voting by impression

What is amazing to me is that some people honestly do think we should elect someone based on ‘identifying’ with them. THis article quotes voters who like Palin because “she’s one of us” and who see no fault in this method of choosing a leader. They don’t want someone who has studied and thought about the issues and worked on the problems all of their life – that’s just “east coast elite”. No, take a self-proclaimed “hockey mom” who rose up from the PTA of a small town to become mayor, then was unemployed, then won the governorship of the 3rd smallest state in the union…

And it’s evident when she’s interviewed by charlie gibson that she isn’t ready to run a country, let alone the most powerful nation on earth. I mean, I’m all for democracy and giving people a voice and so forth, but, no, you don’t just jump in there when you haven’t got a clue and start flying a jet plane. This isn’t a disney movie.

And anyway, Obama on Letterman or O’Reilly comes across as competent and thoughtful person who is capable of handling this job. But people don’t care about someone seeming smart. They just “love Sarah”. They still want the guy they would have a beer with more than someone who actually has good ideas or good judgment. They aren’t asking, Is this who you would hire to run your company or defend your case or handle your money? THey’re thinking, who would be fun to have “around the house”, on TV, telling the world where to shove it if the world starts acting up…

The NYTimes article about her makes it seems like she’s all about ambition and personal favors, which I guess fits in with at least one interpretation of government. And I have to say, I am very much worried that that portion of the population that don’t really care or read the details will still be convinced she’s a solid choice because Obama’s not “down to earth” enough for them, and they know McCain’s barbeque recipes…

Aaaaugh.

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12 Responses to “voting by impression”

  1. Sonic Charmer Says:

    I wonder why you think it’s so amazing that people wish to identify with their leaders and vote accordingly. Maybe this gets into what a ‘leader’ is supposed to be. Is it the super-smartypants in the room? Or something else? Apparently people disagree about that and therein lies politics.

    I also don’t think that the ‘have a beer with’ motivation for one’s voting choices is limited to the right side of the political spectrum. Is it possible, for example, that your attraction to pols like Obama – folks who “seem smart” – is every bit as much motivated by your “identifying with” him as are the votes of the people you criticize here?

    Politics is not a Scantron test. It’s not merely about setting up a list of line items called “The Issues” and reaching the Correct Answers on them. Wisdom is important, to be sure, but wisdom and “seeming smart” are separate things that don’t always correlate so well. There was a time when the Democratic Party – the party of Harry S. Truman, former hat salesman – understood this well. But nowadays, to listen to some of them talk, you’d think they want to just do away with this pesky, messy “voting” thing altogether and have the Presidency decided by a committee of experts.

    Left-leaning experts, of course.

  2. rushmc Says:

    What I’ve never understood is why anyone would want to have a beer with Bush. Or McCain, for that matter. What a painful way to spend time, with shallow, tedious people. At least with Obama or Clinton (Bill), you could have an interesting conversation.

    But apparently there are people (*looks at first commenter*) who disparage intelligence and knowledge so much that they’ll go around the block to avoid it.

    I just wish that people would pay more attention to substantive issues rather than trivialities. I thought this link was rather interesting in that regard: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2008_09/014705.php.

  3. Sonic Charmer Says:

    What I’ve never understood is why anyone would want to have a beer with Bush. Or McCain, for that matter.

    Me neither, now that you mention it. Now Palin, on the other hand… 😉

    But apparently there are people (*looks at first commenter*) who disparage intelligence and knowledge

    The point I was making was not meant to ‘disparage intelligence and knowledge’ but, rather, that maximizing this kind of intelligence and knowledge of which you speak (beyond some sufficient minimum) is not necessarily correlated with good leadership. It is no ‘disparagement’ of intelligence to simply say that maximizing intelligence is not the be-all and end-all of selecting good leaders.

    People who think it is, may just be motivated by wanting to elevate people they “identify with”.

  4. rushmc Says:

    Or, they may be correlating knowledge and intelligence with a greater ability to cope successfully with the complexities of governing in the modern world. I remain unpersuaded by the popular anti-intellectual position that because someone has graduated college they are somehow no longer “regular” and have forfeited their “common sense,” their fundamental human goals, or their moral grounding. It sounds too much like sour grapes to me.

  5. drinkme Says:

    I think a leader is supposed to be someone who has good ideas and shows good judgment & negotiating skills. A leader is someone who proves themselves both in the manner in which they handle affairs and the decisions they make. If we were just trying to pick “one of us”, then we could just flip a coin and have any one of us lead the country: obviously that’s not what we’re doing.

    The job of running the country is not meant to be for just whoever. It’s meant to be for someone who is truly committed to policy and public service. It’s meant to be for someone who is actually invested in foreign affairs. It’s meant to be for someone who knows a lot about economics. It’s meant to be for someone who gives a shit about tax code. It’s meant to be for someone whose experience with law is more than peripheral.

    Yeah, it doesn’t always have to be someone who was always from day one invested in these things – some people get into them from sideways on. But Truman was at an earlier point in history, and did go to law school and serve as a county judge before becoming a senator, so his interest in these matters is pretty well established; it’s not as if he was just a businessman who randomly got swept into politics (and biographies claim he had a strong interest in history all his life, etc).

    The point is, we should hire people who are suitable for the job, not who just want power, but have given us no indication that they have credentials.

  6. Sonic Charmer Says:

    rushmc:


    Or, they may be correlating knowledge and intelligence with a greater ability to cope successfully with the complexities of governing in the modern world.

    Maybe so. In which case, I disagree with them. Some of the most intelligent geniuses I’ve ever known lack the ability to cope with the complexities of their personal life let alone a country.

    I remain unpersuaded by the popular anti-intellectual position that because someone has graduated college they are somehow no longer “regular” and have forfeited their “common sense,” their fundamental human goals, or their moral grounding.

    Ok but FYI that is not the position I have stated here.

    drinkme:

    If we were just trying to pick “one of us”, then we could just flip a coin and have any one of us lead the country: obviously that’s not what we’re doing.

    What’s not obvious however is that this method would be worse than what we’ve had 🙂

    The job of running the country is not meant to be for just whoever.

    I’m not sure that the job of President was meant to be thought of as “running the country”, but whatever.

    It’s meant to be for someone who is truly committed to policy and public service. It’s meant to be for someone who is actually invested in foreign affairs. It’s meant to be for someone who knows a lot about economics. It’s meant to be for someone who gives a shit about tax code. It’s meant to be for someone whose experience with law is more than peripheral.

    I see no evidence that Senator Obama is “invested in foreign affairs” whatever that means. There’s no indication I’m aware of that he knows anything substantial about economics. As for giving a s**t about the tax code, “the tax code” did not exist when the job of President was created, so that’s a stretch. As for experience with law, that would probably rule out Generals Eisenhower and Washington.

    Again, all this really proves is that there is disagreement on what makes for a good leader. I recognize that certain folks would like to dictate the criteria so as to somehow automatically exclude a person such as Governor Palin, but there’s no reason the rest of us need go along with that. Instead we’ll have an election, okay?

    The point is, we should hire people who are suitable for the job, not who just want power, but have given us no indication that they have credentials.

    In my book, excluding people who “just want power” would exclude both of the major candidates 🙂

  7. rushmc Says:

    >>Some of the most intelligent geniuses I’ve ever known lack the ability to cope with the complexities of their personal life let alone a country.

    Clearly, we define intelligence differently.

  8. Sonic Charmer Says:

    To make it concrete: someone who proves an obscure mathematical theorem is, by the definition I was operating from, ‘intelligent’.

    But may be lacking in other qualities.

    I suppose you’re saying you define intelligence more holistically, to encompass more things, which is fine – great, even! – except that in that case Obama’s having gone to, like, law school is inadmissible as some kind of definitive proof of his supposed “intelligence”. And similarly, Palin’s multiple colleges/etc is inadmissible as proof of her lack thereof.

  9. drinkme Says:

    Well, clearly anyone we elect wants power – I didn’t mean that we were going to elect someone with some kind of martyr-like interest in serving us. Sorry to give that impression :).

    All I meant is that power seems to be ALL that sarah palin has shown an interest in. The other candidates at least have displayed more than a passing interest in military tactics, policy, law, economics or other relevant areas. At least we can see that the job would be in keeping with previous interests they have pursued. I didn’t mean that every candidate had to pursue all of those areas. I just meant that it would make sense for solid candidates to have background in some of them. Sarah Palin has background in sports journalism.

    What’s not obvious however is that this method would be worse than what we’ve had

    yeah? well, we’d have an 73% chance of getting someone without a college degree, since only 27% of americans have a BA; and close to a 1 in 5 chance of getting someone without a high school diploma… but it’s not about academics, obviously. Very little chance they’d be interested in politics particularly, since at least half the country isn’t even registered to vote, but that’s hardly an issue either, since I suppose we want an outsider.

    Well, I guess we’ll get what we deserve. Yes, of course we can vote for whoever we want and it’s all about disagreement, but I’m trying to make a point to my fellow citizens here. I think you’re being thick headed. We are the boss and the candidates are job candidates for an important job: governing. Let’s hire someone competent, not someone cute.

  10. Sonic Charmer Says:

    All I meant is that power seems to be ALL that sarah palin has shown an interest in.

    I don’t think you have a basis for saying that merely from what we have seen. Frankly I think this is far more true of John McCain. 🙂

    I just meant that it would make sense for solid candidates to have background in some of them. Sarah Palin has background in sports journalism.

    I still barely know anything about her, but she clearly takes an interest in wildlife management and energy policy (including the economics issues that arise from the latter). You might consider these provincial concerns but that is to be expected given that she has been a state governor where these are prominent issues. The question is more whether one approves/disapproves of the judgment she has shown in these areas. Clearly there are people who disagree with her positions on these things and more, but that disagreement is a difference of opinion, not a proof of her lack of qualification.

    [pick randomly] yeah? well, we’d have an 73% chance of getting someone without a college degree, since only 27% of americans have a BA; and close to a 1 in 5 chance of getting someone without a high school diploma…

    Like I said, it’s not obvious that this method would be worse than what we’ve had.

    but it’s not about academics, obviously.

    I’m glad you agree with me then. ‘Academics’ means precious little. Some of the dumbest people go into, and stay in, academics. I say this as someone who has a PhD and spent more years in academics than I care to state.

    We are the boss and the candidates are job candidates for an important job: governing. Let’s hire someone competent, not someone cute.

    And when available, both.

    You still have no tangible argument that Palin would not be competent in the role she seeks. You say it’s not about academics “obviously” but it turns out that’s a big part of your argument.

  11. rushmc Says:

    >>To make it concrete: someone who proves an obscure mathematical theorem is, by the definition I was operating from, ‘intelligent’.

    As I said, I find that an extremely narrow definition.

    I don’t know of anyone pointing to Palin’s six colleges in six years as evidence of a lack of intelligence. It may indicate that she is flighty, unserious, unable to commit, unable to perform without gaming the system, or any number of other things, but unless she flat flunked out five times (which we do not know), I don’t know that it says much about her intelligence (except that all else being equal, it’s a pretty silly course to take). Whereas graduating high in your class from Harvard or Yale DOES indicate something about your intelligence, your commitment, and your work ethic.

    >> ‘Academics’ means precious little’

    See, it’s comments like this that paint you a crank and devalue the rest of your argument. Whatever the failings of academia, it is preposterous to deny the correlation between education and, um, being educated. Are there a lot of duds in the academic world? Obviously. Education is not a magic wand that changes people into another class of human (it only seems like that sometimes ). But ignorance produces a lot more than education ever did (which, after all, is only logical and to be expected).

  12. drinkme Says:

    sonic charmer, I was assuming your opinion, not so much providing mine.

    I don’t really want to get into this. Education doesn’t mean everything, there are always exceptions and complications, intelligence is evident in all sorts of ways, etc. Sure, I’m with you to an extent, and being in academia myself, I certainly agree there are plenty of people in academia I wouldn’t want making practical decisions. But that doesn’t mean that people outside of academia are better prepared…

    In the contemporary world, not finishing a BA says something (not in every case but very generally) about your basic capacity to handle stress, to understand abstract thought, to follow arguments, make decisions, do things you set out to do, yadda yadda. it’s a reasonable marker to expect of leaders.

    on the other hand, I do know there are people without BAs who are successful, and they can be better read than people with BAs who got away with bullshitting through classes, and academia itself is kind of a mess these days, so, I don’t want to make this point too strongly…

    oh whatever. i’m always too wishy washy about these things. having a college degree is not a crazy thing to expect of a presidential candidate. It’s the random exception that makes the case hard to defend, not the standard example. In any case, I would prefer a well-educated candidate, whether by standard means or self-caused means. I would prefer someone who knew the history of the country, the form of the constitution, the details of the law, and other relevant matters. Whether they knew these things from having studied them at schools or in their in own home is not the important point. But I do believe that time spent considering issues like them is important. Time spent learning about the background and thinking critically about the future possibilities – and talking with peers. Which really is what school is, so you may as well do it in school after all. Just actually go to school instead of partying and begging for A’s…

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