In the wake of the Terminator becoming Governor Ahnuld, it seems much of the left is now publicly admitting what it has privately felt for some time. Namely, the voters are stupid.
It is particularly copious in the blogosphere. Consider the blog Counterspin Central, written by the pseudonym “Hesiod”:
I’ve learned my lesson. Never underestimate the stupidity of the American voter. Just when you think they can’t be bigger f***ing idiots, they prove you wrong. That’s not meant to be cynical. It’s just a recognition of reality. 80% of the folks who voted for Arnold were f***ing idiots. And, that amounts to around 3 million people in the State of California alone.
Cynical? Of course not. The French words are included just for the purpose of being colorful.
Over at Democrats.com, “Peace 03” grouses:
The same ignorance that fueled the anti-French freedom fries movement has made possible a coronation for Conan the Barbarian… Arnold won by simply telling the crowds that he was for education and business. Instead of saying “DUH”, the voters cheered as though an uplifting oratory had just fired up their value system…I say we’re in the middle of a dangerous trend where a lack of intellectual curiosity rules not only the president but a large chunk of the electorate.
“Necco27” doesn’t concur, however:
I only have one disagreement. I don’t think the electorate is stupid. I think it’s Nazi-style psyops.
Thanks for reassuring us!
What is most interesting about this fit of pique is what it reveals about the rise of Howard Dean. The standard explanation for Dean’s insurgency is that he’s tapping into both the opposition to the War to Liberate Iraq and the extreme dislike of President Bush among the Democratic base. This explanation is incomplete. Like Dean, Bob Graham opposed the war from the beginning. Richard Gephardt and John Kerry have since shifted their positions on the war, and all three have stepped up the anti-Bush rhetoric over the past few months — indeed, here in Iowa, there are still Graham signs that read “Graham Leads, Bush Misleads.” Yet Gephardt and Kerry are struggling to catch Dean in the polls, and Graham has dropped out.
Given the shifting of policies and rhetoric by the other candidates, Dean’s continued success can very plausibly be explained by another factor, personality. Neither Gephardt nor Kerry has the sort of personalities that animate voters, and Graham’s campaign persona was almost as exciting as that minute-by-minute diary he keeps. By contrast, Dean’s personality is far more aggressive; as his supporters claim, he is a “straight shooter and tough talker.”
However, there is another side to Dean’s personality that also comes through. In a recent column, liberal journalist Joyce Marcel stated, “my memory is that Dean was arrogant in interviews.” A classic example of such arrogance appeared in David Tell’s memorable story of the Dean campaign for the Weekly Standard:
…one respectable-looking, articulate, and deadly earnest lady announces that she’s “terrified” over a rumor that “at the next election, George Bush is going to drag out the war and declare a national emergency and suspend the election.” Dean makes no effort to reassure her. “I’ve actually heard that,” he says, with a facetious, speculative aside about whether “that’s in the Patriot Act or not.” Another guest wonders if Dean can identify the one question he’d most like to ask George Bush in a televised general-election debate — if, that is, the president could be shamed into debating him in the first place. “Who’s your favorite philosopher?” comes the governor’s reply. The Schroeder house fills with knowing, derisive laughter.
Indeed, to listen to Dean speak, one quickly gets the feeling that he carries an “I’m-smarter-than-everyone-else-and-I-know-what’s-best-for-you” attitude. That same attitude is reflected in the “voters are stupid” reaction to the California recall. This accounts for why Dean is receiving so much support from that portion of the left that is wired into the Internet. If Tell’s article is any indication, it also goes a long way to explaining Dean’s popularity among much of the Democratic base.
This portends disaster for the Democrats in 2004 should Dean be the nominee. American voters do not like to be condescended to, to say the least. Perhaps someone in the Dean campaign will urge the governor to do a personality overhaul. But don’t expect the Democratic rank-and-file to demand it. After all, Dean makes them feel good about their prejudices.
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