Friday, January 15, 2010

Who Ya Callin' Smart?

A political catchphrase repeated to tedium is "Voters are smart." When pols and their minions chant this, they invariably mean, "Voters will agree with and go with us, because we're smart." In practice, they most often say this in the context of "voters are smart enough (to concur with our stated position)."

Alas, looking at whom we elect and re-elect, I don't buy it.

We have far too many examples from the local to national level of voters picking incompetent or malicious officials. The concept behind the smart-voter cliché is that such won't happen because as an aggregate, voters' mean choices will be the best available.

Instead, voters far too often fall into warm baths of false hope. They then elect the pol who best presents the fantasy they want. That's not smart, rather emotional and pretty dumb.

Consider the prime example in our lifetimes. No, it's not George Bush the Lesser. Go instead to his hero, Ronald Reagan.

Note that many Americans continue to delude themselves into thinking Reagan was right about many things and we'd be better off with more Presidents like him. They further bolster my postulate that voters are not smart.

Consider the mythical basis for his appeal. We can set aside how Californians could put a red-baiting, fourth-rate actor in their governor's chair, by the time he ran for President, he had that credential. More important, he gave us the chance to check our brains in the cloakroom. We just had to believe with him.

He wanted us to believe, among other fantasies that:
  • We could have guns and butter. Congress could spend endlessly on wars, weapons and such, yet magically have that figurative goose laying infinite golden eggs.
  • Deficits don't matter. He set the tone of the Bushes and their Congresses. Borrowing and spending, he held, was somehow different from taxing and spending.
  • Money from heaven. He bought into and sold the majority of voters the most destructive delusion of the WWII generation — that a never-ending spiral of economic growth was America's right, destiny, salvation and future.
  • Trickle-down economics would save us. He somehow made most of us believe that giving money in tax cuts and other grants to the wealthiest companies and individuals would benefit us all. We can go back from modern to feudal to ancient times to see how well that works. The rich and powerful take all they can, with a sense of entitlement and share nothing unless those crumbs given also benefit them.
How smart were voters in believing such fantasies? How smart are they today in continuing to see that history of failure and incompetence, yet insisting those were great times? How much confidence should we have in an electorate who make such decisions?

We confront the current special election for the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts. Within reach of the seat is an extreme right-winger, Scott Brown. His real opponent is moderate yet quite competent Martha Coakley. He is running on pledges to stop health-care reform if he can and overturn it otherwise later. He is odious in so many ways — pro-t0rture, pro-tax cuts for the richest, pro-expanded Mid-East war, and on and on. He's bad news for women, the poor, the middle-class, and virtually everyone except rich, white folk.

Yet, about half these allegedly smart voters say they may go for him on Tuesday. As Patrick Henry might have said looking at Brown, "Forbid it, Almighty God!"

There's no way to go to adults of 20, 40, 60 or 80 and teach each one how to separate fantasy and need from the real and reason. We are reduced to outnumbering them.

Get to the polls on Tuesday, bring two friends, call six others, and email everyone else you know registered in Massachusetts. Tell them this is crucial. Voting for Martha Coakley is better than just the right thing to do, it's also the smart thing.

Readers here know I would rather Michael Capuano represented Dems in this election. However, to quote another favorite, Lenny Bruce, "Reality is what is. What should be is a dirty lie."

The choice on Tuesday is clear. Brown is a destructive, vindictive, petty winger of little accomplishment and much malice. He is as anti-progressive as anyone outside a mental institution. Vote Coakley for all our sakes.

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1 comment:

Joel Monka said...

Voting for Brown or Coakley either one would be proof of how foolish voters are. In a rational world, Coakley would have been run out of public service years ago, and Brown would have been laughed out of the slating committee meeting- but since people keep buying the "Just hold your nose and vote bacause THIS TIME it's so important" line, there will never be meaningful change.

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