Blogs > HNN > Obama thinks the voters are smart?

Jan 13, 2010 11:15 am

Obama thinks the voters are smart?

Obama told Brian Williams on NBC News last night that he thinks the voters are smart.

Really? In truth no politician can afford to believe this and few do. They play on our hopes and fears rather than discuss wonky policy issues because they know people aren't smart. They talk about what people who are uneducated can absorb without feeling dumb. If you make voters feel dumb or bore them with speeches about issues you'll lose them.

Obama knows this. That's why he doesn't give wonky speeches about issues, preferring instead to talk about" change" and"hope"--whatever those words mean.

Worse, he certainly doesn't tell voters the hard truths they need to hear. Who wants to hear hard truths? The voters certainly don't. And Obama's not interested in telling them any.

One of the great issues of our time, for instance, is that the voters were duped by Bush and Cheney into believing that Saddam was behind 9-11. Shouldn't we be talking about that? It ranks as one of the great failures in the long history of our democracy. But no one wants to say in public that the voters should think long and hard about why they were manipulatable. We have talked plenty about the manipulators, but not about the manipulated.

So all this talk about how smart the voters are is blather. It's one more meaningless example of pandering. If the voters really were smart they'd recognize Obama's statement to Williams as the insult it really is. But of course they don't. And Obama's counting on that--as do all politicians who tell people what they want to hear.

Do I expect pols in the midst of an election to speak the truth? Of course not. But voters shouldn't fool themselves into thinking that the pols are telling them the truth. That truly would be dumb.

Here's the transcript from the NBC interview:

WILLIAMS: Due respect, Senator, I'm-- I'm not guessing you've had a lot of-- of bowling experience. (LAUGHTER) And-- but you end up with people talking about your bowling score. Gutter balls. Wearing a tie. Wearing a tie with farmers and-- how have you dealt with that? What's-- is there an operating theory that guides your life these days?

OBAMA: You know, my theory is not over think it. Because I think the American people are smarter than that. The bowling's a wonderful example. Right? You go to a bowling alley 'cause you want to go meet with a bunch of folks. And folks are lined up and they're havin' a great time and we're talking. And-- and kids are I'm singing autographs. And then some woman says,"Hey, why don't you bowl a couple frames?" And I said,"Sure, although I haven't bowled in 25 years." And I'm out there and I'm having a great time. You know? And suddenly, this becomes some big, sort of-- signifier of whether or not I'm in tune with blue-collar culture. I was raised by small town folks from Kansas. With Midwestern values. Honesty and hard work and responsibility. And so this notion, somehow, that I'm some sprout-eating, Volvo driving person, when you know, of all the candidates remaining in this race - I probably-- came from-- the toughest circumstances. Not overly tough, I don't want to overstate. But some tough circumstances-- without a father in the house. And you know, raised by people who, you know, come straight out of Central Casting of small Midwestern towns. I think it just doesn't match up with who I am.

FINAL THOUGHT: If you could sit down each voter and talk to them one on one you could probably convince them that Obama's bowling score is meaningless. But this isn't how politics works. Pols reach people mainly through the media. In a media world messages are emotional. What gets through the clutter are simple hair-trigger detonations. A bad bowling score, silly as that may seem, is one of those detonations.

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

John von Arndt - 6/15/2008

I saw your interview on CNN. I think you were cut off by a commercial break. What a surprise!
The system is breaking down, and America is going under. I could document 100 things a day that point to this fact. Everyone should check out "The Twighlight of American Culture" by Morris Berman. Go watch "Declining by Degrees" by PBS. Everything is going down, dumbing down. People are just interested in entertainment, etc. In many ways the dumb masses probably deserve what is happening to them. The rich have manipulated the system to their benefit. The masses are eating double cheeseburgers and going to watch "The Hulk." I don't have any hope for any kind of meaningful change. I teach high school, and believe me things are getting worse year by year. I blame technology for this as well. Everyone is being entertained to death. Cultures rise and fall. America was just lucky in many ways, especially during WWII. If we hadn't had Russia fighting the Germans for years, then this would have been the German century or a cold war with Germany. America has always been about quantity over quality. I suggest moving to Europe or Canada. Staying in this country will just be more and more of a freakshow for the next 20 years.

HNN - 5/12/2008

I am afraid the problem is with most voters. Only 2 in 5 can name the 3 branches of the federal government. Only 1 in 7 can find Iraq on the map. Only 1 in 5 know there are 100 US senators.

The pols know the voters aren't smart. That's why our politics are dumb. The pols boil everything down to some simple slogan that anybody can understand. Facts don't count. Just myths.

Under the circumstances fooling people is easy--as Bush and Cheney found out when they deviously linked Saddam and 9-11. Their mistake was to arrange for a war that couldn't be won quickly. Americans understand failure.

Oscar Chamberlain - 5/12/2008

Is the problem a majority of voters or a comparatively small minority of swing voters? The results might be similar either way, but the solution, I think, would be very different.

HNN - 5/12/2008

There are two kinds of Democrats. Process Democrats and project Democrats. Obama's the former. He doesn't run on a specific issue. He runs on a promise to clean up politics. This is a recurrent theme in American history and when propounded by a charismatic reformer can lead to results. But the biggest reform he could make of the process would be to address the public's inability to absorb complicated issues. But he doesn't dare. That would force him to break the last remaining taboo of American politics. Too bad. We need smart voters in this country. And the only way we are going to get smart voters is by first recognizing that we don't have them. Then and only then can we begin devising solutions. The most obvious solution? We have to recognize that voters on their own can't sort through the complicated issues facing the country. They need to be members of mass organizations that help guide their thinking.

Randll Reese Besch - 5/11/2008

With this constant pandering to an illusive 'average' of everyone it is terrible indeed that such as a mere bowling score could be of any possible consequence to anything but the bowling game itself.
I am not taking in by blandishments to 'change' and 'hope' on mere words alone. Dennis Kucinich was for change---of this gov't and how it worked toward war and domination. He was eliminated from the race. Do any of the other candidates left come close? No. The last one was Edwards and he is now gone too.To me substance is everything and appearance is nothing.
I am in a distinct minority. All three of the remaining candidates do not want to pull out of that ongoing war crime that is in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Impeach Bush and Cheney for dozens of violations of the Constitution and Bill of Rights? None of them.
Choices? What good are they of the best ones are weeded our first?