Tuesday, April 22, 2008

WANTED- President. MENSA members need not apply

The message that “intellect is important” has become a tough-sell in the modern United States. Maybe this was always the case. After all, ever since the earliest days of the American Revolution, the new nation saw itself, partly, as a kind of thumb-in-the-eye response to the obnoxious and snooty European aristocracies. “America,” we were told, “celebrated the common man,” although it’s doubtful that anyone ever knew, precisely, just what that phrase meant. What sustained us, however, and what allowed us to prosper beyond anything the world had ever seen was the fact that we selected leaders who were just a little bit smarter than the common man. There was a time, not so long ago, that we actually wanted to be governed by the best and the brightest.

Sometime during the 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton or one of his strategists had the bright idea to position candidate Clinton as something of a common man. It worked like magic. Voters were told by pundits that they seemed to rally around Clinton because he was “like them.” He didn’t talk like FDR or Eisenhower or JFK. In fact, he didn’t talk like any previous presidential contender or president. He was the kindly and folksy Sheriff of Mayberry and we were all little Opie Taylors. The ground had shifted, and future presidential aspirants would now be judged on how much they were like the voters—the common man.

It should have come as no surprise, then, that George W. Bush failed to measure up in intellect or performance when faced with 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina, and massive Mexican immigration, and skyrocketing oil prices. His election was based in part on the fact that he was like the voters, people who were easily blindsided by adjustable rate mortgages, people who were unlikely to be attending MENSA meetings. In a nation where 25% of high school students drop out before graduation, we need to ask the question, “Do we really want our president to be just like us?”

We are now faced with the candidacy of a man who makes no pretense at being just like the voters. On top of that, he’s black. And because he speaks in complete and eloquent sentences, there is the suspicion that he might be an “uppity” black, with none of the comforting Uncle Remus qualities that made Bill Clinton our honorary first black president. This new black candidate has been labeled (dare I say it?) an “elitist.” For eight years we’ve seen the destruction that defined the presidency of a pseudo cowboy with a room-temperature I.Q. God forbid that we should now raise an “elitist” to the presidency. Is there any possible way that an unvarnished elitist could be worse than a "decider" shooting from the hip like a common man. I have a message for the American voters. The fact that we’ve never been a particularly cerebral populace should not condemn us to be forever governed by nitwits.

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