former Alaska governor.
But what if that 26 percent has influence beyond the trivial world of ACORN and presidential bowing? Check out where else these 26 percenters turn up:
When asked what kind of health care bill Congress should pass, 51 percent of Americans said a bill that contains a government-run health insurance plan, or "public option." Sixteen percent said a bill without a public option, while only 26 percent said they want no bill at all. Seven percent did not know or had no answer.
Now that's actually important. By the way, look who else is at 26 percent:
Just 11 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of independents believe Palin could be an effective president. Overall, 26 percent of Americans say she could be effective in the job.
Of course, you could argue that the 26 Percenters have been around for a few years, going back to the Bush administration:
Six in 10 Americans say the United States should join the Kyoto treaty on global warming, rejecting President Bush's economic arguments against the accord....However, in an ABCNEWS.com poll conducted a week ahead of Earth Day, 61 percent said the United States should join the treaty, while just 26 percent opposed it.
Which may explain this:
President George W. Bush's approval rating dropped to a record low, making him the least popular president since Richard Nixon, according to a new Newsweek poll... Twenty-six percent of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing, while a record 65 percent disapprove, including almost a third of Republicans, Newsweek said.
Now, I happen to think that 52 million Americans are people who ought to be heard, who have a right to make their views known and to stage protests if they need to. But too often -- aided by a media that tends to give a lot of extra weight to the 26 Percenters, especially when they make for a good story -- we're allowing the tail to wag the dog in these United States of America. This week, for example, we may learn that a handful of senators thwarts the electorate's expressed desire for a health care bill, because of fear of this 26 percent.
It's true -- as more and more conservatives started pointing out around, oh, around 2006 or so, that this nation is a republic and not a straight democracy. Legislators are elected to weigh what's most popular along with what is legal and also with what they think is morally right.
But when all is said and done, we need leaders who will fight like hell for the dreams of the 74 percent of America, not ones who kowtow to the sometimes paranoid fears of the 26 percent. That would be what I would call our 26 Percent Solution.