Our Modern Political Idiocracy

...and my stupidity.

If you haven’t had a chance to be mildly entertained by Alexandra Pelosi’s twofer of partisan-based stupidity please indulge yourselves’ below:

And the New York followup:

Weigel steps in to say the obvious (my emphasis):

Few or none of the Alexandra/Alexander critics have spent time in primary states, talking to voters. If they did, they would have to choose: Print what voters actually say, or edit out the ones who say stupid things. Because stupid voters exist. Stupid Democrats exist. Stupid Republicans exist. Go ahead, point it out! If you draw it out and study the whole electorate, the stupidity is—thankfully—not the kind of problem that distorts an election.

The Alexander part of this is a Politico piece by Alexander Burns on the sometimes incoherent nature of voter sentiment:

Voters are appalled at President Barack Obama’s handling of gas prices, even though virtually every policy expert in both parties says there’s little a president can do to affect the day-to-day price of fuel in a global market.

Americans are disgusted at Washington’s bailout culture, and especially the 2008 rescue of the financial services industry. They’re so fed up with bailouts, in fact, that a majority of them now think federal intervention in the auto industry was a good idea that helped the country.

They’re aghast at the trajectory of the war in Afghanistan, which Obama helped escalate and extend, and they don’t think the war was worth it in the first place. And many also think Obama is handling the conflict acceptably well.

That’s presumably a different set of voters than the ones who routinely tell pollsters that they still believe the president is a Muslim, despite all public evidence to the contrary.

Add up that litany of contradictory, irrational or simply silly opinions, and it’s enough to make a political professional suspect the electorate is, well, not entirely sophisticated about the choices it’s facing in 2012.

That’s the lead-in to a longer examination of what Pelosi captured in video that has everyone so upset. Yet what she recorded was also found in that PPP poll I wrote about:

[…] Mississippi is even more skeptical (or resentful) of Obama’s religious orientation, evolution, and for the love of everything interracial marriage.

Keep in mind folks, this isn’t a question about whether people should marry outside their race. It’s asking whether is should even be legal.

Shocker – people contradict themselves, cling to untruths, and are sometimes way behind the times. Especially when it concerns sentiments about subjects we’ve formed tribes around and act sacred towards:

Despite what you might have learned in Economics 101, people aren’t always selfish. In politics, they’re more often groupish. When people feel that a group they value — be it racial, religious, regional or ideological — is under attack, they rally to its defense, even at some cost to themselves. We evolved to be tribal, and politics is a competition among coalitions of tribes.

The key to understanding tribal behavior is not money, it’s sacredness. The great trick that humans developed at some point in the last few hundred thousand years is the ability to circle around a tree, rock, ancestor, flag, book or god, and then treat that thing as sacred. People who worship the same idol can trust one another, work as a team and prevail over less cohesive groups. So if you want to understand politics, and especially our divisive culture wars, you must follow the sacredness.

When people rally as group around a political subject or position, objectivity and reasoned examinations often gets tossed to the wayside. We’re under attack, those things don’t matter. I hear it and see it so often that it’s no small wonder many adults (and younger voters especially) tune out. I’ve seen people construct such elaborate frameworks of political reality that even tugging at nonessential strings provokes outrage and virtual hysteria.

That being said, these voters would probably support the same candidates or causes regardless of their knowledge or positional consistency. So while “stupid voters” may not swing elections, it should be considered that the universal victim of stupid assessments may be the “issue” itself. Serious subjects – health care, energy, defense, foreign affairs, taxes – surely suffer when the invective (offensive or defensive) surrounding them are passionate and ignorant.

Interestingly enough, this was a phenomena that James Madison feared the most when the Constitution was given over to the states for ratification. He wrote often about his disdain for a democratic public driven, as well as manipulated, by emotions and absent of the reason that he felt was the better course for considering serious issues. In Federalist 49 when speaking of the possibility of a public decision on constitutional disputes, he writes (my emphasis in bold, obviously):

[…] it could never be expected to turn on the true merits of the question. It would inevitably be connected with the spirit of preexisting parties, or of parties springing out to the question itself. It would be connected with persons of distinguished character and extensive influence in the community. It would be pronounced by the very men who had been agents in, or opponents of, the measures to which the decision would relate. The PASSIONS, therefore, not the REASON, of the public would sit in judgment. But it is the reason, alone, of the public, that ought to control and regulate the government. The passions ought to be controlled and regulated by the government.


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