Did you see where that candidate was mistakenly listed on an election tally sheet as "Rich Whitey”? Hope he wasn’t running in a heavily black or Hispanic district! Although I must say, in a way, he brought it on himself. There wouldn’t have been that much of an issue if he had billed himself as Richard Whitney, rather than Rich Whitney, even if the same error was made in spelling his last name. What’s with this “Jes plain folks” business of people running as Rich or Bill or Jimmy or Meg? People are always yapping about the “dignity” of certain government offices, yet they seem unwilling to elect anyone who shows any traces of dignity.
In the same vein, there is great antipathy, it seems, towards any display of intelligence in political candidates. I completely understand people not wishing to elect theoreticians to run things, but it seems deeper than that. There seems to be overt hostility toward anyone displaying above average intelligence. Do I want a candidate to understand what it is like to worry about bills and jobs and mortgages? Sure – but I’d kind of like him or her to have actually figured out how to handle these issues successfully. What is dismaying to me is that people who wouldn’t dream of voting for someone smarter than they are, seem to have no problem with voting for people who are putting a zillion of their own dollars into a campaign.
When people have a zillion dollars to finance a campaign, they have gotten it in only one of two ways: they either inherited it or they made it. If they inherited it, there is no way that they have experienced the same day to day problems as you or me. If they made it, there’s a damn good chance that they are smarter than you and me, even if they call themselves by a folksy moniker and say ‘he don’t’ and ‘I ain’t’. And they damn sure are not an “outsider”, either way. But I guess that if people can believe that Survivor represents reality, they can believe anything. Presumably these believers are on the lookout for their local ‘plain folks’ candidates in the produce aisle down there at Aldi’s discount grocery or when they are picking up a package of 4 T-shirts for $10 at Wal-Mart. If you believe that someone in possession of a zillion dollars is an average guy or gal, just like you and me, there is definitely a lot of stupid in the equation, but it ain’t the zillionaire who’s got it.
This antagonism toward intelligence is nothing new. I recall clearly that one of the handicaps that Adlai Stevenson failed to overcome in his campaigns against “Ike,” was the perception that he was an intellectual or “egghead”. (And why is an intellectual called an egghead? I have yet to perceive the slightest sign of intelligence in any egg I have encountered. Have you ever tried conversing with an egg? Dumb as a rock, take my word for it.) “Smart” and “elite” are not synonyms: neither are “educated” and “elite” the same thing. In fact, P. G. Wodehouse made a lucrative career satirizing how clueless the elite classes of England really are. There is no evidence that the elite classes of the USA are any brighter than those of the English. It is struggle that toughens and educates a man or woman. A smart person, rich or poor, learns from his failures and hurts and setbacks. A stupid person just repeats mistakes. The opposite of “smart” is “stupid”, not “nice” or “ordinary” or “jes plain folks,” although actually none of those three terms rules out being stupid also. It is odd that people dislike a candidate who shows his smarts, but at the same time no one seems to feel that “stupid” is high praise. You just can’t have it both ways.
As far as I can figure out, this large swath of the electorate is hoping for ‘dumb and lucky’. Maybe they should spend Election Day buying lottery tickets instead of voting. The rest of us might remain dumb, but chances are we’ll emerge a whole lot luckier.