I think that the most dangerous idea in modern America today is this:
Educated, intelligent, and successful people are unsuited to positions of political power and leadership.
This is a meme that could actually take us down, and I think that we need to meet it head on. I could care less about the “debate” over evolution – except insofar as it affects school curricula. There is no debate, and we shouldn’t dignify the fringe any more than we dignify flat-earthers and scientologists. With regard to gay marriage and open homosexuals serving in the military, I think that we’re just waiting for (as Dr. King put it), “the past to die.” The majority of the other big political arguments these days seem to be marketing and smokescreen to me. Nobody is actually arguing in favor of socialism anymore – so to staple that label on someone is simple schoolyard name calling.
This idea that we should preferentially select leaders who are proud and belligerent in their ignorance – this one is really dangerous.
This is the distilled and purified form of the “just another guy,” “one of us,” and “like to have a beer with ‘im,” genre. It’s the idea that you should elect the good ole boy rather than the college grad. The PTA / Hockey mom rather than the lawyer. The dude in the pickup truck rather than the woman with a career of civil service. Oddly enough, this awful idea is being advanced by the party most likely to object strongly to any form of affirmative action over the past few decades.
These ideas are not all bad in their generic strengths. I do support charismatic national and local leaders. I think that if all else were truly equal – a leader who was unlikable and unpersuasive would be a poor choice. What I’m talking about is the scorn of the football team for the national honor society. “NEEEERDS,” cry the Tea Party, “DWEEEEEBS!”
Is this really what it comes down to? Churchill said something to the effect that the biggest problem with Democracy is that you get who they pick.
A friend recently described the current political situation as one where, “we’ve got a guy in the White House capable of more nuance than anyone in recent memory, and a political culture that can’t deal with any nuance at all.” Our current mode of political discourse does not encourage nuance. It’s the sound bite rather than the thought. The thought rather than the argument. The argument rather than the philosophy.
I don’t know what to do – but if the majority of voters decide to consistently vote against the smart people – I suspect that we’ll make some seriously bone-headed moves in the next few years.