J.S. Mill said “Not all conservatives are stupid people, but most stupid people are conservatives.” A century and change later, little has changed. Let’s drop the niceties and psychobabble and confront the simple fact that the Republican/McCain base are largely morons. Before you say it, yes, I freely acknowledge that supporters of the Republican party and McCain in particular might have IQs that are as much as 10 points higher than those we’ve seen at their rallies. But none of this refutes Mill’s premise, and he is clearly right on this one. People who believe that men walked side by side with Dinosaurs are almost invariably “conservative.” While you could find stupid, ignorant people at an Obama rally, you’d have a hard time finding people who believe McCain is actually Russian plant of a member of the KKK, the rough analog to what we see in the now infamous “he’s an Arab” question and a dozen other clips in which Obama is called a terrorist. And in a tough election year, Mill’s “stupid people” have become the fulcrum and the face of Republican strategy.
Are these clips an unfair representation of a big piece of the Republican base? We are never short of stupid people, so if most stupid people support McCain and the Republican party, our “conservatives,” then surely these people are a large part of his base. And certainly, this dialogue is played out in the heartland thousands of times a day, without video cameras, camera shyness and youtube becoming involved. There are a lot of morons who support the Republican party, therefore the moron is a crucial part of their base.
Polls have shown that as many as one in ten Americans believe, or claim to believe, that Obama is a Muslim. If we assume that the majority of these people are Republicans and add that to the fact that well under half of America is Republican, the picture of what exactly constitutes the “Republican base” becomes pretty clear. No pollaster has asked how many believe Obama to be a muslin. Quoth the wiki:
Muslin is most typically a closely-woven unbleached or white cloth, produced from corded cotton yarn. Wide muslin is called “sheeting”. It is often used to make dresses or curtains but may also be used to complement foam for bench padding. Muslin breathes well, and is a good choice of material for clothing meant for hot, dry climates.
Now add in those who believe that Obama supports a radical racist and a terrorist movement that happened 40 years ago, on the basis of 90 seconds of clips from his church and attending a coffee event with a guy who blew up a statue. Clearly a large chunk of McCain’s support comes from people who believe Obama is a Muslim, a radical black militant, a friend to domestic terrorists and/or a cloth often used to make curtains. And McCain’s campaign is reaching out desperately and more importantly, overtly to this real base.
Sarah Palin’s role in the campaign has primarily been one of mascot. She’s a baby factory who can’t be bothered with much reading and research. She has kids to get to hockey practice, poorly aimed, First Dude urine to wipe up and guns to clean. She’s like you! And are you gonna let some New York eggheads tell you that you can’t be VP and eventually President?!
Part of the reason stupid people are drawn to conservatism is that the intelligent conservatives have always been willing to indulge and support ignorance in order to conserve their own wealth and power. Gomer-Joe gets a mailbox full of direct mail about how Obama is closely woven to terrorists and went to a Muslim school and hours of talk radio on similar subjects so he can wallow in stupidity, fear and hatred. Thurston gets a PO box in Grand Caymen and doesn’t have to pay taxes. But it’s unlikely that in Mill’s day the veneer of conservatism in the public sphere was an open celebration of ignorance. The uneducated and the “stupid people” have not only been catered to here and scared there, in the usual way. Now, they are brought to the forefront. Palin is the culmination of the progress of the stupid conservative from beast of burden, to Red Nosed Reindeer. Contrary to popular cliche, it’s not a Capra movie come to life. Mr. Smith, though naive and idealistic, was fascinated by history and law and triumphed by using his knowledge of them. Palin is the mascot of the functionally illiterate and represents the idea that they should triumph by affirmative action. For the real core of the Republican base, the fact that she won’t admit to reading newspapers and knows nothing about the Supreme Court, is a badge of honor. She speaks and thinks as they do and is ignorant of the same things. Her ignorance proves that any knowledge beyond that which is possessed by the ignorant or stupid is irrelevant and pretentious. What kind of an elitist needs to know much more about politics, law and economics than (eventual) President Palin herself?
Trig has been thrust in as the mascot’s mascot. Even when pregnancy plays out in the worst case scenario, it must be carried to term. Trig is waved about as the pro-life flag and an even deeper statement of values. As always, the undercurrent to the pro-life message is that sex for pleasure is to be punished. Sex has consequences. Now, we might be able to prevent many of these consequences like, AIDS and other STDs, HPV, unwanted pregnancy and severely disabled children. But there is always some convoluted reason to prohibit everything from a married couple taking a mulligan , rather than being forced into servitude to a fetus that will one day be a disabled child, to giving a child an HPV vaccine to prevent her from getting cancer one day. God’s punishment must be unhindered. And unless you have the means to raise a disabled child yourself, well, you had better not tempt your dad into raping you.
Further below the surface is a statement of what exactly about life should be valued. Certainly not intellectual pursuits, taking a broad interest in the world through travel, or exploring our or any other culture. Palin, like Bush before, has made it to middle age without ever needing a passport. The life that is to be valued so highly is one of breeding, church, TV (provided most channels are locked) and a glass of water on the side for dippin.’ Another couple might choose to work for a child with the capacity to value art or science, rather than deliberately developing a child who will never move past watching “Dora The Explorer” and eating seven course dinners consisting only of a series of Happy Meals with a different toy in each box. Such a couple (never mind a single woman) is the enemy. They must be denied that choice because their assessment of what makes life valuable is against God, who tells us that anyone who fears him is better than anyone who doesn’t. The value of human life ends at the limitations of a downy.
Those who value something more are to be supplanted at the top (superficially) and stifled at the bottom. Anything approaching intelligent discourse is to be discredited as liberal-biased elitism. The promise is a parody of socialism, in which nobody is allowed to think more deeply or know more than the stupid-conservative base. It is, of course, as empty a promise as the one to overturn Roe v. Wade, or to fight the cheap labor coming in illegally from Mexico. The elites will send their children to prep-school, rather than Jesus camp, as always. The stupid people, however, are being offered their biggest ever box of toys in the world of politics. I don’t think it will work this time around, but the fact that the presidential race is even close, given the state of the country, proves it to be a winning strategy. My only hope for the future is that the Green Party will recruit Trig Palin.