Bil Browning

When Did Being Smart Become an Obstacle to Success?

Filed By Bil Browning | January 10, 2012 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: dumbing down, GOP presidential campaigns, GOP voters, Jon Huntsman, Republican presidential candidates, Shit Cats Say, Shit Jon Huntsman Says

I've mostly avoided all those "Shit [insert generic group] Says" videos because most of the time they're just regurgitated stereotypes accompanied by bad acting. Whether it's Shit Gays Say, Girls Say, Guys Say, or whatever, they're mostly just, well, shit. (The one exception being "Shit Cats Say" which is devastatingly close to the mark.)

The latest entry to the meme though is "Shit Jon Huntsman Says." Huntsman, former ambassador to China for the Obama administration, is running for president himself but isn't gaining any traction with the GOP base. Simply put, he's too moderate for their tastes. He believes in global warming. He supports civil unions. And, most damning of all, he knows a foreign language! I know you'll be shocked to find out the former ambassador to China knows how to speak Mandarin Chinese.

Ron Paul supporters have gone so far as to call Huntsman a "Manchurian candidate." The Paul campaign denied the ad, of course, but then again Mitt Romney also says those attack ads against Newt Gingrich don't have his mittens all over them. It is what it is.

Watch the pro-Paul video after the break and notice how it also focuses in on Huntsman's ability to speak Chinese and the fact that two of his daughters were adopted - one from China and another from India. Then let's have a small conversation about Americans' love for stupid politicians and aversion to the intellectuals.

Instead of quickly condemning the ad and asking their supporters to remove it, the Paul campaign decided to launch an investigation and has concluded that the offensive video is really a duplicitous secret strategy to steal the New Hampshire primary from Paul's grasp. (Nevermind that Paul doesn't have a snowball's chance of winning the primary.) Man, that sounds like the sort of dirty trick tactic a secret agent communist spy would take, doesn't it?

Back in 2008, contributor Waymon Hudson published an article called "The War on Intellectualism" where he bemoaned the number one problem facing Huntsman's candidacy. He's just too damn smart for the GOP base. How dare he speak a foreign language! I'll bet he can do math, too!

Is this the point we have come to in our country? Do we really think that having knowledge about an issue is a liability? Have we learned nothing from the past eight years about voting for the person you "want to have a beer with"? Is being smart or intellectually curious a bad thing?
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I have been absolutely dumbfounded as I have watched the level of discourse (and the ensuing media coverage) in this political season. There has always been a level of "east coast intellectual" bashing from the right, but this cycle it has been raised to a completely new level.
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How is dumbing down our country a breath of fresh air? Lowering the discourse to these levels (Paris Hilton, hockey moms, and lipstick - oh my!) has been staggering and disheartening to watch.

The war has not only been waged by promoting the "Joe Six-pack" quality (a term that makes my skin crawl and sounds incredibly offensive) of McCain and Palin, however. The GOP has taken to throwing around charges of elitism, arugula-eating, latte- and martini-drinking to show how Obama and Biden - and by extension all Democrats - are "out of touch" with "real" Americans. It's an amazing argument - by being too smart and thoughtful on issues, they just don't understand anything. Want proof? They eat fancy salad and drink coffee.

It is also constantly being said that both Obama and Biden are too "professorial," as if being an intelligent leader is a weakness. Professors are people who know things and can lead and teach others. How is that an insult? They simply know too much to be the leaders of the free world? All those pesky details floating around in their heads makes it impossible for them to lead? Huh?

We trudged through the godawful Bush years after Americans elected the former alcoholic they wanted to share a Budweiser with. (No fancy foreign beers like Stella Artois!) As intellectual curiosity has declined thanks to the Republican cuts to education funding, attempts to disband teachers' unions, school vouchers meant to promote Christian private schools, and the radical promotion of fundamentalist Christian beliefs about evolution, sexuality, and the role of religious devotion in the public square, the nose dive can be traced directly back to Republican policies that have been supported, for the most part, by conservative Democrats.

While Americans were incredibly disillusioned with Republicans after Bush the 2nd's presidency, what he set in motion is still having repercussions today. Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker lays the majority of the blame for today's lack of qualified intellectual heavyweights worthy of America's top job at the former president's feet.

More than anyone else, Bush is responsible for decimating the ranks of qualified Republicans who could take on Obama. A successful presidency can produce a new crop of future presidential candidates for the party that controls the White House. The vice president and cabinet officials, as well as governors and senators elected over the course of the administration, are historically major sources for a party's next round of candidates. The Bush years had the opposite effect. It was unthinkable that his vice president would run for higher office and much of his cabinet left Washington tainted by the President's unpopularity. Moreover, Bush helped sink his party in the 2006 and 2008 elections, thus depleting the ranks of potential Republican candidates for 2012.

I'll be keeping an eye on Hunstman's bid for the nomination as the results from today's primary comes rolling in tonight. Are Republicans capable of picking a candidate who's intelligent, moderate, and friendly? Or will they continue their streak of picking bumbling idiots willing to tell them whatever they'd like to hear?

Somehow, I think I already know the answer.


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