Friday, October 15, 2010

Rise of the Ignoramus

Ah, Christine O'Donnell, if she didn't exist some satirist would have had to invent her. After her lovely performance at the televised debate on Wednesday, I'm sure her blinded supporters are telling her that she did a fantastic job.

That's because her supporters are insane.

The best part of the debate was the simple question of what recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings she disagreed with. After all, as a Senator she would have a vote on approving candidates for the federal bench (besides the Supreme Court, hundreds of other federal judgeships open up from time to time). Her comical answer--to ask the moderator to "name some" for her, only to be told that "no, you have to do that" as if O'Donnell were a second grader, then for O'Donnell to respond that she's sorry, she'll have to list some on her "website" the next day--showed clearly that this woman can only answer questions that she was specifically coached for. In other words, no independent knowledge outside of what her handlers were giving her.

Now, most Senators are pretty dumb, but generally they can think on their feet. Let's say your mind draws a blank on that Supreme Court question--and you're a "conservative" (put aside for a minute whether it's "conservative" to have these radical notions for how you want to destroy government institutions and impose religious law, as some nuts like O'Donnell do). Just take one of your issues--say, school prayer--and say "I have a problem with the current stances that the Supreme Court has taken on school prayer." Of course, this requires knowing that the Supreme Court has consistently ruled on that issue in a way that diverges from what the religious party wants, and O'Donnell may not be aware of that.

So where is all this support coming from? After all, O'Donnell is likely to get at least a third of the vote here. Surely, some of that is protest votes--people are pissed with the way things are going these days, and pissed with the way the Democrats are handling things. It's natural to gravitate towards the harshest critics of the party in power. And some probably feel that whatever lack of qualification O'Donnell has, she'll at least be a reliable GOP vote, and that trumps all else. (I hear Democrats make the same argument when they defend their own crooks and idiots)

But there's also this idea that her lack of qualifications in themselves are pluses. Her "witch" ad made a point of her not going to an Ivy League school. Picture for a minute listing that on your resume--that "I didn't go to an Ivy League School". What job would make that a plus?

The thing is, most people don't like "elitists". And by "elitists" we mean "people who think they're better than me but aren't". Invariably, this is because the "elitists" have all their credentials and such, and DISAGREE WITH MY POINT OF VIEW. That is key--you don't hear the O'Donnell supporters complain about what an elitist George Bush Sr. is, or William F. Buckley for that matter (both men well born Ivy Leaguers). Yet, Obama is considered an elitist by them, despite his much more hardscrabble upbringing (and having finally paid off his school loans just a few years ago). There's simply no doubt that if Obama had political opinions closer to Clarence Thomas he'd be considered just a smart guy by these same critics. (And to be fair, the liberal critics of Thomas would be just as harsh on Obama, calling him a "sellout" or worse)

But there seems to be something damaging about wearing ignorance as a badge of honor and treating credentials as negatives. Don't we want our smartest and most experienced running things? Shouldn't conservatives at least want the smartest conservatives representing them? And maybe an Ivy League degree shouldn't be the sole determinant of intelligence and qualification--but why should that be a negative, either? And how can anyone hold up a proud ignoramus as someone they want making decisions that will affect them in Washington?


  1. Yeah, I've been wondering for a while, since when did stupidity become a pre-req for elected office?

    While I'll never base my choice of a candidate solely on where he or she went to school (unless it's Dook, they can kiss my vote goodbye), if one has an MBA or a law degree from an Ivy, and the other doesn't, well, it might influence my thinking.

  2. Foggy--I guess the idea is that someone can be capable, intelligent and experienced without "fancy education"--after all, Harry Truman, Abe Lincoln, and many others have had very modest educational backgrounds. But actual pride in not going to selective schools is something entirely different, as these historical figures at least went out of their way to demonstate their qualities, not their lack thereof.