Sunday, September 14, 2008

OK, we give -- Democrats are smart and sophisticated, Republicans are stumblebums

It has been a fairly regular feature of Montana Headlines to engage in honest self-analysis of the right side of the political spectrum. After all, does it really hurt to admit that those on the left are smarter, better educated, more sophisticated, better read, more widely traveled, etc.? Why argue with the obvious, after all? Certainly here at Montana Headlines, with manure still clinging to our boots, we know our place.

A commenter in the last post compared Republicans to Nazis, but then really decided to get serious and go for the jugular, shaming us for our "reflexive" support for a "beauty queen" who is "dumb as can be." The Nazi thing hurts, but really, to that last part all we can say is an emphatic "ouch!"

It must be acknowledged that it has been some time since Montana Headlines has forthrightly confessed our intellectual inferiority, so it is time for one of our periodic exercises in verbal self-flagellation for our sins against reason.

After all, what are we thinking when we support someone who went to North Idaho College and then made the big move up to the (drum roll, please) University of Idaho (using scholarship money from the Miss Alaska pageant -- how embarrassing is that?) Especially when we could have as our next President someone who graduated from Columbia and from Harvard Law? With a choice like that, there really shouldn't be any point to even holding an election. Oh yeah, that white-haired guy went to the Naval Academy (a reactionary thing to do in and of itself,) but graduated near the bottom of his class, so he really doesn't help.

After all, as Bob Herbert decrees in the august pages of the New York Times, Palin is "dimwitted." Well, that settles it.

Actually, Herbert and the many others who heap scorn on Sarah Palin (and by association, all of us Neanderthals on the right) could just as well save their breath. After all, we already know that we aren't as bright, educated, and sophisticated as our peers on the left (or perhaps it is being presumptuous to call them our peers -- perhaps "counterparts" would be a more appropriately humble word.)

We just tend not to be paralyzed by insecurity, even though we probably should by all rights be crawling into corners in shame because of our paleolithic mindsets. We've seemed somehow to figure out that our lack of intellectual sophistication doesn't have to keep us from becoming productive citizens -- running businesses that keep people employed, becoming successful professionals, achieving financial security for our families, reaching positions of leadership in the military, or even (most shocking of all) winning elections and effectively governing. In this enterprise, we are of course aided by our counterparts, as Tony Blankley recently put it when quizzed by the 3 left-leaning members of a public radio talk-show panel:

One of the reasons the Republicans have done so well in national elections over the last 30 years is that we’ve been blessed with a liberal media and a liberal Democratic party that cannot help but sneer at about, you know, 65 percent of American culture, the people of small town America.

So we benefit from that, and even the stumblebums can figure out how to take advantage of snobs who are our opponents. And it’s sort of remarkable that they can’t restrain themselves even for a season.

We as stumblebums nevertheless keep getting re-elected...

One of his lefty opponents on the panel protested loudly when Blankley made the point that Sarah Palin's experience level was comparable to that of Barack Obama. The evidence that he cited for Obama's superiority? Why, Obama's impressive education and travel experience. Seriously. Well, that really settles it.

But when you look at it historically, he has a point. After all, if you took a poll of university professors, who would be consdidered to be smarter and more intellectually sophisticated, and which was was the hapless bumbler?

Ike or Adlai Stevenson?
Kennedy or Nixon?
Johnson or Goldwater?
Nixon or Humphrey?
Nixon or McGovern?
Carter or Ford?
Carter or Reagan?
Reagan or Mondale?
Bush I or Dukakis?
Clinton or Bush I?
Clinton or Dole?
Bush II or Gore?
Bush II or Kerry?
Obama or McCain?

Really isn't very fair, is it? I'd like to hear from anyone on the left who wouldn't choose the Democrat in every single one of those elections -- or at best declare certain matchups to be more or less a tie. (Diabolically shrewd doesn't count -- we're just talking intellectual depth that would make the faculty club swoon.) After all, if the Republican in question were all that bright, he wouldn't have been a Republican, correct? And to be fair, while we would probably choose or defend the Republican in each of those races, it wouldn't be because of a belief that he would conduct a better graduate seminar in the philosophy of conflict resolution.

And yet, the electoral history is, in spite of it all, surprisingly impressive for those inferior Republican candidates.

The link escapes us right now, but someone recently wrote that for the first time in his life, Sen. Obama is running against actual Republicans -- and he is shocked to be up against opponents who don't care what the editors of the New York Times or Washington Post think. He also has the simultaneous misfortune of encountering, also for the first time in his political life, an electorate where well over half of the voters will be people who likewise really don't care what smart set thinks.

That has to be a disconcerting experience for someone who believes that a 100% ADA rating is a path to post-partisan politics. Maybe on the south side of Chicago -- but in the rest of the country, not so much.

We hayseeds have an annoying habit of showing up to vote, and perhaps that is why a Democratic candidate has only reached the 50% mark in the popular vote exactly twice since WWII. Wouldn't it be something, in a year that was supposed to be a Democratic landslide of 1964 proportions, if the Republicans stumblebummed themselves to yet one more victory?


Anonymous said...

I made the (true) statement that Nazi generals were hanged for the crime of preventive war. Official history says that Nuremberg was about the holocaust. Not so.

So it's an apt comparison. Your twisting of this to say that I compared Palin to Nazis is low and vile. Shame.

Jay Stevens said...

I think Democrats will stop pointing out the intellectual inferiority of Republican presidents as soon as Republicans stop reinforcing this narrative by calling Democrats "pointy-headed elites." After all, this dichotomy is a natural byproduct of years of election campaigns that depict candidates as "regular guys," don't you think?

Montana Headlines said...

Mark T, finding a way to drop the word "Nazi" in any critique of conservative Republicans is at least as old as Gore Vidal. And we'll leave aside the question of whether the German "crimes against peace" are equivalent to anything America has done.

Read the post again.

I said that you compared Republicans to Nazis, and talked about Palin separately. But, since you equate pre-emptive war with Nazis, and the discussion was in the context of Palin giving (admittedly weakly worded) support for the concept of pre-emptive war, why would you cavil at calling Palin a Nazi, anyway?

Jay -- I would basically agree with your assessment.

But, let me get this straight. We'll assume that you are right that Republicans are the protagonists by repeatedly committing the crime of picking candidates who can be portrayed (with greater or lesser success) as "regular guys" and that we call you guys "pointy-headed elites" in a sort of nasty playground taunt.

You are then stating that Democrats have come to the conclusion that the best way to combat this rather effective strategy (I would view it as a reaction to liberal condescension, but we'll accept your plausible narrative for the sake of argument) is to "point out the intellectual inferiority of Republican Presidents?"

I take it from that response, by the way, that you do not disagree with the basic statement that Republican Presidents and presidential candidates have been intellectually inferior to their Democratic opponent in basically every election since at least WWII. Not saying I'm disputing that, mind you, just making sure we're clear.

Checker 11 said...

“Official history says that Nuremberg was about the holocaust. Not so.”
--Mark T[rotsky]

Somehow, I just knew that Mark Trotsky’s love affair with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would eventually lead to Holocaust denial.

Wulfgar said...

You're selling a broken bill of goods, MH. Here is my reply.

Anonymous said...

I think that Tony Blankley is right, that the elitist attitudes of the left have turned off independents and helped Republicans win elections.

I think another factor that will grow in importance is the downright nastiness of those on the left, like the dailykos bloggers who claimed Palin was carrying her daughter's baby. (or whatever the crazy story was)

Now the nuttiest goofballs can give voice to the darndest things, and it can get wide exposure on the internet. Some of it really vicious. You see strong criticism of Obama on the right, but nothing nearly as intense as what is on the left.

The attack dogs on the left now seem to have persuaded Obama to get more negative. He says no more Mr. Nice Guy.

Admittedly, the McCain campaign was more negative than the Obama campaign the last week or so. But I wonder if that was a strategic move to goad the Obama campaign into going negative, as it has now done.

So now as the election draws near, the Obama campaign has completely scrapped what it was all about in the beginning -- "hope" ... a new way of doing things ... etc. Now it will resort to the same old partisan politics.

Will it be a winning strategy? I'm sure Jay Stevens and others see it that way because they think the harsh words will somehow win over those who haven't yet decided how they'll vote.

But seems to me those independents aren't going to be won over by harsh rhetoric in the next few weeks. Here's a columnist who makes that argument:

Anonymous said...

Your caterwauling about the perceived dimwittedness of Republicans is a joke, I assume. You and I both know that people vote for people who are 'like' them, that candidates have to dumb down to please the electorate. George W. Bush benefited from his C-student status because most Americans are C-students and are dumb enough to think that C-students can govern effectively. It is the A-student Harvard and Yalies around Bush who govern, and they are not stupid. Voters are. Republicans are smart enough to know this, Democrats not.

Excellence is not at issue. Smarts are.

McCain actually bragged about being at the bottom of his class. He bragged about it.

The Nazi comparison is, as I said, apt. History is what it is. Perceived history may be different, and perceptions often substitute for reality. Nazis were hanged for preventive warmaking. The Bush doctrine justifies preventive war. How much more clear can I be?

Jay Stevens said...

" do not disagree with the basic statement that Republican Presidents and presidential candidates have been intellectually inferior to their Democratic opponent in basically every election since at least WWII."

Not at all. Nixon was incredibly smart. Maybe one of the smartest, most politically astute men to ever reach that office. Bush the senior was extremely capable at policy-making, even if he was a little awkward at the political side of the game.

And Goldwater? H*ll, he's got the near-universal respect of the current progressive movement.

As for the Democrats, Carter was more about faith and spirituality, not intellect. Smarter than Ford? Sure. High on the scale historically? Probably not. Kerry...not so smart. But sure outshines Bush, Jr., probably one of the least capable and intellectually curious presidents we've ever had. Makes Grant look like Einstein. (Tho' Grant was at least a brilliant military tactician.)

Bill Clinton is damn sm*rt. The complete package. Always the smartest man in the room. Scary smart. Also wily and canny and too clever by half. Obama's damn smart. But not in a scary way like Clinton. Maybe it's his faith, but it's a humble and curious intellect.

Obama smarter than McCain? Yes. McCain really hasn't had any of his own accomplishments, has he? Still, he's quite a few notches above Bush. But let's hope he finds someone else to advise him on the economy other than Phil Gramm.

touchstone said...

I guess that's the long way of saying that campaign rhetoric doesn't make reality. There are smart Republicans and dumb Democrats. But the smart/dumb dichotomy kicked up especially by the GOP does have its effects on the comment sections of blogs and around the water cooler at work.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything said, Nixon being near-genius, GHWB being accomplished and able, but just wanted to remind you of what LBJ said of Goldwater - that he "can't fart and chew gum at the same time".

Montana Headlines said...

First of all, thanks for all of the comments. And in response to some of the comments and Wulfgar's post, I'm not being particularly sarcastic. I think that highly educated people are indeed far more likely to be Democrats -- and the more elite the education, the more this is true. This is borne out in polls and surveys.

I furthermore think that even those of more humble educational backgrounds and average intellectual achievements believe that having progressive political views gives them an level of sophistication that they wouldn't have if they said they liked Sarah Palin.

Furthermore, given the fact that the ruling dogmas in universities tend to be leftward thinking, then by those lights, anyone on the right is going to have to be someone either not bright enough to have seen the light or someone so ruthlessly desirous of power that he is willing to cynically take positions he knows not to be true.

This latter is why I said that "diabolically shrewd" doesn't count when asking the question of which presidential candidates were smarter and more intellectually sophisticated.

While I feel sorry for the fact that Wulfgar's own small-town experiences were so dismal (as he demonstrates, some of the most strong negative sentiments on that subject tend to be people who come from small towns -- which is probably true of disgruntled folks from any geographical locale,) he completely misses the mark of my post.

While the Tony Blankley quotation used the term "small town," I didn't. Generally conservative attitudes are certainly more deeply ingrained in rural areas and small towns, but if that was all Republicans had, we would lose every national election, given that we are a largely urban and suburban society today. Conservative attitudes and Republican voting are non-geographical.

Wulfgar said...

MH, I am surprised (not really, you have ill goods to sell) at your ability to miss the relevant and all-important word both in my post and your own, (with Blankley's support.) That word would be values. My experience of small town Montana was not at all dismal, but I sure as all-get-out didn't come away with the grand idea that people in small towns have values worth worshiping, or voting for.

And I have to tip my hat to the skillful misdirection you place at the end of your comment. Yes, Republican values are ingrained in rural areas and small towns. And as I clearly pointed out, those values are being misrepresented as to what they actually are. It would be intriguing if you would honestly deal with that by defining what those values are, and engaging as if you could defend the reality you are selling.

Montana Headlines said...

I searched, and the first place that the word "values" appears in this post and attendant comments is when you use it, Wulfgar.

You are too astute at using the English language not to notice that Blankley used the word "culture," and I in my comment used the word "attitudes."

You pay me the compliment of being capable of "skillful misdirection," but you thought I would be too dull to notice your neat substitution of a word ("values") that implies moral superiority for the words that Blankley and I actually used?

I can't speak for anyone but myself, but by no means do I assume that small-town people are automatically morally superior to city folks. I have known too many unpleasant rural dwellers and too many sterling big-city people to believe that geography equals virtue. I leave that to those who peddle some sort of modern version of "the noble savage" when talking about everything they consider to be primitive (other than rural American fundamentalist Christians.)

Culture and attitudes aren't by definition better in one place versus another, but they at the very least do tend to be different. And Blankley is right that when liberals look down their noses at those different (foreign?) small-town and rural attitudes and cultures, it isn't terribly helpful in convincing people there to vote for them.

The governor knows this -- that's why he makes a point of talking like Conrad Burns (as Ed Kemmick hilariously noted in a column some weeks back) when he is doing his political schtick.

Since I was not, in this post, trying to make any sort of a point about the moral superiority of "small-town values," I will pass on your invitation to define them.

Besides, if you grew up in a small town, then you know that the last thing that a rural dweller is interested in doing (or feels any obligation to do) is offering up some sort of defense or excuse for his likes and dislikes to those who don't share them. (Never mind the fact that you and I probably share a lot of the same ones.)