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Jewish World Review Nov. 21, 2000 / 23 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

Dave Shiflett

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Consumer Reports

The dolt vote -- A SOMEWHAT elderly friend and lifelong member of the Conservative Bunker Society (CBS) recently informed me that the Florida coup, as he calls it, proves once again that the Republicans are the Dumb Party and that the Democrats are the Party of Evil.

This complaint came before a Democratic operative was caught carting around a voting machine in his car, before a flurry of affidavits charged Democratic vote-counters with trying to squeeze their will into contested paper ballots, before a significant batch of military votes was tossed out, and before the Florida supreme court made it clear that the Democrats will get to keep counting until they win. These developments no doubt reinforced my friend's assumption that the evil ones are taking over, perhaps to the point of sending him out to purchase survival gear left over from the Y2K panic.

But whatever the outcome of Florida's legal stiletto-fest might be, it is fairly clear that the post-election upheavals prove beyond a doubt that the Democratic party should no longer be considered the party of superior intelligence. Indeed, the indictment is worse than that. Florida has not only disproved the assumption that the Democratic party provides a warmer home for hotter brains. It has revealed a gaping inequality in which a highly educated, power-grasping elite manipulates a rank and file that is very much slaw of jaw.

One could not have written a script in which these inequalities would be more profoundly exposed. Before most chads even knew they were pregnant, the Democratic brass deployed its tribe of shysters and PR men to Florida, where they in turn filled the streets with a huge throng of constituents bearing a startling message: We're dumber than stumps, and we demand to choose the next president.

This is not a harsh or unwarranted judgment. If Al Gore wins (which seems fairly likely), he will have been carried to victory on the backs of a constituency that, by its own admission, is not competent enough to properly mark a simple paper ballot. This includes the standard ballot and the notorious Butterfly, a supposed stumper which grade-school students have shown themselves fully capable of successfully manipulating.

Most people would be hesitant to admit that they are unable to perform such an elementary task as punching a proper hole in a piece of paper. This is an indisputable fact. As is well known, Americans are convinced that they are all far above normal, largely due to full immersion in the font of self-esteem. To suggest otherwise is a very good way to initiate hostilities, including a withering exchange of small-arms fire.

Yet the Democratic leadership was able to send its foot soldiers into the streets to proclaim their doltishness at full volume, and with the help of placards. The resulting self-abasement has been breathtaking. The protesters, demanding recounts and revotes, are in effect standing before television cameras and admitting there are too dumb to hit the floor with their hats. Incompetence, they argue, is not something to be ashamed of. It is a power credential. So give us a ballot with training wheels.

Republicans, and especially the GOP brass, have been largely hesitant to point all this out. This may be due to the prevailing spirit of compassionate conservatism, which no doubt holds that one should not appear to be insensitive and judgmental, especially when stark mental incompetence in involved. There may be noblesse oblige at work here as well, which of course based on an assumption of general superiority.

If so, this personal sense of superiority may contribute to a jarring political inferiority--a loss. The Republicans have pinned their hopes on winning on a technicality (the law) while the Democratic leadership has turned the recount into a moral imperative, which of course transcends the rules of the game. While the Republicans held their tongues, the Democrats painted them as the bad guys the types who park their limos in handicapped spaces.

The Republicans should at least return insult for insult, if to only establish some sense of balance. After all, the Democratic party and its allies in the academy and Hollywood (including mental battleships like Cher) routinely call Republicans stupid and evil. G. W. Bush, lest none forget, was continuously mocked as a 25-watt bulb in a 100-watt world. Florida has seen an increase in such chatter. Republicans have been denounced as crooks, fascists, and general marauders of the popular will, which is very rich, especially when voiced by the likes of Alan Dershowitz, defender of the nation's most widely recognized throat-slicer.

Besides all that, the GOP could also be assured that if ballot-deficit disorder were widespread in their ranks, that there would be laughter and derision all around. As there should be. Registered voters have a right to a secret ballot. But do they also have a right to have their ballot "interpreted" by a panel of party operatives? This is the political equivalent of speaking in tongues. No harm in making that point, early and often.

Just a few weeks ago, undecided voters were being routinely denounced for their supposedly moronic tendencies, when in fact many were merely having a difficult time deciding between two lackluster candidates. The undecideds have been eclipsed, fully. This is worthy of wider discussion, for as we are continuously reminded the nation is currently experiencing a vast civics lesson. Part of that lesson is that the Democratic party derives its strength from a vastly unequal internal dynamic, one in which an educated elite is able to direct its foot soldiers to perform acts of stunning self-abasement. If this works, the biggest lesson from this election cycle will be that blazing incompetence is indeed a winning political credential.

JWR contributor Dave Shiflett is a sometime voter from Midlothian, Va. Comment by clicking here.


11/15/00: Now what will we do for fun?

© 2000, Dave Shiflett