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.