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April 21, 2015

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Reveling in ignorance: Fashionable but dangerous

A friend of mine Facebooked this little dart of insight the other day: “America doesn’t need better leaders. It needs better followers.”

A little glib, sure, but dead-on about where we are as an electorate as the front bumper of Election Day bears down on us — accepting, often rewarding, even celebrating candidates and figureheads who espouse nut job views, reject legitimate expertise, embrace ignorance.

Obviously I’m talking about Sarah Palin, who, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd says, “has made ignorance fashionable.”

Obviously I’m talking about Sharron Angle, whose comments about Second Amendment remedies and government as idolatry are only two exhibits on a long evidence table of ridiculousness.

Obviously, I’m talking about Christine O’Donnell, the Tea Party Republican vying for a Senate seat in Delaware. She uncorked this stunner during a recent debate: “Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” Never mind that you could stock a law library with the decisions and scholarship on this issue — the word “separation” doesn’t appear in the First Amendment. So O’Donnell, a major party’s candidate for a full-time job as a member of an incredibly select lawmaking body, had to ask.

In a reasonable world, we the people would have hooted these folks out of the public square. Instead, Palin’s making bank yowling “Obamacare” to cheering crowds. O’Donnell, behind in the polls, remains a Tea Party darling. And Angle, according to pollster Nate Silver, has the edge in Nevada. Accepted, rewarded, celebrated.

I get that people are confused and cheesed-off by the gridlock of status-quo politics. In a lot of cases, that’s not unreasonable.

But there’s a dangerous notion at work here, that the less tainted you are by actual knowledge of how government works, or by an accurate grasp of history, or by a belief in science, the better politician you’ll make. Empowered by gut feelings about right and wrong, you’ll barge into Congress and feed those D.C. slicksters a fresh batch of common sense.

It’s an appealing and very American trope, of course — the elevated everyman, the natural talent called out of the crowd to win the homecoming game — but it buys into a bogus notion of authenticity as the opposite of expertise. Thus the pervasive sense that many Tea Partyers and their leaders are smug about what they don’t know.

“It’s one thing to distrust expertise,” author Charles P. Pierce told me last year; he had just published “Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free.” It’s a terrific book that, among other things, reminds us that this kind of anti-intellectualism has had a long history, and many manifestations, in this country.

“It’s another thing,” he continues, “to simply say that because someone has spent his life dealing with something, he’s less to be relied upon than how I feel about it.”

Which, of course, is pretty much where we are. Yeats nailed it, all the way back in 1919, in “The Second Coming”: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” (They should give him a show on CNN.)

This isn’t a brief in favor of incumbents. Experience doesn’t automatically render you useful. Newcomers with new ideas are fine; hell, they’re essential. But it’s also essential that they take the idea of governance seriously. Government is hard. It’s a hugely complex tangle of interlocking systems, protocols and processes. It needs serious people to make it work.

So when Sharron Angle offers a broad, categorical applause line like, “Government isn’t the solution, government is the problem,” she’s really describing a dead-end philosophy that won’t actually help anyone.

And yet: accepted, rewarded, celebrated.

My Facebook friend realizes, of course, that we do need better leaders, but that the ball is in the people’s court. We have to ask ourselves if the best way to get things done is by sending in people who don’t know how to do things.

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  1. Scott, a lack of government is assumed to mean chaos in the streets.

    Isn't that basically what we would have now...without blogs for venting, while slowly starving?

    Democracy has evolved into nothing more, than glorified Fascism with (as usual) a ruling, elite class.

    But this time, we may have dug a hole, too deep to be extricated from. (As a matter of fact, I'm sure we have)

    Neither party has solutions because they don't understand; nor do they care to understood...the root problems.

    Reid, Angle, an obscure 3rd for "no solution" people is merely an exercise in futility.

    Technological "behavioral control" devices and modernly-armed automatons (armed forces & police) have "sealed the deal" and probably our demise.

    Listen to the "disjointed" rantings and even meticulously detailed, delusional presentations in the blogs.

    These are 21st century people (products of automated thinking) demonstrating that even a pretense of social evolution has ceased.

    Doom & gloom or positive / negative thinking are IMPERTINENT to reality.

    We are in the third phase of Democracy's evolution...Of the Systems, By the Systems, For the Systems.

    People are no longer in the loop...just sitting at keyboards (like me), waiting for the hammer to come down.

    That would be the 4th phase...Extinction of the People, by the Systems.

    Okay...let's hear an intelligent rebuttal from the peanut gallery. LOL

  2. Sgt Rock...thank you for your detailed and VERY CONVINCING rebuttal.

    I think, I can guess where you keep your "rock." LOL

  3. Hey're right about the human, political tools, but "extreme" is on the way and coming to a theater near you.

    Good eye...but look deeper, past the flashing lights, party images and loud noises...into tomorrow.

    There's a monster, growling in the mix, but it doesn't have a name or solid, recognizable shape yet...because it isn't humane or even human.

    ...but good eye. Keep watching.

  4. cnev...explain.

  5. The political parties certainly know that most voters are ignorant of the facts. And the Republican machine is much more effective at using that against Democrats than the converse. (The Republican machine is much more effective at defining the conversation.)

    How many times will we see Angle's ad or JanK's and others' posts asking how Harry Reid got so rich from a government job when in fact he was worth $1.8 million before joining the Senate and announced that fact in his initial disclosure in 1987?

    How many times will people commenting here ask how Reid could afford a condo worth $3.5 or $4 million when in fact (a) it cost $750,000 when he bought it and (b) it is valued at $1 million?

    How many times will people commenting here proclaim loudly that we need LESS REGULATIONS while also proclaiming loudly that the Democrats blocked MORE REGULATIONS on Fannie and Freddie while the Republicans were in control of Congress and White House?

    How many times will people cut and paste nonsense from emails they've received or websites they believe to be true?

    How many more times will commenters claim the Congress determines the COLA for Social Security or votes for pay raises?

    How many more times will Angle claim she didn't say something we have on a recording or say it's out of context when we've heard it in context? (BTW, for those who like to bring up Reid's statements, has Reid denied making them?)

    How many times will people here comment on McCain's shoes?

    How many times will people our elected officials and candidates "Comrade"?

    How many times will people call the Democrats and Republicans Socialists, Communists, or Fascists since it's obvious that the people using the terms have no idea what those terms actually mean?

    How many times will people here claim that the Democrats rank third behind fire and the wheel?

    How many more times will people commenting here call me a liberal or a socialist or some other name? Or claim "You are a political party partisan"? Or that I profess my love of Reid? (please cite that one with date and time)

  6. fascism - a political philosophy, movement or regime that exalts nation and often race and stands for a centralized, autocratic often militaristic government.

    NATION - God Bless America (except New Jersey, of course) : flag wavers & 4th of July (for validation)

    Albert: 'Nationalism (patriotism) is an infantile disease.'

    RACE - damn Mexicans and illegals taking our jobs!

    Did you hear that Osama is a MUSLIM?!!

    The CHINESE are outproducing us with slave labor! And we set OUR slaves free...oh no!

    AUTOCRACY - which party leader do you want, hovering over your life...this time?

    Go Harry or Sharron...or...whoever!

    MILITARISTIC GOVERNMENT - time to pack your bags and grab your rifles, boys (and girls) and head to Iraq to install a new puppet government.

    And be careful! Each of you is worth at least 100 barrels of oil with all that training, we invested in you. Hoo-yah!

    Fascism - it's the ONLY WAY to fly!!!

    Are we having fun yet?

  7. Mr. Dickensheets...

    Your observations are, IMHO, not only absolutely correct, but will be proven out over, and over, and over, and OVER! ALL DAY LONG, right here in The Sun's comment section.
    Have fun with that!!!

  8. Ignorance IS bliss...
    and it's EASIER!!!

  9. Scott - it's obvious YOU are fashionably ignorant and you are the person Obama and Harry Reid love to love. You need to actually READ the constitution. You need to actually READ the health care initiative. I suppose you'd love it, for the government to make monumental decisions for you like whether or not you're worthy of an operation to save your life. Taxing you right out of your home and employment. Taking away your right to free speech (which will happen) as well as all our inalienable rights GUARANTEED us by the Bill of Rights. I suggest you educate yourself on why, in 1776, our FREE country was created and our forefathers fought so hard to give us that freedom! Your entire article was complete liberal spin without the usual. Whatever it was you set out to accomplish in this article will only do the reverse! Thanks for the help, bro!

  10. Sgt Rock...I shouldn't have jumped so fast, no apology necessary.

    But it's disturbing to see how many people are being sucked into this void.

    Geezelouise. YES, the lab results are in and the experiment was and still is a total failure.

    But what would you expect of a constitution based on OLD English common law?

    But geeze, we have all these lab rats, running all over the place! LOL

    Riddle: What do you call a constitutional amendment?

    Answer: an "Oh yeah! I almost forgot about that human rights thingee!" afterthought.

  11. The most important answer in Las Vegas is: Who won the football game! If Sharron Angle wins, then the freedom loving Koch brothers win!

    Big industry and Big Media wins. Karl Rove will have Harry Reid's Scalp! It is OK if we become the laughingstock of the world. If we as workers and voters continue to keep our eyes wide shut, we will continue on our path to serfdom.

  12. Dickensheets -- I've got a few bones to pick with you on your opinion offered here:

    "...about Sharron Angle, whose and government as idolatry are only two exhibits on a long evidence table of ridiculousness."

    To my knowledge her "comments about Second Amendment remedies" though unpopular were right on. The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in last June's McDonald v. City of Chicago examined the Second Amendment's history, which included this gem in footnote 33 -- " enacted, the Second Amendment was concerned with tyrants and invaders..."

    Angle's "government as idolatry" was just an opinion, perhaps pandering to her large church-going crowd. And she might have been right.

    Your comments about Christine O'Donnell and her "Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" was just ignorant. Constitutional debate on this point seems to have originated with an 1802 letter from Thomas Jefferson and is still actively debated -- the U.S. Supremes last covered that in 2005's Van Orden v. Perry.

    Last -- "It's an appealing and very American trope, of course -- the elevated everyman, the natural talent called out of the crowd to win the homecoming game -- but it buys into a bogus notion of authenticity as the opposite of expertise."

    Look where "expertise" has got us.

    My hope is this Tea Party movement gives our beloved republic what it's needed badly for quite some time -- our entire federal government completely rebooted back to its mandated Constitutional limits.

    Your opening line -- "America doesn't need better leaders. It needs better followers." -- may be the only truth in this piece. The rest seems to be just your effort to sound clever for the herd.

    "There are two kinds of people who stand out in the United States today: sheep and wolves. Sheep stay in their herd and follow their shepherd without questioning where he is leading them. Sheep trust that the shepherd looks out for their safety" Wolves, on the other hand, do not aimlessly follow a shepherd" Wolves question the shepherd and act in a way that forces the shepherd also to question his decisions. Wolves challenge government regulations, reject government assistance, and demand that the government recognize and protect their natural rights..." -- Judge Andrew P. Napolitano "A Nation of Sheep" page 10

  13. Meanwhile, the Democrats revel in servitude. No thanks.

    Is the Sun going to fold after the election, or are they relocating to Searchlight with Harry?

  14. Excellent points, but this essay could have been written more generally (and more effectively) rather than specifically about conservative or so-called Tea Party candidates. Celebrated ignorance that translates into polemic, argumentative politics is the nature of both major parties, particularly during the past 14 years. In fact, the left is often just as blind to reality as the right. In the adapted words of Chris Rock, Americans love not to know.

  15. "KillerB, it's funny to me that you quoted Napolitano, a Fox News contributor and former government employee, on wolves and sheep. As a metaphor, it's pretty bad."

    sbibg -- you're being very simplistic about Napolitano. He wasn't just a "government employee," he was a sitting judge for nearly a decade. I've read his "Constitutional Chaos" and have his other books on my reading list. Although I despise Fox News I do find he is spot on in nearly all his comments.

    So how's this for a better quote --

    "Among the [European governments], under pretence of governing they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves & sheep. I do not exaggerate. This is a true picture of Europe. ... If once [our people] become inattentive to the public affairs, you & I, & Congress & Assemblies, judges & governors shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions; and experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor." -- Thomas Jefferson, from his letter to Edward Carrington, Paris, Jan. 16, 1787 (found in The Works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 5 (Correspondence 1786-1787))

  16. Well Scott, you're right. But, that's the only way an oligarchy can work. It can only thrive on ignorance and greed. Unfortunately, this so-called Democracy can only be revived by another generation, that hopefully reads history and understands it, or at least reads, or has some vague idea of history. More importantly, they will also know that real brains can be possessed by men or women, regardless of race, creed, or gender identity. So far, we have female Tea Party candidates strategically chosen by men (Rove & Co.), and subservient women, who really believe that women are 2nd class citizens and are inferior to their male counterparts.

  17. After re-reading the quote "America doesn't need better leaders. It needs better followers." I have calmed down and opined the following:

    Actually in a nutshell, this is exactly what is wrong with America......... too many sheep. We need more leaders and less victims. We need more responsibility and less dependence. We need fewer poverty pimps and more entrepreneurship.

    In short, we need less progressivism (see nanny-state) and more backbone. Less Democrats/Republicans and more Independents.

    Our great nation can rise again if we dare take it back from the career politicians and the special interest groups that have obfuscated the process beyond belief.

  18. First off, sgibg.... GOOD JOB!

    "America doesn't need better leaders. It needs better followers."

    One of the best statements that I have read all election season. The downfall of America is not our leaders, but Americans their self.

    Stop asking what your county can do for you and start doing for yourself and things will get much better.

    Everyone wants less government but then they keep asking the government to do everything for them.

    Step up folks, carry your own weight, act like adults and get ahead in life.

    I know from personal experience it can be done but you have to do it yourself and stop expecting everyone else to take care of you and give you what you want.

  19. getalife (good handle BTW)

    That's the problem in a nutshell, isn't it?

    The government 'process has been obfuscated beyond belief.'

    But I with great sorrow add...also well beyond repair.

    If you carefully review the basic, original foundation of Democracy, you will find numerous cracks, that have inevitably widened with time.

    Every Democratic political position can be likened to the positions in a Monarchy.

    Our two party system is barons to the left and right of the pampered, delusional king (and also the true power behind the illusion of a throne)

    Civilizations worldwide and world-wise need to slam on the brakes and skillfully change direction...That's Brakeout.