Against the Stupids

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 22 2012 3:18 PM

Against the Stupids

Some smart responses to my piece about stupid voters have been coming in. Most of them -- and this is probably a comment on my readership -- whack me for going too easy on Republicans.

You're dangerously close to equivilation here.  Just because there are stupid voters on the right and left, that does not mean that they exist in equal numbers, nor that politicians of the right and left pander to their fringes equally.

The issue, at least from the perspective of a partisan liberal, is that the Republican party is no longer even really trying to fight for swing voters -- they're trying to build up their ignorant base, which will vote for them reliably, to the point that swing voters become irrelevant.  On the one hand, those of us in safe blue territory can stare in disbelief and hope that come November, the GOP will find itself facing steep losses in the House and Senate and a newly re-energized Obama presidency, because a lot of swing voters are women, and they are not going to let some bunch of old white dudes ban birth control and mandate "shaming wands" (as Garry Trudeau put it).  On the other hand, if you think of it in terms of cultural or "memetic" evolution, the conservative movement has been spectacularly successful over the last fifty years -- to use the current Slate buzzword, it's resilient.  No matter how often it fails, or conflicting facts emerge, the system of indoctrination (don't believe the liberal media!) protects its core, and it finds new ways to spread its poisonous message. (Conservatives failing in government is just another sign that government can't do anything right!)
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This is more of a root-cause search than the one I was engaged in. I was just trying to defend reporters quoting people who didn't know things. But since I argued that voter stupidity didn't have much of an effect on election -- the point is that a dumb voter who's generally pretty conservative will eventually make the same partisan choice that a brilliant conservative will make. The guy who votes against Barack Obama because he's worried about the illuminati gets counted, as Bill Kristol gets counted. Voter ignorance doesn't wildly distort elections. But it's a factor that should be covered.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.