Saturday, October 16, 2010

Plain Folks

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.


  1. What I would really like to see the candidates do is start spending whatever they want to on ads that actually state their platform, their ideas, their solutions. STOP spending wasted money on making us hate the other guy. When they ALL do this, we can't see anything worth voting for, let alone have any hope that at least one of them might have any ideas at all. What would happen if a few of them started actually talking like adults?? Listening to all the ads, I feel like I am overhearing nasty converstaions at the Junior High School dance. There is hope, let's focus on it folks, instead of leaving it in the dust of our fast-moving spite.

  2. So true.. Warren Buffet won't finance his family living the high life. They get enough to make it, and the tools to do so, but they have to work and accomplish like he did. Otherwise they get stupid... In Oklahoma it's all about the mudslinging. We can suuurre sling some pretty hot muck down here.. of course, most isn't true, and even if it is, it makes no difference, but they sure give it a try!! Makes me want to hurl, rather than vote for any of them..

  3. And then go one step further to include not wearing a suit coat and rolling up your sleeves to seem that much more "everyman."

  4. Onebeam - This would only work if each candidate was required to do it. As soon as any candidate is trapped into a single specific, he is mercilessly hammered from all sides. The fact seems to be that no one really wants any change, though everyone says he does - I mean the electorate here. Yet they are so pissed off with the current situation that they vote out of spite for whoever seems to be the boldest at coming up with new spews of "I hate everybody, but I love America".

    Jeankfl - I am totally impressed with both Buffett and the Gateses who seem to understand that handing a kid a golden pass is sure to destroy him or her. They are doing so much thereby (not counting the charitable work) both for their families and for their country, which hardly needs another clueless rich kid buying an election.

    Liz - Actually the suit-free look is a positive in my eyes. It is nice to see candidates who actually realize it is not 1950. However, you are correct in thinking it mostly a ploy - they still have the archaic old neckties in their hearts.