Published: June 15, 2018

Original article can be found at Denver Post  
Originally published on June 15, 2018 By Patty Limerick 

In the domain of national slogans, e pluribus unum — “out of many, one” 
— is distinctively braced and ready for trouble. 

From the struggles among the Founders over the balance between centralized and localized power to the contests over the expansion of slavery into the nation’s western territories, from the disputes between imperialists and anti-imperialists in the 1890s to the bitter tensions of various “red scares,” the words emblazoned on coins, dollars and America’s Great Seal have never had a moment’s rest. 

And now, as pollsters regularly report that around 40 percent of American citizens approve of President Donald Trump’s performance while around 60 percent disapprove, the brave ideal of e pluribus unum has had to surrender any hope for a summer vacation. 

Still, this delivers us to an unexpected proposal: if the relevance of this slogan to the nation’s identity is unending, it may prove even more valuable when we apply it the souls of individual citizens. 

Time for an example. 

Twenty years ago, the Center of the American West circulated a poll featuring the question, “What are the five greatest challenges facing Westerners?” 

Here is one individual’s inventory of those five greatest challenges: 

1. Extreme environmentalists dominating land use decisions. 
2.Subdivisions encroaching on the last few places to recreate in open spaces. 
3. Traffc jams driving to the mountains. 
4. Real estate that no one but the rich can afford. 
5.The federal government’s attempt to lock up federal lands in wilderness 
and national monuments. 

“Thanks to this individual,” I thought when I first contemplated this list, “I have come to recognize that it is possible to hold the equivalent of a contentious public hearing within the confines of one person’s mind.” 

And now, after opportunities aplenty to observe the wild range of opinions that one mind can contain, and having gained some ground in self- knowledge, I recognize this respondent as my kinsman. 

And this brings us back to the 40/60 polling results of our times. 

The results of the recent presidential election corroded the self-esteem of the many pollsters who had predicted a very different outcome. But well before 2016, when it came to reading the results of opinion polls with lamb-like trust, I had undergone bouts of skepticism. 

Why skepticism? 

Because I had come to believe that the disunity within the American nation is matched — or even exceeded — by the disunity within most individual human minds. 

And now for a really sensible recommendation. 

Pollsters who would like to be considered credible should start their inquiries by offering each participant this choice: “1a) Are you one of the few people on the planet who holds consistent beliefs, principles, assumptions, and opinions, carefully reconciled and harmonized with each other? 1b) Or are you, like most people, in too much of a hurry to arrange your thoughts as a coherent whole?” 

My guess is that the vast majority of the responses will go with 1b). But even if the percentage turns out to be closer to 50/50, I would still urge pollsters to contribute to the national well-being by quoting the wise remark offered by writer Fernando Pessoa: 
“Each of us is several, is many, is a profusion of selves.” 

E pluribus unum, get back to work.