An Independent Indiana voter interviewed on NPR claims that he's torn between McCain & Obama, and may resort to a flip of a coin in the voting booth. That is the problem with the so-called wisdom of the common people: It's just not that wise.
Certain kinds of politicians talk about reaching out to Joe Sixpack, "main street common sense" and the "wisdom of real people" as though being educated or accomplished were self-evident signs of moral inferiority, or as though having simply completed high school and working at an entry-level job for twenty years conferred a kind of purity. Use too many "three-dollar words" or have a "big fat resume" and you're an elitist. I'm hope the following post contains sufficient evidence to charge me as such...
The Republican strategy in the 2000s seems to be to put forth candidates who look "just like me" to voters. I am a bright enough guy, but I don't want someone just like me in the White House. I want someone who is much more intelligent than I am, better versed in foreign & domestic affairs, more mature, even-tempered, responsible and informed. In short, I don't want the President to be my equal, I want the president to be my superior in as many respects as possible.
As Americans, we are told from childhood that anyone can grow up to be President.
This was intended to express the boundless opportunities in Our Great Land, the equality of every citizen, the promise of civilian leadership and democratic principles. Oh, and to encourage kids to do well in school, set their goals high and work hard to develop themselves to the point that they could be qualified to be the President.
Also, I think it was supposed to bolster our self-esteem.
A brief digression, if you don't mind: Americans' self-esteem seemed to require a lot of bolstering from about the 1970s through the late 1990s. I don't know why, honestly. The charge most often leveled against Americans abroad is that we're loud, obnoxious, arrogant boors. Sounds like we needed our self-esteem knocked down a couple of pegs, not raised up!
Then again, perhaps the reason that we're seen as a bunch of spoiled brats is that the self-esteem support effort carried out for the benefit of the Baby Boomers was simply too successful? Maybe not: the image of the overbearing boorish American predates the Boomer Booster project by several generations.
An unintended consequence of that project may be that one candidate for ultra-high office appears to be just "anyone." In fact, her presence at the top of her party's ticket is convincing the rest of the world — at least Australians — that Inteligence is a dirty word in America:
Intelligence is now viewed as a threat. Isn't that how Pol Pot operated? Meanwhile, the Republican lobby put pressure on the [VP] debate moderator not to go heavy on foreign policy, perhaps fearing that just avoiding intellectual humiliation would be seen as victory.
Here's another way of looking at it: perhaps we've interpreted our country's equality of all promise so that we've forgotten that world leaders should be qualitatively different from the rest of us. Call me elitist, but I want the guy with the "nuclear football" to be able to pronounce the word "nuclear".
Some take fact that the Republican candidate for Vice-President looks and talks and shoots and thinks like any of a dozen High-Powered Working Moms that you might see pickin' up their brood in the Suburban at the Junior High is a sign that we have arrived, that we have delivered on the promise of equality. I take it as a sign that we got it backwards:
What we missed was the part of the "anybody can grow up to be President" narrative that encourage kids to do well in school, set their goals high and work hard to develop themselves to the point that they could be worthy to be President. Just because anybody can grow up to be President doesn't mean that anybody should.
We weren't supposed to throw "just anybody" into the top offices in the land. We were supposed to have more kids who grew up to be qualified to rule the world. Instead of expecting more and more out of our candidates, we lowered the bar instead.
It used to be that the signs of a leader were thoughtfulness, deliberation and the ability to consider of multiple points of view. Nuance used to be a quality readily recognized and worthy of praise. It demanded something of both the speaker and listener. Diplomacy used to be the way smart people approached difficult situations. Now, using the word "nuance" marks you as a self-superior snob, someone who "ain't like me", and diplomacy is capitulation. A willingness "sit down to negotiate without preconditions" shows that a candidate does not have his country's best interests at heart and is probably a terrorist.
A thoughtful coworker today said that she was thankful for the electoral college, because it puts the final selection of the president in the hands of a small cadre (538, in this election cycle) of elite individuals who may choose any person eligible for the Presidency, but generally vote for the candidate to whom their vote is pledged. This puts a remarkable amount of power into a very few hands: I want those hands to belong to educated, aware, thoughtful, serious-minded people. I don't even want the Electoral College to look like me.