Democratic Elites And Republican Dummies? It's More Complex : It's All Politics reports Democrats are ridiculing dumb Republicans. But it's more complex than that. Both major parties have their elites and their masses. The elite tap into the fears and hopes of others. But most voters want competence.
NPR logo Democratic Elites And Republican Dummies? It's More Complex

Democratic Elites And Republican Dummies? It's More Complex

In an intentionally provocative piece, reports that some Democrats are ridiculing some Republican candidates and leaders as stupid, making their cluelessness of certain information the butt of Democratic jibes.

The poster child for this story is Christine O'Donnell who this week revealed a somewhat breath-taking ignorance of the Constitution.

She didn't know, for instance, that the Fourteenth Amendment contains a few non-trivial rights like due process and equal protection.

But Politico also runs pictures of Sarah Palin and Ken Buck, the Republican Senate candidate from Colorado, along with O'Donnell's, a kind of triptych of victims of Democratic intellectual bullying.

It's an entertaining piece but it paints too simple a picture. The reality it more complicated than a matter of pointy headed Democrat elites versus the Republican hoi polloi.

There are elites in both major parties who are in the upper reaches due to intellect, money or political smarts. And there are plenty of relatively lowly educated and paid, salt-of- the-earth people in both parties as well.

The elites in both parties tap into the anger, fears and resentments, but also the hopes and aspirations of those with less education and money. That's the long history of American politics and politics as practiced elsewhere, too.

But there's a difference between elitism for the sake of elitism and the expectation that those who offer themselves for important public offices will have the knowledge and curiosity to be good leaders.

Just as Americans prefer their surgeons to know how to operate and pilots to know how to fly, they also appear to want politicians who know what they're doing or at least show the ability to learn and adapt.

When politicians demonstrate that they don't give off the air of competence to be effective leaders, voters of all stripes tend to get more than a little concerned.

That probably explains why a majority of respondents in polls have repeatedly said Palin isn't qualified to be president. And a majority of voters in Delaware have concluded, based on recent polls, that O'Donnell isn't qualified to be in the Senate.

And most of those people reaching that conclusion aren't elites by any stretch.