PARKER: Stupid is as stupid does

Are Republicans stupid? This seems to be the question du jour. Chris Matthews entertained this idea with guests recently, pointing to several Republican presidential candidates as evidence. How else to explain why so many in the GOP seem proud of their know-nothingness, as Matthews put it?

As an example, he showed a clip of Texas Gov. Rick Perry bragging to an audience of students that he was in the top 10 in his graduating class of ... dumdeedumdeedumdeedum ... 13! Chortle, chortle. Or rather, yahoo and hell yeah!

We are reminded of George W. Bush making similar fun of himself by noting in a commencement speech that anyone can grow up to be president. Even a solid C student such as himself.

This sort of reverse braggadocio is mysterious to Democrats who pride themselves these days on being members of the "smart" party. Indeed, the Ivies do seem to be mass-producing Democrats these days, including the last two Democratic presidents. And, alas, even the most recent Republican president, though he seems not to have taken it, or himself, quite so seriously.

There are, of course, lots of ways to be smart and lots of ways to be dumb. We often talk about book smarts and street smarts, as though the two are mutually exclusive. We know from experience that brilliant book people can be nincompoops when it comes to common sense, while people lacking formal education can be brilliant problem-solvers.

We know these things, yet we seem to have fallen in love with the notion that only book smarts matter when it comes to the nation's problems. At least Democrats have. Republicans, despite having a few brainiacs in their midst, have taken the opposite approach, emphasizing instead the value of being just regular folk. In GOP circles, being an ordinary American is viewed as superior to being one of those egg-headed elitists.

GOP pop quiz: With whom would you rather roll your dice -- a Harvard lawyer who wants government to bankroll jobs through higher taxes? Or a Texas A&M grad/Air Force pilot who has successfully run one of the largest states in the country?

Distilled, this is really a brains-vs.-gut question -- erudite theorist vs. plainspoken doer -- not that the two need be mutually exclusive. Would it be too much to ask that a well-read mind come packaged in a human vessel that also has had some experience in the trenches of ordinary life?

It is noteworthy that Democrats tend to think that government can solve most problems, while Republicans prefer the thought that individuals unencumbered by meddlesome government do the better job. Extrapolating, then, "smart" folks would rather rely on bureaucrats, while "stupid" people prefer to rely on themselves. Again, might some combination of the two -- smart government that incentivizes self-reliance -- work best of all?

Republicans have earned some of the ridicule aimed their way. Many are willing to dumb themselves down to win the support of the party's base, preferring to make fun of evolution and global warming rather than take the harder route of explaining, for example, that a "theory" when applied to evolution has a specific scientific meaning. It isn't just some random idea cooked up in a frat house.

It is far easier to say what is pleasing to the ear than what is true. Even so, anyone who thinks Republicans are stupid is missing the point. What those dummies Bush and Perry have in common, other than having been Texas governors, pilots and cheerleaders (what is it with Texas?), is that they're not stupid at all.

This doesn't mean they're right about everything or even most things. But they're smart enough to know that most people in this country didn't go to Ivy League colleges -- or any college for that matter. Most haven't led privileged lives of any sort, but nonetheless have unspoiled hearts and are willing to help any who would help themselves.This is the essence of the so-called ordinary American. Self-reliant, individualistic, entrepreneurial, neighborly and strong. These people come in both Republican and Democratic flavors, though we've somehow lost sight of that in these hyper-partisan, sound-bite times.

Until someone emerges to remind Americans of who they are in a way that neither insults their intelligence nor condescends to their less- fortunate circumstances, smart money goes to the "stupid" politicians, who are dumb as foxes and happy as clams when their opponents misunderestimate them.

Email nationally syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker at kathleenparker@washpost.com. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/kathleenparker.


Jan 3 years, 6 months ago

Very good column, thank you for pointing out what should be obvious to everyone. Republicans are catering to the poorly informed, under educated and super wealthy businesses and individuals. To see the miss direction, just look at O'reilly:Feeling Poor?... where he talks about taxes in New York but wants to compare that to a national median income of $50,000 instead of the higher $55,000 median income and $95,000 average household income in New York. His hammering of sales tax is misleading for it is the Republicans that push for higher sales taxes for they know that it shifts the tax burden from their wealthy supporters onto the backs of the poor. While he clearly states the median income is $50,000 for the nation, he wants you to believe that middle class income is $250,000. He is trying to convince the people that his taxes and everyone else in the top brackets needs to be lowered while he claims to be concerned with those the 50% of the population with household incomes below $50,000, with a maximum federal income tax burden of $3800 for a married earning national median household income. For those that question this, let me remind you that median is the exact center of population, 50% make more and 50% make less. Middle class, mathematically, would be those making more than 33% of the people and less than the top 33% of people. The best data I could find is for 1998. The table gives that 20% make less than $16,116 and 20% make more than $75,000. Hence, it is safe to say that the limits to the middle class will not exceed the $16,000 to $75,000 range. Only 5% have household income that exceeds $132,199 by this 1998 table.


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