This is an election year. During an election year you expect to hear a great many things that you would ordinarily hear during an election year. You know, lies and exaggerations, things taken out of context, things like that. Such things are ordinary and expected. You hear them and you might think they contain a grain of truth or at least have some chance of being believed by someone, somewhere. This year, for reasons that are not entirely clear to me, there has been a rash of statements that transcend the usual electioneering garbage and are just flat out stupid. It is difficult to define precisely how it is that something goes beyond the usual to become truly stupid, the dividing line may not be very precise, but it seems to have something to do with how close any given claim comes to reality, or whether or not it contains within itself a clue to its intrinsic absurdity.
For example, when Mitt Romney says President Obama’s limitations or deficiencies or whatever, stem from his spending too much time at Harvard, and you are aware that Romney himself spent even more time at Harvard, you realize you are hearing something truly stupid. Similarly, when Romney claims that Obama is engaging in some sort of “hide and seek” behavior having to do with his plans for his second term, and you are aware that Romney has actually said he will not disclose his plans because if he did “he might be defeated,” you realize genuine stupidity once again. Even more stupid is Romney’s attempt to convince us that Obama has a (apparently secret) plan to do away with Medicare, when it is his own party that has such a (not at all) secret plan. Romney, I think, may be the worst offender when it comes to stupid claims, but he is not alone.
Consider the Vice-President of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, who claims that President Obama has a secret plan to take away our guns during his second term. There is not a shred of evidence for this claim, but LaPierre insists we must believe it for the sole reason that Obama has not already done it! This is stupid with a capital “S.” Or consider Nikki Haley’s recent claim that “Women are not interested in contraception.” As it is known that fully 98% of all American women have used contraception at some point during their lifetime, including even Catholic women, and as it is also known that Obama leads Romney by a huge margin because of Republican efforts to do away with contraception, one can only conclude this was a stupid claim, in fact, unbelievably stupid. Of course there are also the recent claims by Orin Hatch that Obama is going to attack Romney on the issue of his Mormonism, and Newt Gingrich’s claim that Obama will go after the Catholic Church after he is re-elected. There is no reason to believe either of these claims, no evidence to support them, and they therefore can easily be categorized as irresponsibly stupid.
None of the above even comes close to the stupidity of Reince Priebus’s claim the Republicans are not engaged in a “War on Women,” and the whole idea has just been manufactured by Democrats and the media. This remark is so distant from the reality right in front of us all you are forced to wonder if Priebus is even paying attention to his job. Sarah Palin’s suggestion that Romney might consider Allen West for VP, I guess might come close (I believe Nikki Haley also thinks West would be suitable). I will not even bother to mention things like the claims that Obama was not born in the U.S., that he is a Muslim, a socialist, communist, anti-Christ, or whatever. It would be easy to fill up barrels and barrels with stupid quotes that have emanated from Republican lips in the last three years, but strangely enough this barrage of virtually endless stupidity doesn’t seem to make much difference when it comes to the coming election, at least if you listen to the pundits who claim it will be a close election. How can this be?
Stupid me! I think I have finally understood how this can happen. When you realize, as I have neglected to do, that a majority of the electorate have not even been paying attention to all this nonsense, and quite likely won’t until maybe a month or even a week before they are to vote, and some will even make up their mind when they enter the voting booth, you understand they are blissfully unaware of anything that happened up until that moment. They will be faced with the choice of two candidates, President Obama and Mitt Romney, the differences between them will hinge on such things as the relative pleasure of having a beer with them, the immediate price of a gallon of gasoline, how comfortable they are domestically at that moment, what they have most recently heard about them, and yes, for some, even the color of their skin or their professed religious beliefs. The endless and intolerable months that have preceded the voting moment, and all of the lies and stupidity will be largely unknown to them and basically irrelevant. If the economy is doing well at the moment they will almost certainly favor the incumbent, if it’s not, they will vote for the challenger. A billion or more dollars will have been wasted on all the lies, distortions, and outright stupidity, the media will have made a truly big bundle, and the greatest show on earth will begin all over again. It’s the American way!
The great thing about democracy is that it gives every voter a chance to do something stupid.