FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hillary, McCain and the Stupid Vote

I want to be clear here from the start: there is a difference between ignorance and stupidity. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge. Stupidity is a lack of intelligence. But even here, there are subsets. Some ignorance results from a lack of access to knowledge, while some is the result of a laziness or unwillingness to learn. Some stupidity is the result of some genetic or nutritional deficiency or perhaps of some abuse or lack of care or attention during early childhood, while some is the result of mental laziness or a willful desire not to think.

Having lived in Asia and traveled widely in the remoter areas of rural China, and in Laos and other desperately poor countries, I have had an opportunity to see people who are truly ignorant about many things, but who are anything but stupid.  In a remote part of Anhui Province, back in the spring of 1992, for example, I visited a small village that had been completely inundated and destroyed a year earlier by an epic flood, which completely destroyed their rice fields and washed away their mud brick, dirt-floored homes.  They had, in less than a year, rebuilt the town, and were preparing to plant a new rice crop. They were also, using nothing but their hands and wheelbarrows, building a massive levee that would keep the river at bay the next time around.  The villagers had never seen an American in their lives, had no televisions or phones, and in most cases had never been farther than the next village, but they knew how to survive disasters that would have killed the average American.

They were also intensely interested in learning whatever they could from two visitors from halfway around the world. The whole village quickly crowded around me and my traveling companion, another American, peppering us with questions about America. We were invited into the home of a village elder, and served a delicious meal, which we ate among wandering chickens and rabbits in a dirt-floored room, as half the village peeked in through the window openings. Significantly, the thing they were proudest of, and which they brought us to see, was their new school.

I mention this because I am trying to imagine how the average American community would respond to a surprise visit by a couple of Chinese peasants from that village. I suspect that far from surrounding them and peppering them with questions about China, there would be calls to the local police to pick up to wandering vagrants. Instead of trying to communicate, and perhaps learn lessons about how to make gardens grow during a drought, local Americans would be studiously avoiding the visitors. An invitation to have dinner in a local home seems particularly unlikely.

When I lived in a small town in upstate New York for a few years back in the 1980s, I found myself briefly the president of the local little public library, which was wholly supported by donations. One year, we tried to get a donation of $1000 from the local Lions Club, which had an annual carnival and donated the proceeds to worthy projects (ours was an expansion of the building to accommodate books which at the time were sitting in piled up boxes for lack of shelf space). The president of the Lions, a local businessman, responded to our request saying, “What do we need a library for? I haven’t read a book in years!” (My fellow library board member, a local businesswoman herself, responded, “I’m no surprised to hear that, but I am surprised that you’d be willing to say it publicly.”)

I also remember overhearing, in the local supermarket checkout line, a cashier talking to her friend. She said, “I wish my daughter would drop out of high school and get a job. I mean, she’s 16 already, and what does she need a high school diploma for? She can work a cash register without one.”

All this brings me to Hillary Clinton’s proud assertion that she is the candidate of the uneducated white worker. It is of course, precisely why she won the West Virginia primary by a lopsided margin.  One news program I watched about the West Virginia primary included an interview with a Clinton supporter, in that state, an older woman who said she couldn’t vote for Obama “because he’s a Muslim.”  The reporter responded, “Well, for the record, you know he says he’s a Christian.”  The woman replied, “Well I don’t believe him.” In West Virginia, one in four residents doesn’t have a high school diploma. That compares to one in five nationally. I’m guessing this woman was one of that one in four. Only one in seven West Virginians holds a bachelor’s degree, compared with one in four nationally.

Now taken by itself, this isn’t to say West Virginians are stupid, or at least any stupider than the average American. (And don’t get me wrong. I love West Virginia– particularly its brilliant musical heritage and the musicians and artists of the region who carry on those traditions, and its gutsy labor union history, which played such a key role in the development of the American labor movement.) In large part, it is rather a reflection on the state’s relatively low average income, a legacy of historically low expenditures on education, and a general lack of opportunity.

Moreover, I’m certain that many of those West Virginians who never completed high school are smarter than your average college grad, in the same way that the Chinese peasants I met in rural Anhui were smarter than many much better educated Americans. But I’m also certain that a lot of West Virginians without high school diplomas, like other Americans without an education, are woefully ignorant, and vulnerable to manipulation by candidates who appeal to their baser instincts and fears, as Clinton has been doing in her sinking campaign. It is why states like West Virginia have, election after election, backed candidates like George Bush whose policies manifestly work against their own interests.

A depressingly large number of Americans, not just in West Virginia, but also across the land from Maine to California, including my own state of Pennsylvania, fall into this willfully stupid category. They are content to get their information from television programs that offer no facts—just propaganda and ratings-boosting rants. They don’t read newspapers. They reject facts that conflict with their prejudices. They’ll believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim. They’ll believe that Saddam Hussein was behind 9-11. They’ll believe that the earth was created 6000 years ago. They’ll believe the moon landings were faked in a Hollywood studio.

Certainly one cohort of voters that is keeping the leaky Clinton dirigible airborne is women, particularly older women, for whom her candidacy is a feminist milestone. That is understandable. But the other cohort, which Clinton has referred to as “working, hard working, white Americans,” and as “whites…who had not completed college,” is hardly something she or any candidate should be bragging about.

And yet that is what she is doing: bragging that she’s got a lock on the stupid, racist white vote.

She should be leaving that for John McCain.

DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback edition. His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

December 13, 2018
John Davis
What World Do We Seek?
Subhankar Banerjee
Biological Annihilation: a Planet in Loss Mode
Lawrence Davidson
What the Attack on Marc Lamont Hill Tells Us
James McEnteer
Breathless
Ramzy Baroud
The Real Face of Justin Trudeau: Are Palestinians Canada’s new Jews?
Dean Baker
Pelosi Would Sabotage the Progressive Agenda With a Pay-Go Rule
Elliot Sperber
Understanding the Yellow Vests Movement Through Basic Color Theory 
Rivera Sun
The End of the NRA? Business Magazines Tell Activists: The Strategy is Working
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Historic Opportunity to Transform Trade
December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail