Wednesday, June 28, 2006


(Some) Voters Are Stupid.

It is a politically verboten act to call voters stupid, particularly if you're a Democrat. You lose the populist high ground that way and open yourself up to charges of elitism (though of course, you'll be charged with elitism no matter what you do, so what the hell). You also call into question the wisdom of democracy, which is another matter altogether.

But verboten or no, there is a pretty hefty slice of voters who are, well ... let's say unsophisticated. Take as one example--and I've got a garbage truck full of more--the flag-burning amendment. (Gay marriage would work as well.) This will never become law, and except for in rare, impressively boneheaded cases, no legislator is seriously behind it. You roll out such a proposal for one reason: to distract voters from your misdeeds. There is no secret in this:
But as a strictly Machiavellian matter, as a sheerly political stunt, you have to admit that it's one of those peculiar gifts that keeps on giving. Republicans can bring it up every few years or so during an election year to torment Democrats and drive the New York Times and Jonathan Alter into a state of near-psychosis. Cynical? You betcha.
Since this won't become law, and since it is used cynically, we can only conclude that the reason it gets trotted out is because Republicans know that voters won't see through the ruse.

But, if it's verboten to mention it, how much more verboten should it be to actually commit it? In that case, you are not only calling the voters stupid, but depending on them not to notice, and further, to fail to notice that you aren't taking up serious legislation because you're using the country's time and money to manipulate stupid voters into voting for hacks who, had they to run on their own merits, would be tarred and feathered first.

And thus I slide further into cynicism as I watch these maneuvers play out weekly in Washington.

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