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  • The Anti-Smartypants Brigade

       September 24, 2004

    Recent polls show Wisconsin's incumbent Senator Russ Feingold with a scant 6 point lead over relative unknown Republican challenger Tim Michels.

    Some theorize that Michel's sudden strength is the result of Bush's lengthening coattails, but I have a different theory. Feingold is losing support because he's become a smartypants. In the past he's been successful because he's held himself above the fray. He was just too darn good to get involved in dirty politics. Now the message is a little different. It's the 'ole "My opponent doesn't have any political experience. He doesn't understand how things work here in the big city."

    And that's where he, and a lot of other politicians, make a big mistake. We don't want slick political insiders. We really want Jefferson Smith.

    So many successful American politicians have governed with the constant criticism that they weren't smart. In my lifetime alone, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger have all been portrayed by the press and their opponents as playing with less than a full deck.

    Whether those allegations are true or not, Americans keep voting for the anti-smartypants. Why is that? Is it, as some say, that the electorate is stupid? Do we vote only on personality? Is it really all about who we want to have a beer with?

    People far smarter than me have written about anti-intellectualism in American politics. But too many people wrap it up in terms of regionalism or class. It's more than just that. Americans don't vote for smartypants because we reject the notion that politicians know what's best for us. Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that we want politicians that we think are our intellectual inferiors, but rather that we want politicians that recognize that the best solutions to America's problems are not necessarily generated in Congress. As Ronald Reagan said, "The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would steal them away."

    To bring this back to the present, men like Russ Feingold and John F'ing Kerry are not just content with advocating government solutions to all problems, they also must ridicule those who disagree with that view. So Feingold can harp on his opponent's lack of "experience" and Kerry can mock Bush for not reading the newspaper (as if the President is better off getting his news from CBS rather than, say, the FBI and CIA). That's what brands them a smartypants. And hopefully it's what will also make them Election Day losers.

    Posted by at September 24, 2004 10:23 AM

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