Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Smart Kids

Susan Demas argues that the reason pundits are so persistently cool on Elizabeth Warren is simply that she is one of the smart kids. Like Obama, she is sniffed at for being professorial, elitist, schoolmarmish, and so on.
The common thread between them is that they’re usually the smartest people in any room — something that particularly irks pundits who pretend to be experts on all manner of policy (but usually are just glorified theater critics).
This checks out, and I'd date the phenomenon back even further to Al Gore in 2000. That election was very much formative in my political development, and not just because of how it ended.

Al Gore was also a smart, wonkish, thoughtful guy -- obviously more qualified than his dim-bulb pseudo-cowboy of an opponent. But the narrative going into the election was that Al Gore's intelligence and wonkishness was his biggest electoral liability. He made people uncomfortable. He was awkward. Who would really want to have a beer with him?

As a studious and somewhat wonkish kid, this made a very large imprint on me. To that point, my only experience with "democracy" was in student government elections, where -- no matter how much the teachers lectured us to vote for the best candidate who will do the best job -- everyone just voted for the popular kid who promised pizza for lunch every day. And even then I think we all thought that was kind of silly, but we did it because student elections were silly and kids are silly and once we grew up and voted in grown-up elections we'd vote based on the serious reasons we were supposed to.

And then we flicked on the news, and it turned out that the grown-ups were being just as frivolous -- deciding the election as if it were a drinking game. If I had any nascent interest in a political career, it was squashed at that moment.

I suspect that there are more than a few young women -- and hey, maybe some young men too! -- who are having a similarly formative experience right now with Elizabeth Warren. They see her as smart and studious and talented and attentive to details. And they see not just that this doesn't matter, but that it is viewed as a deficit -- it is hurting her political chances.

It's a very depressing thing to live through. All I can say to those kids going through it now is: been there.

1 comment:

Ed said...

“Grown men do not need leaders.” – Edward Abbey
"If the right to vote were expanded to seven year olds ... its policies would most definitely reflect the ‘legitimate concerns’ of children to have ‘adequate’ and ‘equal’ access to ‘free’ french fries, lemonade and videos." ~ Hans-Hermann Hoppe