The Universal Notebook: Smarten up, America

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Back during the 2008 presidential campaign, liberal political commentator and comedian Bill Maher took a lot of flak for suggesting that the American electorate was too stupid to be governed.

After watching the debt ceiling deal debacle, I’m beginning to think maybe American politicians are too stupid to govern.

There’s plenty of evidence that Americans believe stupid things. Around 20 percent of Americans, for example, believe that the sun revolves around the earth, that people have been abducted by UFOs, that America won its independence from France, and that President Obama is a Muslim. Worse, 37 percent believe reality TV star Sarah Palin is qualified to be president.

This spring Newsweek gave the standard U.S. citizenship test to 1,000 bona fide American citizens and 38 percent failed. I figure those are the same folks who think Sarah Palin is qualified to president. Among the civic ignorant were 39 percent who could not name the vice president (what is old Joe doing these days?), 44 percent who could not define the Bill of Rights, 73 percent who could not explain the Cold War, and 6 percent who did not know that the Fourth of July is Independence Day.

Dumb. Dumber. Dumbest. I guess we better start deporting them.

But the debt ceiling debate really revealed the airheads of America. Rep. Michelle Bachmann, for instance, was all over television insisting that a U.S. default was no big whoop. Nothing bad would happen. We’d have plenty of money to pay our bills. The president would just have to prioritize and watch his budget. No matter how many economists and financial experts warned about the dire consequences of a default, the Tea Party Princess could not be swayed by facts or reason.

That’s the scary thing about what seems to be happening in America. It used to be that ignorant, prejudiced, superstitious people were at least smart enough to understand that they were ignorant and, thus, kept their mouths shut for fear of embarrassing themselves. Now the dumb bunnies have lost their fear of embarrassment, or perhaps they’ve become too stupid to know that they should be embarrassed.

But what’s even more worrisome is that more and more of these benighted individuals are being elected to Congress by benighted voters. Republican leaders like Boehner and McConnell start looking downright reasonable compared to right-wing ideologues like Ryan, Paul, Cantor and Bachmann. As if “just say no” were a reasonable way to govern.

The thing that angered me most about the congressional kowtowing to the tea party caucus was that Republicans kept talking about “listening to the American people” and “doing what the American people sent us here to do.”

When your Super Committee starts trying to accomplish what you couldn’t, ladies and gentlemen, listen to this. While 71 percent of Americans say they want smaller government (heck, I want smaller government!), we don’t really mean it. You really think Michelle Bachmann doesn’t want that hundred grand her husband’s queer conversion clinic got or the quarter million in subsidies her family farm received? She’s not that stupid.

So listen up, John of Orange and Senator McDum-dum: Here’s what we really want.

The majority of Americans (72 percent) want you to raise taxes on incomes above $250,000. Don’t tell us those people are the job creators. We’re not that stupid either. End the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Jam it. Slam it. Just do it, damn it. And the vast majority of us are also opposed to any cuts in Medicare (81 percent), Social Security (78 percent) and Medicaid (70 percent).

In other words, what the American people want is what the Democrats have to offer. Either the American people are too stupid to know it, or the Democrats are too stupid to make their case.

In either case, we’re in for a world of hurt if someone doesn’t smarten up soon.

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Yarmouth. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.