Rick Shenkman: John Kerry is Right, Americans are Ignorant -- But It's Bad Politics to Say So

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Rick Shenkman is the author of"Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter" (Basic Books), vice president of VoteiQ, and editor-in-chief of HNN.]

John Kerry isn’t usually someone that many people get that riled up about, so I was shocked to discover that the right-wing has decided this week to claim to take offense at his statement during a tour of the Boston Medical Center that the electorate “doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan.”...

In Kerry’s defense it should be noted that nothing he said was actually the least bit controversial -- if one takes into account the facts, something admittedly that is not terribly popular in American politics. Studies since the 1940s have consistently shown that Americans by and large don’t pay much attention to politics, and when they do it is apt to be because somebody has nicely captured their feelings about the times in a reductionist bumper sticker slogan.

Just how ignorant are Americans? Three facts. Only one out of two know the Constitution was drafted in Philadelphia. Only one in five know there are a hundred U.S. senators. Only two in five can name the three branches of government. Please note that in each case the part of the electorate that has been found to be knowledgeable about our history and our government is in the minority.

Poor John Kerry. He has the facts on his side and thinks that matters. Does the man not understand how politics is played these days? How it has been played for going on 40 years, ever since George Wallace denounced pointy-headed intellectuals and Richard Nixon discovered the virtues of the Silent Majority?...

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John a Wilson - 10/2/2010

Man, this short article insults 70% of America. Do you really think that the dope product of the public schools and their lack of American History curricula are the same people who reacted to Kerry's condescending comments? His big fat mouth is why he isn't president today. He's an easy target for scrutiny and ridicule, all by himself.