“It’s time that normal Joe Six-Pack American is finally represented in the position of vice presidency,” said Sarah Palin, as she campaigned to be Vice President under John McCain. Palin’s appeal to the “average American” did not win in 2008, but the strategy has certainly infected other candidates in the race to be the Republican nominee in 2012.
True, Palin really is a hockey mom from a small Alaskan town whose greatest strength is her “Average Joe, working-class” vibe. But as she frequently cited incorrect information and lied to the American people, Palin’s intelligence was questioned repeatedly. Despite Palin’s many factual failures and embarrassing interviews, she has gained a devoted following.
To put it bluntly: what is the appeal of an ignorant politician? If Joe the Plumber doesn’t feel that he’s capable of running the country, why would he want someone similar to him to do so?
It is apparent that Palin’s popularity is not based on her logic or intelligence. Those who support her are caught up in the emotion of her patriotic, militant, mama-bear, libertarian rhetoric, and ignore the fact that she cites living near Russia as her foreign policy experience and couldn’t name a newspaper that she read when asked in an interview.
The appeal of the GOP candidates playing the “average” card is emotional, not rational. This may have been acceptable when voting for Palin in the Miss Wasilla Beauty Pageant, but is certainly not when selecting the next leader of this country.
As Tea Party candidates continually call out Obama on his “elitism,” someone out there is buying into the idea than an educated, intelligent, eloquent president is one who could never relate to them, or help them. This is, without a doubt, a false equation. What’s even more upsetting is that plans Obama has put forth are targeted at helping the average American, while the goal of the GOP’s legislation is to aid the big business men. Republicans cannot support their claims that it is more elitist to try to help the middle and working class, than to support the true elites of this country—those who end up on the Forbes list every year.
Some voters find it important that their leader align with the lowest common denominator of American intelligence, rather than be exemplary. Why then not advocate for a better education system and a political climate that supports facts? Instead, candidates are embracing the preposterous views of the far right and ignoring the truth in order to get a heated emotional response from constituents.
Granted, Republicans are not the only ones playing into the hands of the average Americans. Joe Biden, the current Vice President, consistently countered Palin’s average appeal with his own. Biden, however, proved that it is possible to run and represent the working class in a positive way.
Should we not expect than any person vying to represent America be able to accept a simple scientific fact? It does not come as a surprise that the current Republican candidates have virtually no platform addressing education. Maybe that’s for the best, since many already want to shove information with no factual basis into the curriculum, such as creationism.
Herman Cain, a candidate for the GOP nomination, put his name on the map early on in the race, when he made a speech stating that, if President, he would limit all bills to three pages. He argued that congressmen and citizens alike would not read legislation if it exceeded this limit—like many of Obama’s bills have.
Cain has since expanded his easy-to-understand platform with a 9-9-9 tax plan and a copy of the Chilean system for Social Security reform. The simplicity of Cain’s platform is well intentioned; many Americans cannot read or comprehend the hundreds of pages of legislation that Obama has proposed, and therefore cannot make educated decisions. But is it possible to establish plans that will affect around 300 million incredibly diverse people in only three written pages? Instead of asking the president to dumb-down his legislation, maybe we should instead focus on raising the education of the American people to a level at which they could understand how their country is run.
We live in a highly complex country, in a highly complex world, and it is hard to justify our claims of being the greatest country on Earth if our democratically elected leader is still living in their imaginary Tea-Party land, where the country is being invaded by Muslims, vaccines cause retardation, the United States was formed as a Christian theocracy and, to quote Michele Bachmann, “Not all cultures are equal.”
Hopefully there will be a day when appealing to the “average American” means accepting the facts of climate change, evolution, Obama’s citizenship, and where knowledge and hard-earned expertise are respected, not ridiculed.