A Nation of Simpletons

When I first arrived in the United States, I remember watching the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite do a report over the enactment of a law prohibiting open containers for drivers in Texas. At that time, it was legal to drink alcohol while driving in 11 states and according to the report one could drive from New Mexico to Florida beer in one hand, steering wheel in the other. This report has stuck in my mind these now 30 plus years for the reaction of a woman when asked about the law which was then about to take effect. Beer in hand, cigarette in mouth, this tank topped graced woman offered the view that the enactment of this law marked the fact that America was becoming "a communist country." My reaction then was geez what a simpleton.

That was pretty much my reaction when I saw this little ditty composed and performed by former Saturday Night Live cast member Victoria Jackson:

Unfortunately, the above isn't satire. She's serious. By her own self-admission, even her parents think she's crazy. But millions in the Tea Party movement beg to differ.

And my reaction to reading that a poll by James Carville run Democracy Corps (pdf) finds that 55 percent of likely voters believe that the word "socialist" describes the president either "well" or "very well" was did they just poll morons or we can now safely assume that most Americans just that ignorant. I have to ask how many of these people can actually define what socialism is or means. 

Over at Salon, Steve Kornacki finds that these results are "actually not all that surprising" and that we shouldn't be "alarmed" by them.

The first thing to keep in mind is that we're talking about likely midterm voters, which means that the sample is skewed to include more Republican-friendly voters, who are more likely to turn out in November. This is what always happens in midterm elections: The out party's base is more motivated.

Of course, this only accounts for a few extra points. As the poll shows, even when the pool is broadened, the number of voters who describe their president as a socialist is quite high. But maybe this has always been the case? The right has been screaming about Obama's "socialism" since the summer of 2008 (at least) -- long before he was elected, long before he was sworn in, and long before he signed a single piece of legislation. In other words, the right reached its conclusion before there was any evidence. (This is the "thinking with my gut" mentality that Stephen Colbert likes to mock.)

I can't immediately recall or find any polling from the '08 campaign about the Obama/socialism question. But it seems entirely possible that, even during that campaign, around 40 percent of the electorate would have described him as a socialist. This isn't to say that they knew what the term meant (or even how to spell it); they just latched onto it because it meshed with the emotions that Obama and his supporters stirred in them. And now the number has jumped, with some voters from outside the hardened GOP base joining in the name-calling.

Or perhaps we just live amongst simpletons who have been failed by the educational system and who are exploited for political ends by a self-serving elite that preaches freedom couched in economic terms based on an erroneous mantra that lower taxes translate into greater wealth ever while condemning an ever larger percentage of Americans into perpetual poverty even as they enrich themselves. Frankly, I am alarmed by the stupidity which surrounds me.

Tags: Socialism, US Social Issues, US Politics (all tags)

Comments

6 Comments

RE: A Nation of Simpletons

I would like to use the R word to describe Victoria Jackson, but I dont want the word police to censor me. Let's face it. She is a dimwit who has been on some reactionary 20 year zeal to cope with what I think are her feelings of exploitation in the entertainment industry.  She has been going downhill in terms of sanity in recent years. Even Dennis Miller hasn't gone as batshit crazy as this woman.

by Pravin 2010-07-10 06:12AM | 1 recs
by Nathan Empsall 2010-07-10 03:45PM | 0 recs
RE: A Nation of Simpletons

That's positively frightening. After viewing that one, I looked at some of his other offerings one on immigration and a second on Sarah Palin. 

What was the song that made him famous? The Streaker?

 

by Charles Lemos 2010-07-10 04:31PM | 0 recs
RE: A Nation of Simpletons

I dunno. Some of the non-political cornball stuff is like a failed attempt at some of the humor I actually like (Blue Collar Comedy Tour, etc.), but I'd never heard of him until I saw a cheap ad during the early AM rerun of Glenn Beck. I thought it was a joke until I saw how many hits he had on YouTube.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-07-10 04:53PM | 0 recs
RE: A Nation of Simpletons
I looked it up. His big hit was The Streak in 1974. Another hit was Ahab the Arab. A Gomer Pyle-esque homespun humour.
by Charles Lemos 2010-07-10 05:13PM | 0 recs
I think once again

progressives overestimated the intelligence of the American people. Conservatives win because they play to their stupidity. We appeal to intelligence. They appeal to family and go into churches and praise Jesus and convince people that because they praise Jesus, what they're saying is true and because liberals are areligious, they can't possibly be trusted, and in our puritanical religious society, it works. This forces our own elk to try to appeal to religion too, which angers social liberals

Americans are morons. They're nationalists and are fundamentally clueless about politics and policy, and they like it that way. They hate when you try to teach them anything, it implies that they're stupid, and they're Americans dammit! They can't be stupid. Most poweerful nation on earth, clearly we're smarter than everyone else.

Either way, I think we'd find ourselves in this precarious situation. What if there was a biggest stimulus and the economy would be doing better now? Obama would get credit from us, but not from Republicans and conservative leaning independents, who would be trying to give Bush the credit. A bigger stimulus would have led to a bigger deficit, which the media would blow completely out of proportion and we'd be stuck trying to satisfy popular fear over too much spending, which would surely alienate "the base" anyway and hamper efforts to pass HCR or Energy legislation, again alienating "the base"

It really doesn't matter who we elect or what we do, the American people are going to be reactionary and try to elect the best center-right government they can get. I'm pretty sure no matter what, we'd be losing big right now.

Progressives are irrelevant in American politics except for local elections, and even there they have to fight.

 

by DTOzone 2010-07-11 02:16PM | 0 recs

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