Thursday, October 21, 2010


Political Mayhem Thursday: Is there a problem with electing Senators who aren't very smart?

It sure looks like Republicans are going to clean up in the coming elections. At this point, the question seems only to be the degree of the victory.

One thing that happens when a party wins big is that some of their fringe elements get carried along for the ride. 2006, for example-- that guy from Orleans got carried in with the Democratic tide.

This year, the Republican fringe is along for the ride. One of the more interesting people on that fringe is Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell of Delaware. There is a controversy over a debate in which she denied that separation of church and state is in the Constitution. She is right, of course: The First Amendment does not literally use those words, only that the government cannot establish a religion. Subsequently, Supreme Court opinions have said that there is some measure of separation of church and state required by that Establishment Clause. However, many people think that is a mistake-- that separation isn't really what the framers of the Constitution intended.

There are some legal fine points there which politicians often gloss over. O'Donnell, though, (who has claimed to be a Constitutional scholar) seems to have gotten to that conclusion without the intermediate muckety-muck. Her conclusion may be legitimate; what isn't clear is whether she ever sorted things out to get to that conclusion, but rather just bought into a sound bite.

Is it important to have smart people in elected office-- who can come to the conclusion, and go through the reasoning process that gets you from here to there?

I'm sure her opinions on separation of church and state would be a lot different if the "church" in question was Islam.

I generally don't like Bill Maher, but I like what he had to say about it: "Christine O'Donnell should be flattered that anyone is asking her questions about the Constitution; six months ago the only question anyone was asking her was 'where's the rent?'"

Bottom line, being a US Senator is one of the most powerful jobs on the planet. Merely being "not stupid" isn't going to cut it.
Christine "Dabbled in Witchcraft" O'Donnell represents the worst kind of conservatism...where an informed opinion is defined as 12+ hours of combined Limbaugh/Hannity/Beck weekly listenership. That's worse than worshiping the Aqua Buddha!

I am constantly astounded by her blind, obstinate defense of positions she clearly does not fully understand and her close-minded commitment to a "cause" she cannot articulate.

Yes, a senator should memorize the Constitution! In fact, if more of them did maybe the people writing O'Donnell's talking points wouldn't have so much to complain about. In addition, any "constitutional scholar" (tongue firmly in cheek) must acknowledge and defend the role of the courts in our federal gov't.

All these accusations of judicial activism have become a tired excuse for legislative failures. If restraint characterizes the ideal judge/justice then such hyperbolic ambitions as overturning Roe v. Wade should be off the table.

Don't mistake my denunciation of O'Donnell's idiotic candidacy as an endorsement for her opponent. As is often the case in our dichotomous political world--this is a rock and a hard place sort of choice. Though if I were simply voting on brains (or the ability to know when you hole is sufficiently deep), Coons takes the day.
Yes, intelligence should be a requirement for holding public office.

Sadly, neither party seems all that keen on the idea.

I think the election is still in the "toss-up" category at this point. Anyone remember the bet I made? We should find that post.
Why not make intelligence a requirement to vote then? How bout a test of minimum basic skills? (Don't pass TAKS or whatever it is now, you don't get to vote?)

Being the Constitutional scholar that I am, I can certainly point to no where in the Constitution that says the framers wanted only smart people to run the government. You find it there and I'll back it.

Certainly governing has become more complicated than when those supposedly smart "framers" wrote the thing up. Enlightened as they may have been they never grappled with issues like we have today.

And since they didn't forsee the issues, they were obviously dumber than the people we have running the government, or have had running the government, since their time.
By the way Lane, I'm still sticking to my prediction for the election. I'll count on Osler to create a character in his video series on my Nostradamus like predictions.
I agree with Dallas_ADA, although the Framers' intent should be given some weight, we also have to take into account the fact that these were also men who thought it was perfectly ok to own other human beings. Not everything they said or intended should apply today.
It's hard to watch that video without laughing.
I'm amazed at the amount of coverage that race is getting nationwide. She made a dumb comment ten years ago. She's made dumb moves since. She clearly isn't the smartest candidate. And the people of Delaware seem to get that. She's trailing in the polls by somewhere between 11 and 21 points. She's going to get trounced. On second thought, I'm not amazed. She's low-hanging fruit, targeted easily and made the poster child for a "fringe" movement.

Of course candidates should be smart. They're tackling problems that are enormous and affect millions of people. I want intelligent, rational people in office that can comprehend the magnitude of the decisions being made and consider options carefully and completely before making conclusions. Does anybody know where we can find those people?

Since that's the real question posed today, I'll stop there and leave the separation of church and state question for another day.
"I am obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University."

-William F. Buckley

And I agree with him. That isn't to say that I don't like my elected representatives to be smart. I do. The problem is twofold. First, really smart people, like genuinely intelligent, thoughtful, knowledgable people, don't run for office. And that is because they are actually doing things. Building things. Inventing things. Writing books. Etc. And why would anyone that is genuinely smart ever want to become involved in politics and deal with all of that nonsense. The best and the brightest don't end up in political office. At the very best, they end up being the person standing next to the person running for political office and pulling the strings on some pretty faced politician.

Second, and more importantly and really the heart of what Buckley was getting at, it is an awful idea to let the elites, and only the elites, run the government. What Buckley was saying is not that the faculty at Harvard was stupid (though I'm sure he would have described them as "overrated" when it came to intellectual prowess) but that given their narrow worldview, their insulated understanding of issues, their single-mindedness when it came to political thought, and their general belief that they knew better than all others when it came to solving any problem that he didn't trust them. If you get 100 senators elected who all have generally the same education and live in the same cultural strata it will inevitably create a culture of sameness, which will be defined by cicular logic and a total failure to appreciate outsiders or outside thought.

So, maybe stupid isn't so great, but plucking the elites from their ivory tower to rule isn't a solution either.
So, maybe stupid isn't so great, but plucking the elites from their ivory tower to rule isn't a solution either.

We generally save that for the Supreme Court.
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The disasterous economic consequences of the RRL tyranny period (2005-2008) are starting to make more sense-- when he picked people at random to run the nation's financial systems.
Also, though it's completely irrelevant, I'd just like to point out that Christine O'Donnell's dad was Bozo the Clown. How did I miss this?
Justin is a Cracked reader. I knew it.

Also, I said "intelligent," not "educated." lots of stupid people with Ivy League degrees. Lots of smart people who have no formal schooling.
Ha! I don't read Cracked regularly because they plagiarize the hell out of other websites, but someone shared that article in my Google Reader feed and that part caught my eye.
I associate myself with RRL's remarks. Brilliant! Exactly right.
Did the corporations decide to pay for smart people?
Smart; not smart? I want Senators with some common sense and who can show some dignity and openness of mind when dealing with opposing ideas.
I'm almost willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, in that many of the teabaggers seem to think of "The Constitution" as only the original seven Articles, exclusive of the Amendments.

In that light, then, the separation of church and state as we have come to know it isn't "in the Constitution."

But that's utter BS, of course, because the Amendments DO exist. And I'm not sure we as a nation want to go back to the days of the "three-fifths clause."
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