Are Americans Suspicious of Intellectuals?

Are Americans suspicious of intellectuals? I watched a good part of the Biden/Palin debate, and thought I had a good sense of who came out on top, but the next day my sense was undermined when I was listening to various political commentators who presented the debate as a toss up, or worse, that Palin actually fared better. Really!?! Maybe I live in an alternate universe that exposes me to different realities, but I could have sworn that Biden had a greater mastery of political and economic concepts and details, expressed more experience regarding the economy and foreign relations, and correctly named various political figures and geographic places. And yet, according to one poll Palin was favored by 49% and Biden by only 35%. Huh!?!

I remember having the same reaction during the bebates between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Al Gore, much like Biden, expressed a greater mind for facts, concepts, and political nuances, and Bush, much like Palin, expressed a kind of homespun, down-to-earth sensibility that the bulk of Americans apparently appreciate. Being a teacher of written communication, I certainly acknowledge the importance of emotional appeal in communication, but it cannot be a substitute for sound reasoning, nor a substitute for mastery of subject matter.

In looking at the response of Americans to recent debate performances I come to one basic conclusion: many Americans must have a simplistic view of the world, and therefore view people who demonstrate sophistication and an awareness of complexity regarding culture and politics as a bunch of elite circumlocuters. I don’t know about y’all, but when it comes to picking people to make tough political decisions, though I do want someone who will be sympathetic to the plight of the common person, I don’t want someone who is a common person. Very simply, I want someone smarter than me.

27 Responses to “Are Americans Suspicious of Intellectuals?”

  1. Roger Green  

    The short answer: yes.

    The longer answer: this “I can imagine drinking a beer with person X” thing is quite pervasive. Seems that is how W “won” the first time over the ultra-stiff Al Gore. (And my, I can’t help but think we’d have been better off.)
    Girls get it in junior high – don’t want to be a “brainiac” and turn off the boys.
    I can tell you that from personal experience, at least in my generation growing up – and nothing suggests that this is eradicated – being black and bookish was “acting white”.
    People pass on untruths about Obama religiously. In fact, I touched lightly on this here – – when I mentioned the cognitive dissonance between what people believe and the KNOWABLE truth.

  2. John Espino  

    You stated

    ” many Americans must have a simplistic view of the world, and therefore view people who demonstrate sophistication and an awareness of complexity regarding culture and politics as a bunch of elite circumlocuters”.

    I really hope you’re not suggesting that Mr. Biden is an “intellectual” nor do I hope you are suggesting he has an “awareness of complexity regarding culture”. Are you?

    Also, to conclude from the most recent debate that Mr. Biden IS smarter than Ms. Palin is just not correct. Although, I am biased to whom I prefer for this election, I do agree with you that on some points Biden did seem to communicate political concepts with a little bit more sophistication, and maybe with a little bit more confidence, but shouldnt that be expected of a 36 year Veteran Washington Insider?

    There are numerous examples from that debate where Biden was incorrect on issues, most specifically and most embarassing was the topic of Vice President on which he is running. Also, please research carefully Mr. Biden’s past on “unintelligent” musings on history, geography and various other categories. He is also a known plagiarist, which I’m sure in the academic community there must be outrage and disgust, let alone intolerance. (You don’t hear the media and the “academic” community holding him accountable and any of his “non-intellectual” gaffes, do you? Hmmmm……..I wonder why?

    When you interview for a job, here is a hint: make sure you know what the job is. Joe Biden failed that test last Thursday. He couldn’t even get right what a vice president does, but the media didn’t notice. He was passionate about how horrible Cheney has been, and how he shouldn’t be involved in the executive branch, etc. and then he had the audacity in his hate filled tirade to say “READ IT IN ARTICLE ONE” of the constitution!!! Oh, Mr. Biden……How about ARticle 2?

    Gotcha! “old man who uses his wife’s tragic death to manipulate and get people to feel sorry for him approach” — (Look at the footage on this “Clintonesque” approach). Exaggeration after exaggeration…..Oh my! To the point of slandering the dead man who crashed into his wife. Lies!

    The media is all over itself about how smart and experienced Biden is. Political analyst Charlie Cook is quoted in the Washington Post on Saturday as saying “Biden is clearly so much more knowledgeable, by a factor of about a million.” Saturday Night Live does a skit about Biden being smart, if slimy. Meanwhile, Governor Sarah Palin is treated as being nothing more than a simpleton.

    Yet, take Biden’s statement from the debate on the role of the vice president:

    Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we’ve had probably in American history. The idea he doesn’t realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that’s the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.

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    Obama’s Tax Proposals Make a Complex System Worse John R. Lott Jr.: D.C. Handgun Ban Giuliani Bobs and Weaves on Gun Control Record A ‘Tip’ for Hillary: Admit Your Mistakes Media Coverage of Mall Shooting Fails to Reveal Mall’s Gun-Free-Zone Status And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there’s a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.

    The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote. He has no authority relative to the Congress. The idea he’s part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive, and look where it has gotten us. It has been very dangerous.

    One should be careful when throwing around terms such as “most dangerous” and “bizarre.” But Biden is confusing which part of the Constitution covers the Executive Branch (it is Article II, not Article I). More importantly, the notion that the vice president can preside over the Senate only when there is a tie vote is simply wrong. Nor is it true that the only legislative involvement the vice president has is to break tie votes. The vice president is the president of the Senate, where he interprets the rules and can only be overridden by a vote of 60 senators.

    Early vice presidents spent a lot of time in the Senate. Thomas Jefferson even spent his time writing “A Manual of Parliamentary Practice: for the Use of the Senate of the United States.” Modern vice presidents may show up only when they think tie votes will occur, but that is their choice.

    This isn’t rocket science. The Constitution on this point is very straightforward: “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.”

    Instead, it was Palin who got it right. Besides correctly stating that the vice president holds positions in both the executive and legislative branches, she also noted that:

    Of course, we know what a vice president does. And that’s not only to preside over the Senate and [I] will take that position very seriously also. I’m thankful the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chooses to exert it in working with the Senate and making sure that we are supportive of the president’s policies and making sure too that our president understands what our strengths are.

    But just as the vice president’s job includes more than simply being ready to assume the presidency if the president dies, the Constitution merely states what the vice president’s minimum responsibilities are.

    Compare the uproar over Palin’s answer to Charlie Gibson about the “Bush Doctrine,” a doctrine that Gibson clearly didn’t understand and for which there apparently exist at least four different versions. Where is the outrage over Biden not understanding what vice presidents do? For Biden, his inability to correctly say what vice presidents do was surely his “gotcha” moment.

    Yet, this mistake during the debate was hardly unique. Biden got a lot of things wrong in the debate that are going unnoticed by the fact-check media. Take just a few:

    — Will McCain’s health care proposals raise taxes? Biden says that McCain’s proposal will cost people money. The Tax Foundation finds that could easily be “roughly deficit-neutral over ten years.”

    — Under an Obama Administration the middle class will “pay no more than they did under Ronald Reagan”? No, the tax rates will be similar to the higher rates under Clinton.

    — Did “we spend more money in three weeks on combat in Iraq than we spent on the entirety of the last seven years that we have been in Afghanistan building that country”? No, one year’s worth of spending in Iraq equaled five in Afghanistan.

    — France and the U.S. “kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon”? No, and it wouldn’t have made much more sense if he had said “Syria” instead.

    — Is it really “simply not true” that Obama said that he would meet with the leader of countries such as Iran without preconditions? No, Obama said “I would.”

    — Did Obama warn against letting Hamas participate in Palestinian legislative elections in 2005? No.

    — Do “Iraqis have an $80 billion surplus”? No. If oil prices had remained high, it might have reached $50 billion by the end of this year.

    — Finally, an amusing point as evidence that Biden is just one of the people he pointed to, inviting anyone to have a beer with him at “Katie’s Restaurant” in Wilmington, Del. Unfortunately, people will have a hard time taking him up on his offer, since the restaurant hasn’t had that name for probably 15 years.

    Unfortunately, voters who are trying to get an accurate count on whether the candidates are telling the truth can’t rely on the media. mentions only one of these points, the size of the Iraqi surplus. The Washington Post mentioned Biden’s misstatement on Hamas and Katie’s restaurant. AOL’s coverage of the errors in the vice presidential debate was by far the worst, though that might not be too surprising given that Tommy Christopher, who wrote their news analysis, also blogs on the Obama Web site. None of these checkers mentioned Biden’s statements about the role of the vice president.

    Compare this to the attacks on Sarah Palin:

    — criticizes Palin for claiming that McCain’s health care tax credits will be “budget neutral” – they argue that the tax credit will be larger than the new taxes that the program will impose. Fine, but if the people at believe that is true and that the Tax Foundation is wrong, Biden’s claim about increased taxes is even more inaccurate. But doesn’t even mention Biden’s statement from the debate.

    — From AOL’s news analysis piece. “Palin: Said that it is untrue that the U.S. is killing civilians in Afghanistan. According to an analysis by the AP, however, the U.S. is killing more civilians than insurgents are.”

    What Palin actually said was: “Now, Barack Obama had said that all we’re doing in Afghanistan is air-raiding villages and killing civilians.” Whether one believes the AP estimate or not, the question is whether she was accurately characterizing Obama’s statement of the job that our forces were doing. And Obama said, “We’ve got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians” (emphasis added).

    —’s first critique claims that Palin was wrong to claim that troop levels in Iraq are down to their pre-surge levels. They are correct that after the recently announced drawdown, 6,000 more troops will be in Iraq than immediately before the surge. But why not mention that 84 percent of the 38,000 troops in the surge are home or are in the process of coming home?

    The media seems to have been covering for Biden for some time. While news stories still talk about Dan Quayle’s spelling mistake 18 years later, there has been almost no news coverage of Biden’s numerous wacky statements. What if Quayle had said something similar to Biden’s recent statement that, “When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, ‘Look, here’s what happened.'” A neat trick given that Herbert Hoover was president in 1929 and television was not yet invented.

    It might not fit the simple template for a 36-year veteran of the Senate to not understand what vice presidents do (after all, eight vice presidents have served with him), but Biden knew less about this than the political outsider, Sarah Palin. Given that they are running to be vice president, why didn’t that story dominate the news coverage after the debate?

    To suggest that Ms. Palin is “Homespun”, not smart, or incapable to lead is just parroting the “drive-by” media. She has yet to switch her vote, say one thing and do another, etc. Look at Biden on how he attacked Obama just a few months ago in the primaries. Oh My!

    Let’s say his IQ is 6 points if that above Palin’s…..I would rather have a little less sophistication, a little less savvy, than a liar, a cheater and a manipulator. That is Biden through and through. It’s a facade and a sleek cover and mask to the true character that if the media was fair would have exposed by now.

    One major case in point: Biden exclaimed how FDR got on the TV in 1929 and provided leadership to the American People regarding the stock market crash…etc. Problem? Hoover was President and the TV hadn’t yet been invented! Did the media take him to task on this issue as they did Quayle almost 18 years ago for a few spelling mistakes?

    NOPE!!! There are numerous issues like these regarding Biden, and please dont’ get me going on that rascal Obama! Oh my! What an Idiot!

    And to mention Al Gore today, even compared to Bush’s lack of popularity and his unfair shake (some deserved) as an intellectual compared to Bush? Oh my! Gore is an Idiot! and i’m not even going to give examples of this moron! He was an idiot then and has been more of one since! Oh yes, another good example of lies, plagiarism, ego and arrogance. If I had the time, I could compare Biden and Gore and find many similarities, and how their guise of “intellectualism” is slimy, contrived, and disgusting.

    but, hey….don’t get me wrong….I am a huge Mccain/Palin supporter, and I don’t think she won that debate hands down at all.. Many times she didn’t answer the questions given, didn’t like her overuse of “maverick this” “maverick” that, etc. I didn’t PREFER her “soccer mommy” approach and her classic toungue in cheek crap, and yes, I don’t think she was as specific on certain issues as Biden was…..

    BUT, and a big BUTT at that…..I don’t think Biden won the debate, nor do I think Biden is an intellectual compared to Palin…..Oh my my my brother….Biden an Intellectual? I cannot pass this observation of yours on to anybody, because I love you too much see your great name (in my book anyway) tarnished as an intellectual…..which I think you are….but hey, even intellectuals can be wrong on some things some of the time…..Right?

    By the way, I like the use of word “circumlocuters”. havent’ seen that word used in a while, nor in everyday language.

    Hope all is well.

    Your Bro,


  3. John Espino  

    Disclaimer: For whatever reason my previous comment on “Americans suspicious of Intellectuals” I cut and pasted an article from Foxnews, regarding the facts of Biden’s exaggerations and mispeaks.

    It was written by John R. Lott, Jr.

    I’m not quite sure where the article begins, although i think it begins just after “Lies!”…..and it ends just before “To suggest Ms. Palin is Homespun……”

    I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t accused of “Bidenism” etc. You know, Plagiarism.

  4. Anthony Velez  

    John – Whoa! I think you have surpassed even me for comment verbosity.

    First, I agree that it is a misnomer to refer to Biden as an intellectual. My using that term was more about Biden’s performance in comparison Palin’s. Biden expressed himself in a manner that was more consonant with how an intellectual would respond, whereas Palin, for the most part, used generalities, anecdotes, and platitudes. This same comparison can be made of the performances of Gore and Bush respectively. Gore, however smart he may or may not be, did come off as wonkish at times because of his use of details, statistics, and nuances. Bush, like Palin, was more personable, but was also one to speak in generalities, anecdotes, etc. In the strict sense of the word, none of the present candidates are intellectuals.

    Regarding Biden’s factual gaffes, I am sure there were many, but it seems to me that when one puts out more details and facts, such a one is more at risk of error. This in part is due to the pressures of impromptu debates. I imagine that had Palin used more details and factual expressions, she would not have likely fared better. But, this is conjecture. What I do remember is that during the Gore/Bush debates, both men were roughly equal in factual errors according to various fact checking organizations. When I discover these errors, I don’t generally assume it is the result of people (Democrat or Republican) intentionally giving disinformation, but rather it is the result of speaking in the moment without opportunity to revise.

    Regarding all the negative news that is published about any of the candidates, I honestly have a hard time listening to any of it, and this is not because of some moralistic principle on my part. I am just a bit cynical. I have a hard time hearing such things without wondering about the agenda that is driving it, and this is equally true for CNN and Fox News Network. All of this reporting is supposed to be a presentation of facts, but I have come to understand that facts don’t stand alone. Facts must be put into context, and they must be connected to one another within a larger framework from which a pattern of meaning emerges. And yet, political candidates, spin doctors, and pundits love to throw out discrete, decontextualized facts such that they often prompt the listening public to come to erroneous conclusions, or make unfounded assumptions.

    My point in writing this article was not to say that Biden is smarter than Palin. In fact, I read an article that said that Palin is very effective politically because people have a tendency to underestimate her, and she uses this to her advantage. If this is so, and I don’t have reason to doubt it, it certainly is expressive of a shrewd and intelligent mind. Instead, I was reacting to the fact that though Palin’s performance majored in personable-ness and minored in political details, she still came out ahead according to a number of polls and political pundits. As I see it, this implies that for American’s personality trumps everything else.

  5. K.L.B  

    In some sense, I have observed that many voters (and non-voters) don’t want a leader, they want a god. They want someone whom is “better” than they are… infallible to the things to which they are subject.

    The ability of any one person to wholly, completely and thoroughly operate our government, or any organization, including the family, is beyond any one person’s scope or ability. That’s why we need each other. We were made for each other.

    We must rely upon each other and one other’s ability. One person has a strength in a particular area, and another has strengths in yet a different area.

    That doesn’t mean that one is “smarter” than another, it is simply one’s gift. Nor does it make one person “better” than another.

    Being a leader doesn’t mean anything else than asking for and being willing to listen to and abide by the opinions of others whom are more wise or learned in various areas, and bringing them all together for the good of the whole body.

    It takes a humble person to know when to ask for help.

    Being a leader is truly a servant’s position.

    And then, in some ways, “intellectuals” have been perceived (right or wrong) by others to have a self-perception that they are “better” than the “average” person. But every “intellectual” that I know puts their pants on one leg at a time, and has to perform bodily functions just like everyone else.

    Perhaps it’s that “intellectuals” are “experts,” whereas leaders are generals… er, generalists. (Pun intended.)

    That raises the question: Is it better to know a little about a lot, or a lot about a little?

    Of course, there’s a line from a popular song that says in part, “I know a little ’bout it. I know a little ’bout love, and baby I can guess the rest.”

    It’s the acknowledgement that when one “specializes” the scope of knowledge is very narrow indeed; narrow yes, but deep. And who wants to fall into THAT hole? Indeed, who could join you, or would want to?

    So, is it truly an issue of someone being “smarter”? To answer ‘yes,’ would imply a hierarchical structure in which quality of human life is measured. Yet, not all things can be measured, quantified or qualified. For example, how to measure strength of character? If someone else is ‘more’ than you (and you so acknowledge), then you’re ‘less’. And that’s not equality. It’s contrary to the idea – indeed our nation’s written founding principle – that “all men are created equal.”

    Bottom line?

    “No man is an island…”

  6. Anthony Velez  

    John – As I reviewed my article, I can have to admit that I was being a bit of a smart alec, particularly when I said, “correctly named various political figures and geographic places”. Also, I did raise the issue of “smartness” in my closing sentence. So, I certainly understand why you responded in such a long and impassioned fashion. Please know, I don’t think that Americans who vote for McCain/Palin are simpletons. I was just trying to account for a difference in my perception and the perception of the majority of Americans regarding the performance of Biden and Palin.

    I do get why people support McCain/Palin, particularly when it comes to the issue of life and abortion. Also, I do appreciate a number of their conservative values. You know me, however, I am not a card carrying conservative, much to the dismay of a lot of my friends.

  7. Kevin Frith  

    Tony – Oh man, where do I start . .

    I always hated politics but until the last few years I’ve become quite interested in the process and how much ‘theater’ it really is. Most people have absolutely NO idea that the options are not so much ‘choice’ but a false choice that’s presented. It’s like going to get something to eat and then arriving and finding out that you only have the options of hot dogs or hamburgers – there isn’t ANY other food to choose – you have to pick one. It’s the same way with candidates. These guys are bought and paid for by the interests ‘behind the scenes’ – follow the money and the funding for both campaigns and look at the backgrounds of those on their staff – they ultimately work for the people that have been running this country for a very long time. So in the end it makes absolutely no difference if you pick McCain or Obama – the way I like to explain it is this: They’re both players in the symphony and since they seem to play different instruments and make different noises people think they’re different – they aren’t. They both have the same goals – to limit the freedoms of the American people and continue to support those that have put them in power.

    One other things. Democrats and Republicans – we all need to get past this. This is a false paradigm – another choice that isn’t a choice – there’s no difference between the parties – hell, tell me what defines either one! It’s soooo loose that you can have a conservative democrat or a liberal republican . . what constitutes liberal? What constitutes conservative? It’s all about ‘divide and conquer’ – let’s make the people fight between ideologies and while they’re busy mulling over inconsequential garbage, we’ll do what we want to do and let them fight themselves. 😉

    Just the tip of the iceberg, my friend.

  8. John Espino  

    “I don’t want someone who is a common person. Very simply, I want someone smarter than me.”

    — So, from your perception, do you believe that Obama/Biden is smarter than you, and therefore the smarter candidate? Therefore, I can assume you will be voting for the two liberal, Big government, Lying, doubleminded, inexperienced, un-patriotic, baby killers?

    Just wondering.

  9. Anthony Velez  

    John – Well here it is: nuances. If I was to sit down with Biden and Obama and discuss the Western Intellectual tradition and particularly theology, I probably could hold my own, and maybe even surpass them on some points. However, when it comes to foreign relations, macroeconomics, the dynamics of the political landscape in America, and things of this Ilk, I think I would be trumped. What I said about Obama and Biden also applies to McCain. Regarding Palin, I must utilize another nuance. Because she has had experience as a mayor and a governor, I assume that she is politically smarter than I am in many ways. However, she has not displayed that intelligence very well in her anecdotal, homespun, generalizing modes of expression.

    Regarding your characterization of Biden and Obama as “the two liberal, Big government, Lying, double-minded, inexperienced, un-patriotic, baby killers” I could equally caricaturize McCain and Palin as uncritically patriotic, empire building, false-dichotomy spinning, fear-mongering, political pandering, poor oppressing, lovers of free-market-mammonistic ideology. But, if I did this, I would be perpetuating the very crap I hate seeing both sides perpetuate in the media.

    What makes me sadder than this, however, is how the Church has become entrenched in the culture wars, and thereby its communion is further fractured by the polarities of American politics. What I barely see is a transcendent point-of-view that understands that as Jesus declared before Pilate, “my Kingdom is not of this earth,” which means that its hope and values cannot be captured or expressed by the agendas, or convictions of either party. Yes, we are called to be in the world, and therefore we should responsibly be involved in the politics, but since we are also not to be of the world, we should hold our political party cards with loose hands. Honestly, it surprises me when Christians are able to vote, make political decisions, and hold political affiliations without being disturbed on some level, because that would mean they actually think that the Kingdom’s comprehensive view of life, justice, truth, peace, prosperity, etc, has actually been upheld by their party.

  10. Anthony Velez  

    Kevin B – I liked what you said in your comment regarding people wanting a god more than a leader. I would refer to his as messianism: people looking for a messiah, and I will be the first to admit that many Obama supporters have come closer to this than a lot else I have seen lately. However, when Palin was first announced as the running mate for McCain, the gush that swept over the Republican party was palpable. In the end, I think people put too much hope in political power and political candidates.

    Richard Foster, in the book “Challenge of the Disciplined Life” addressed the biblical idea that fallen powers and principalities are interwoven in institutional structures, such that they are innately destructive unless intentionally confronted by God’s power. An implication of his thinking was that Christians err when they think all they need to do is get the right man (or woman) in the right position. Foster is basically talking about systemic evil that goes beyond the scope of one person’s influence, often because such evil is subtle, pervasive, and dynamic. Along with this is the irony that good people, with good motives, intending to do good things are often unwittingly used in such structures to perpetuate evil. I know this sounds daunting, but Foster’s critique was not intended to produce despair or despondency, but rather humility, as well as to clearly identify the true ground of hope.

    I also want to affirm what you said about complementarity and interdependency. I think this in part was the thinking behind the balance of power in our governmental structure. Certainly one person, no matter how gifted, can do it all. This is clearly the example we have in Moses, who quickly became weary in leading Israel, such that he had to appoint leaders to divide the responsibility of government. And, picking up on what you said, about specialization versus generalization, I would bet that on the whole the best leaders are generalists, for they need to have an eye on the big picture in order to direct people and resources in an effective manner. Such leaders would be ones who know how to consult specialists and use their ideas and information in a way the meaningfully contributes to the whole. So, in some sense we are talking about types of intelligence, and some types are better suited for large scale leadership.

    Regarding equality, Kurt Vonnegut wrote an great short story titled “Harrison Bergeron” in which exceptionally talented and intelligent people were given handicaps through the office of the Handicapper General, who made sure that all people were functionally equal. The point of the story was that when it comes to ability, or abilities, clearly not all men and women are created equal, and that we often have insipid ideas and policies regarding what it means to be equal. Beyond Vonnegut’s commentary, the traditional response of Christianity to this issue is that we don’t ground equality on ability or some pragmatic quality. Instead, independent of what we do, we are all God’s creatures, and this is the basis of our equality. This being said, and affirmed on my part, if I was looking for doctor to diagnose some problem that baffled the medical community, I think I would be very thankful for a savant like House, even if he was a bit of a dick about being so smart. In short, practically speaking smarts and specialized smarts often do matter.

  11. Anthony Velez  

    Kevin F – I certainly agree that there is more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye, and I am sure some of it is pervasive and insidious. However, I have a hard time accepting the idea of a puppet master or a group of puppet masters pulling all of the strings. And yet, I’ll admit that I cannot ground my resistance on any kind of research. I mean, I know that both party’s candidate are beholden to corporate interests in some measure, but the idea that they are mere pawns is hard to swallow. I mean, yes, we are subject to powerful influences, many of which we are hardly aware of and are all the more powerful therefore, but we are still creatures with conscience and will, and I think that many can rise above the broken currents of culture and political manipulation to bring good. I realize what I have said here will not satisfy you, so we will have to continue this conversation.

  12. John Espino  

    Actually, Tony….I don’t have time to respond to your response…some of my comments about “the two” were meant to be funny, if not expected from “espino”, but your response in a nutshell about the Kingdom is right on! We’ll have to agree to disagree about comparing the tickets with regard to intellectualism. I also appreciated K.L.B’s position on character and humility, well put.

    “uncritically patriotic” — WHAT? “empire building”? — “poor mongering”? — are you serious? and “free-market-mammonistic ideology”? Oh my, this sounds like the complaints of a communist or a best a very bitter socialist. But, I know you wouldn’t go down that crappy road, which I would think is a really good thing.

    this is fun Tony. Can you come up and join me sometime before the snow hits and hang out at the cabin in tahoe? let me know.

  13. Anthony Velez  

    I knew that under all that you were saying you were being “espino” and therefore I didn’t take it too seriously, but still our difference in convictions are in there somewhere. It is, of course, secondary to our shared values and our common confession that Jesus is Lord.

    As far as the caricaturization that I gave of McCain and Palin, I was throwing exponents on tendencies, and not rendering a genuine portrait. This is the problem that I have with caricaturization; it distorts the truth.

    Tahoe sounds excellent. I will discuss it with Paula.

  14. Kevin Frith  

    Tony – Of course it’s hard to swallow since it sounds like a ‘conspiracy theory’ and that phrase has a seriously negative connotation in today’s society. Fact is, history proves the movements of very powerful families in not only this country but many others across the globe.

    The old saying “Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it” is so very true these days. We americans are incredibly ignorant as to our own history in this country and that ignorance and allowed these families to manipulate the masses for a very long time.

    Proof? This 3 hour documentary (which is a bit dry but contains incredibly good information) goes over the history of this country since it’s inception and talks about these relevant families and how they have manipulated history since the beginnings of this country and before.

    One of the first questions you should ask yourself: What was one of the primary reasons for the revolution for independence from England in this country. Answer – there are many causes but one of main causes and maybe the primary reason – England was forcing the colonies to use paper money that had DEBT associated with it instead of letting them use their own.

    Go from there and watch it when you have time.

  15. Kevin Frith  

    By the way, to stay on track, these postings are relevant since I’m trying to show that the whole election process and candidate debates and ‘choices’ is nothing more than theater for the american public. In order to prove that I have to show that powerful people have FINANCED and controlled this process not only currently but in the past which that show gives the foundations of showing. After watching it you only have to follow the money trails of who owns what and what money contributions the candidates have gotten and what laws they’ve voted for or against to show that they are one in the same – working for those that have been in power for a long time.

  16. Kevin Benson  

    I did not see any of the debates. However, why should this disqualify me from making authoritative comments regarding said debates. We are, after all, talking about politicians. It boggles my mind that congress and the senate passed the humongous bailout bill so quickly. Is it really possible that all 535 of our elected representatives thouroughly read and analyzed all 110 pages of the legislation? I am sure there were some that did, but I fear too many voted without being fully informed. However, I digress.

    I, too, am saddened and angered at all of the name calling that goes on. Both parties are guilty and all that it does is stifle dialog and demonize people. Nothing is accomplished except perhaps making those who are demonizing feel better about their positions. While I fall pretty firmly in the conservative camp, I still try and listen to those with differing views. Having lived in Berkeley and Oakland the last 12 years I have had plenty of opportunity.

    My wife and I have very different views. However, what I have come to understand is that it is not so much that we have different values, as we have different visions of how those values are best lived out and the goals achieved. Granted, this is not true of all people. There are many who have drastically different values than me. I do feel, however, that if we took the time to listen there would be far greater civility in the political arena. Too often we seek to speak what we feel is the truth but fail to do so in love.

  17. Anthony Velez  

    Kevin – My guess is that if we had more people of a particular political persuasion regularly engaging others of a different political persuasion, their would be less demonizing and more recognition of a common humanity. I don’t imagine that a liberal sits around thinking “hmmm, what traditional values can I attack today so that I can accomplish my goal of releasing chaos, destruction and disorder into society.” Neither do I imagine that conservatives sit around thinking, “Man I love my privileged position in society, and it is my goal today to make sure that the balance of power continues to tilt in my favor.” On the whole, both liberals and conservatives are working for a better society, but they do so out of differing values and beliefs. It is at the level of underlying values and beliefs that we should be engaging one another, and not on the level of personal character assassination.

  18. Roger Green  

    My goodness that was fun.

    Ultimately, my primary reason NOT to vote for Palin/McCain can be summed up by the frenzy of hate they and their supporters have stirred up. My favorite example:
    Seems somehow antithetical to what the country needs right now.

  19. Kevin Benson  

    Roger – Wow! Do you really feel that there is less hate on the left than on the right? If so, you have been doing some very selective listening. Unfortunately, ignorance, hatred, and prejudice are too prevalent across the political spectrum. If you are going to vote based on the “frenzy of hate” you really should not vote for anyone.

  20. Anthony Velez  

    Kevin – I agree with you that there is equal disinformation and hateful rhetoric on both sides of the political divide, but I have seen more appeals to “not one of us” rhetoric coming from the McCain/Palin camp during this election season. What I mean is that Palin particularly, and some of those at the McCain/Palin rallies have directly and indirectly presented Obama as “not a genuine American,” a man who has other than American interests at heart. And, maybe it is just me, but among all the negative campaigning on both sides, this particularly gets to me. If people are going to attack Obama, particularly Xians, then I think it would be more godly if they addressed how his voting record doesn’t align with a whole life ethic, or maybe they could say that he has too heavily capitulated his theology to postmodern presuppositions, but to say that he is not one of us stirs up fears of infiltration, and paranoia, and it calls into question the very heart of Obama.

    Having said this, maybe you could direct me to instances where Obama and Biden and their supporters have used equal tactics. Mind you, not just negative campaigning, but a tactic that calls the patriotism of McCain and Palin into question. Please understand, I am not asking you to direct me to such things as a challenge, thinking that you won’t be able to do it. If such rhetoric is out there, I really want to know about it.

  21. Roger Green  

    Kevin – What Anthony said. Sure there have been attacks on McCain as old, out of touch, plus some legitimate health concerns. Even HE jokes about his ill temper.
    Palin is portrayed as not very with it, though not until her conversations with Gibson and Couric suggested that.
    Biden is a loose cannon who doesn’t always know when to shut up, he might acknowledge.

    But Obama’s been called a traitor, doesn’t love his country, an Arab (not that there’s anything wrong with that except it was used to evoke post 9/11 feelings and it’s not true), a Muslim (ditto), etc. I mean, what does “Who is Barack Obama REALLY?” supposed to suggest?

  22. Roger Green  

    Oh, one more thing, I don’t worry about some nut case killing McCain, Palin or Biden because they’ve been labelled “terrorists”:

  23. Kevin Benson  

    Here are some samples. Maybe not as dramatic as Roger’s video, but nevertheless indicative of the hate that and prejudice is just as prevalent on the left as on the right.

  24. Anthony Velez  

    Kevin – First, let me say that the items you referred to are good examples of rant-filled vitriol from people who will be voting for Obama. The first one is disturbing because it is a mainstream media piece published in the SF Gate, which is part of the San Francisco Chronicle. The second one, is hard for me to take seriously regarding its ability to negatively contribute to the political atmosphere, because it is merely the product of one person uploading their personal video on You Tube. The last one appears to be a more polished piece of media, and it is very disturbing because it is filled with expletives without providing any rational criticism of Palin, but again, I have a hard time believing, contrary to its title, that it is really an ad that is running in the British media. It was probably made by some techno-saavy English bloke with a jones against conservatives, who also merely uploaded his or her personal video.

    I think I affirmed the idea that the supporters of each candidate are equally culpable in producing negative rhetoric. But again, the difference is that the examples you gave, and to some degree the examples that Roger gave are from supporters of each of the candidates, and not expressive of official tactics employed by the campaign managers of each candidate. However, my criticism was that the official managers of the McCain/Palin campaign are utilizing methods that smear Obama’s character by calling into question his patriotism and concern for the American public. On an official level, they are saying that Obama in not one of us, that he is connected to terrorists, and thereby implying that he has a secret agenda to undermine American culture.

    For sure, Obama’s campaign has put out negative material against McCain, but their negativity, from what I have seen is the standard fare of negative ads. If Obama was to put out something equal in nature, it would have to be something that asserts that McCain was brainwashed and programmed as a POW such that he is currently a real, live Manchurian Candidate. Yes, this is absurd, but almost as absurd is the idea that Obama is something more than your standard American liberal.

  25. Roger Green  

    I guess this is the last I’ll say on this:

  26. Kevin Benson  

    I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this one. I agree that many of the attacks on Obama have been disingenuous and intended to paint him as other than he is. These include persistent references to his middle name (Hussein), the reference to him being sworn in on the Koran, and other similar attacks.

    On the other hand, I have seen references comparing Palin to Muslim fundamentalists because of her conservative Christian faith ( and excoriated in the San Francisco Chronicle for her beliefs (“The universe must be joking, would not dare dump such a homophobic, Creationist evangelical nutball on us, this anti-choice, God-pandering woman who’s the inverse of Hillary, this woman of deep inexperience who abhors birth control and supports abstinence education and shoots exhausted wolves from helicopters and hates polar bears and actually stands for everything progressive women have resented since the first pope Swift-Boated Eve.”).

    These attacks are not limited to the presidenial race. Bill Maher just released his movie Religulous in which he portrays all people of faith as idiots to be ridiculed. I have not yet seen the movie, but read enough from a variety of sources to believe this characterization of the movie. Maher is as disingenuous in his portayal as any of the attacks on Obama.

    This mockery of sincere faith is to me as disturbing as the characterizations of Obama which you rightly rue. It is unfortunate evidence of the increasing marginalization of and enmity towards people of faith in our society.

  27. Anthony Velez  

    Kevin – You have given me an idea for another blog post: the marginalization of Christianity within American culture. I too am disturbed by some of the gross characterizations of Christians in the media, as well as the scorn that is poured upon some basic Xian beliefs. However, I also see this as perhaps an opportunity, as too often cultural and political power and Xianity have made strange and tragic bedfellows. Perhaps now, Xians, seeing the writing on the wall, will seek to move beyond the culture wars, and seek to embody a Xian existence that will be its own self-authenticating witness. I know I am being a bit simplistic here, but still, as I have said, I get really discouraged by how Xians participate in the battle between liberal and conservative ideologies.

    By the way, Bill Maher, and the cultured despisers of religion are generally quite selective in who they identify as examples of the faith. I mean, if you take the whole of the Xian Tradition, and all the thinkers who have contributed, the intellectual pedigree is astounding. Of course, I have a vested interest in making this assertion.