In a Democracy, Stupid Matters
Like sixty-some-odd percentage of the American population and 111% of the Western Alliance, I regularly pull my hair out, scream into pillows, yell at the TV, and rant to whoever will listen when Donald J. Trump does something illegal, immoral, unethical, un-American or gets in front of a microphone and speaks like an angry old man at a dive bar whose last memory of sobriety was likely during the Carter Administration. I often just shake my head and say out loud, “I don’t get it. How the Hell did we end up with a clearly corrupt, malignant narcissist who has the communication skills of a second-grader, the temperament of a two-year old, and the morality of a serial rapist as President*?
Then, one day it occurred to me that in a democracy, stupid matters. Now, I know it’s uncivil, politically incorrect, and even politically unhelpful to call stupid “stupid”, but you don’t have to be brilliant to understand the obvious logic that 50% of the population is stupider than the other 50%. (Please post angry comments below). That’s just a straight-up, inarguably logical reality. You know who will not believe this; the 50% on the left side of the bell curve. Or, more likely, they will argue they are in the 50% of above average intelligence and then cite something Sean Hannity said about how not-stupid Fox News viewers are. Because: Stupid!
The problem is, in a democracy, stupid really does matter. What Putin did to the American democratic process, (and has been doing to many western democracies), is not complicated. Putin weaponized stupid and used our society’s all-too-prevalent bigotry and greed to fuel it. Not every Trump supporter is stupid, some are just wealthy people who don’t care about anything but their own personal enrichment. Others are just die-hard racist bigots who want to see everyone who is not white punished, or removed from our country completely, and know Trump is corrupt and racist enough to do that. In reality, Trump barely won the Electoral College by a slim margin because Trump got the Stupid vote and Hillary lost the Stupid vote. So yes, we are in this mess because: Stupid!
“Stupid” doesn’t mean everyone on the left side of the bell-curve; it means significantly to the left of the bell-curve. Like, oh, say, the first 35–40% from the left, which is also left of Donald Trump himself. Think of it this way: The reason Trump supporters don’t think Trump sounds as stupid as the rest of us think he sounds is the same reason, no matter how stupid anyone is, their dog thinks they are brilliant… As long as the treats keep coming. “Trump Treats” are cruelly designed racist policies, cultural warrior judges, tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and corporations, misogyny, homophobia, and a faux-alpha male bluster that anyone on the center and right side of the I.Q. bell-curve sees for what it is, toxic masculinity mixed with a life-long inferiority complex that has effectively socially crippled him since childhood.
The weaponization of stupid, fueled by bigotry and greed, is a potentially lethal weapon to use against any democracy, but with the uniquely diverse, multicultural makeup of the American public, we were, and are, particularly susceptible to it. We still have a white majority but it’s just a matter of time before that is no longer the case. In fact, the current estimate is that whites will no longer be in the majority by 2045. That reality scares the Hell out of Stupid. Stupid thinks that once whites are no longer the majority, they will somehow lose the vast amount of Stupid power they currently have. The fast-moving effects of this destruction can be watched in the United States very clearly and in real time. In less than two years we are watching the American President* who was elected by Stupid with the help of Russia, an enemy of the United States, dismantle the 70-plus-year-old Western Alliance, that was designed to keep ALL Western Allies safe after WWII. Putin could not have done this better if he had been elected President of the United States himself. Trump, unhindered by the feckless and corrupt GOP Congress, is doing Putin’s bidding by picking fights and imposing tariffs on our closest allies while he embraces corrupt dictators all over the world. He is, constantly and aggressively, demonizing both people of color and the entire Muslim faith — held by over a billion people worldwide — citizens or not; persistently attacking our free press; appointing conservative activist judges who will roll back protections for minorities, women, the poor and disenfranchised; and mounting an unprecedented assault on the rule of law with non-stop attacks on our entire justice and federal law enforcement bodies.
The delivery system used by Putin was and still is, cyber-warfare, social media, the Fox News Channel and confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency to look for and accept willingly, information that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs. So, basically, bigots look for and willingly accept evidence that supports their bigoted beliefs, misogynists look for and willingly accept evidence that women deserve to be treated badly, people who hate Hillary Clinton, look for and willingly accept evidence of her corruption and wrongdoing, and people who hate immigrants look for and willingly accept proof they are all bringing in drugs and raping people. Supporters of Donald Trump look for and willingly accept evidence that he is a brilliant businessman, patriot, and wrongly accused victim of an overzealous, overly-biased Justice Department, even though it is entirely run by Republicans he personally hand-picked.
Everyone not stupid knows Fox News Channel is not news in any serious sense of the word, it’s a business model that peddles confirmation bias aimed at a particularly susceptible group of people: Stupid. Essentially, instead of “food for thought, it is “food for stupid”. The problem for democracy is, it really does work to get out the Stupid vote, because if you mobilize Stupid to vote for your candidate, you begin with 50% of the vote. Then add some less than stupid racists and rich people, and subtract the lazy who would have voted the other way but didn’t go to the polls, and you will win elections. Not everyone who voted for Trump is stupid, but without the Stupid vote, he couldn’t have come close to winning. Conservative “Christian” Republicans who held their nose to vote for him because he would nominate Conservative judges aren’t necessarily stupid, they are just hypocrites who sold their collective souls so poor women and women of color will be forced to have babies they don’t want and can’t afford.
Every human is guilty of falling into the trap of confirmation bias on some level. Everyone knows that guy who is absolutely positive every woman who says hi to him is flirting with him, or that woman who is sure the girl behind the makeup counter at Nordstrom’s was mocking her when she said “will that be all”, and she took it to mean, “you really need more makeup to cover that face!” Often, confirmation bias is a result of anxiety on some level. But stupid people are even more susceptible because, well, Stupid. And because racism, bigotry, hatred, and conservatism are all more prevalent in the low-IQ and uneducated population as a whole (I Googled it for you), Putin had to only creatively stoke the flames to get the Stupid vote out in legion. Remember, Donald Trump did not win even 50% of the vote, he lost the popular vote by 3 million. Intellectual Republicans with functioning moral compasses became known as “Never Trumpers” and the Obama voters who supported Trump were the stupid Obama voters who fell for Putin’s disinformation campaign, often combined with a blind affinity for cult-of-personality celebrity culture. These voters believed Trump was actually the made-up character of his many reality TV shows — that painted him as a successful businessman — when in reality he was known around New York business circles as a common low-life conman who had no idea how to successfully run anything but another scam. And these voters believed that because: Stupid.
I blame both sides for the disaster that is President* Donald Trump and the threat he brings to our liberal democracy. I blame the Stupid on the Right who fell for Putin’s disinformation campaign, their own racism, sexism, and ignorance, and I blame the Stupid on the Left, that believed Putin’s disinformation campaign that convinced them that Hillary Clinton was as much or more corrupt than Trump, and maybe even running a child prostitution ring out of the basement of a D.C. pizza parlour that didn’t have a basement, so they threw away their vote or stayed home. I blame the Conservatives with no moral compass who voted for him because “the ends justify the means.” And I blame the snobby, wannabe intellectual liberals who withheld their vote for some bullshit purity-test argument that is no less stupid than the guy on the Right who voted for him because he’s stupid enough to believe he will keep whites in the majority forever. Because: Stupid.
Weaponized Stupid is a very real threat to democracies all over the world. The only way to win a war with weaponized Stupid is for everyone else to vote SMART. Not every stupid person voted, some stayed home in protest, some threw away their vote on fringe candidates or write-ins. But the majority of the Stupid vote went to Trump. So if EVERYONE who is blessed with average or better intelligence votes Smart, we may actually beat Stupid and save American democracy and our very way of life.