There has always existed a segment of the American populace that, for want of a better phrase, has been a few fries short of a Happy Meal. Think back to your high school days. You had the smart kids and those not-so-bright-kids who knew they were intellectually challenged and pretty much kept to themselves. They didn’t run for class president, student council, or want to be editor of the school newspaper. Those things were for the nerdy smart kids.
“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” – Albert Einstein
I guess you could say that the advent of rap music really pushed the concept of “dumb is cool” to the forefront. What started off as an innocent new form of music… think DJ Jazzy Jeff ‘s “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and then think of Snoop Dog’s “Gin and Juice” with such memorable lyrics as “I got bitches in the living room gettin it on and, they ain’t leavin til six…So what you wanna do, sheeeit! I got a pocket full of rubbers and my homeboys do too.”
The new music, which started out as fun and harmless, quickly turned into gangsta rap with all its ebonics and anti-intellectualism. White kids started dressing like inner city blacks, emulating their speech and glorifying street-smart over book-smart.
But the seminal moment when dumb became cool in politics came during George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000. The man talked as if he had marbles in his mouth … and a few missing in his brain. I remember thinking to myself, “This must be a joke. Who would vote for this clown?”
I was waiting on line at my bank in 1999 when I looked up at the TV monitor overhead. It was an interview of Bush with WHDH-TV, the NBC affiliate in Boston. The interviewer surprised Bush with a pop quiz. Bush was asked to name the leaders of four countries …Chechnya, Taiwan, India and Pakistan.
Bush managed to score a 25%, getting the Taiwan leader partly right.
That fiasco drew immediate criticism from the Al Gore camp, which said that Gore could have answered all four questions correctly. “I guess we know that ‘C’ at Yale was a gentleman’s ‘C,'” said Gore spokesman Chris Lehane, referring to the way Bush had described his academic record.
The Bush campaign brushed off the incident.
“The person who is running for president is seeking to be the leader of the free world, not a Jeopardy contestant,” said Karen Hughes, Bush communications director. “I would venture to guess that 99.9 percent of most Americans and probably most candidates could not answer who is the president of Chechnya,” Hughes added.
That incident began what I think would later become known as the “gotcha question.” After watching Bush try to answer the reporter’s questions, I remember thinking to myself, “Bush is toast.” But I was so wrong!
Many viewers felt sorry for George Bush. They thought the Gore camp acted too disparagingly at Bush’s ambush. Fox News was all over it. How dare that snarky reporter ask Bush such tough questions!
So, for the rest of the campaign, Bush was the sympathetic nice guy you’d like to have a beer with and Gore became Mr. Smarty pants; the brainiac who was probably his high school’s class president!
Smart had become dumb and dumb had become smart, at least to Mr. John Q. Public. What happened in 2000 set the stage for all the low-IQ politicians to follow. I would name a few of those clown-politicians here but the list is so long I would not know where to start.
“No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.” – Henry Louis Mencken
We have entered a new age in America. The not-so-bright-kids sitting at the back of the room have realized they out-number the smart kids and have decided it is now their turn to be in charge. God help us. Welcome to the moron majority!