On Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott went whining to the media about large amounts of fentanyl coming through the southwest border-- enough seized just last year to kill hundreds of millions of Americans... and that Biden "does not care." I'm no Biden fan-- to put it mildly-- but I bet he cares more than Abbott does. And, look, Greg Abbott was in the National Honor Society in high school and was voted "most likely to succeed" before going off to UT Austin (a good school) to earn his bachelor of business administration degree and then to Vanderbilt Law School, also an excellent school. So, at least when he was young, he wasn't a dummy.
There are 10 Republican senators who went to Ivy League Schools for either their undergraduate degrees or graduate degrees, Including Ted Cruz (TX), Tom Cotton (AR), Ben Sasse (NE), Mike Crapo (ID), John Hoeven (ND), Mitt Romney (UT), Mike Braun (IN), Rob Portman (OH), Pat Toomey (PA) and Dan Sullivan (AK). Obviously there are far more in the House, although the House is better known for members who flunked out of college-- or high school-- like Lauren Boebert (Q-CO), Madison Cawthorn (Nazi-NC), Jerry Carl (R-AL) and Matthew Rosendale (R-MT), people whose ignorance and inability to use critical thinking are on display every time they open their mouths.
But, as hard as it may be to believe, some of the Senate Republican Ivy Leaguers often seem as stupid and dim-witted as Boebert and Cawthorn. David Graham wrote in a column yesterday, Smart Men Acting Stupid, that it's a put on and that they only act like morons to be able to relate to their bases, low-IQ, uneducated and dumbed-down Fox News fans-- people who fell for and still fall for Trump's con job.
Graham began by reminding us all about when Louisiana former congressman, governor and presidential candidate Bobby Jindal-- a Brown graduate who was accepted by Harvard and Yale for post-graduate work but went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar-- told the RNC that the Republicans needed to stop being "the stupid party" and must trust the intelligence of the American people. Tens of millions of Republicans are as stupid as Cawthorn and Boebert.
The latest YouGov poll for The Economist (Wednesday) asked people questions that imply intelligence or stupidity. For example, "In thee last 7 dis, how often have you worn a mask on your face when outside your home?" 61% of respondents said always or most of the time and just 18% said never. However, look at the breakdown among white males: 29% of white males with no college degrees said never, while just 45% said always or most of the time. Along similar lines, 33% of the population say they have not had even one vaccine. That humber sky-rockets to 41% among white males with no degree (and 45% of self-described conservatives).
The same poll shows that 54% of Americans have an unfavorable view of Trump. Among white males without college degrees that number goes way down to 41%, again demonstrating what morons they are as a demographic.
"Jindal's speech," wrote Graham, "is unthinkable today, not only because the Republican Party has moved in an even more decidedly anti-intellectual direction, but also because the kinds of politicians who look like Jindalbrainy, the ambitious ones with summaries of the Ivy League, are pursuing the opposite path. This is the age of smart politicians pretending to be stupid. The main offenders are Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (Yale College, magna cum laude; Harvard Law, cum laude), U.S. Senate hopeful Eric Greitens of Missouri (Duke, full scholarship; Rhodes Scholar), and U.S. Senate nominee JD Vance of Ohio (Ohio State, summa cum laude; Yale Law). Of course, going to fancy schools doesn’t necessarily make someone smart, and well-educated people don’t have a monopoly on intelligence. Smart people make bad calls all the time, besides, as David Halberstam has indelibly noted, and the stupid fall on good decisions. What these politicians have in common is that although they gave every indication that they were smart in the past, now, in their best bid to succeed in the Trump-era Republican Party, they pass off as what they imagine voters want, with results that ring almost comically false.
Start with DeSantis. Last April, when vaccines were new and not so politically polarized, the governor got vaccinated by Johnson & Johnson, apparently because he preferred one vaccine to two. He didn’t get shot in public (I’m not sure I was going to do that on camera; well, see, he told reporters. If you want a gun show on fire, maybe we can do it, but it’s probably better not to) but he revealed that he got it, and then critical the FDA for suspending distribution of J&J later that month.
Now, however, DeSantis won’t even say if he received a booster shot. So that’s something I think people should make their own decisions about, he said last week. I will not let this be a weapon that people can use. I think it’s a private matter.
What is happening here? One possibility is that since receiving his first vaccine, DeSantis has become fervently, genuinely anti-vaccine, which would be pretty silly, as the evidence is only mounting that vaccines are both effective and safe. A second is that he has no personal objection to the vaccine but has decided to forego the booster anyway, because he understands the anti-vax vibe in the louder parts of the Republican base, and he wants to claim that mantle. The most likely scenario is the one that the conservative journalist Jonathan Last exhibits: You’re not supposed to remember this, but DeSantis is an elite Ivy League lawyer who plays a populist crusader. DeSantis almost certainly got the recall. In short, he wants to claim the anti-vax coat without stupidly putting himself in danger.
DeSantis is apparently going through these contortions because he is positioning himself for a 2024 presidential election that would bring him into conflict with former President Donald Trump, who considers the GOP nomination rightfully his. Trump, who has taken a pro-vaccine stance (the shots were mostly developed under his administration), quickly fired a shot through DeSantiss’ arc. I watched a few politicians being interviewed, and one of the questions was Did you get a callback? he said. Because they had the vaccine and they answer like, in other words, the answer is yes, but they don’t want to say it, because they don’t have the courage.
This is a classic Trump attack: mean-spirited, entertaining, and genuine. Vaccines are one of the few issues on which Trump and his base have serious differences, and Trump has stuck to his position despite the backlash. But most of the time, Trump and his supporters are neck and neck. He doesn’t have to worry about voters, because his constituents like both what he says and how he says it, which are, in a sense, one and the same thing. Like Jindal himself wrote in 2018, Mr. Trump’s style is part of his substance. His most loyal supporters support him because of, not in spite of, his brash behavior.
And while Trump is incorrigibly dishonest, he doesn’t have to pretend to be anything other than who he is to win over voters. When Trump said in 2016 I like badly educated people, he may have been too blunt, but he wasn’t lying. Impersonators, however, lack her common touch, so they try to mimic her instead. Their pantomime comes across as condescending. If they had come sincerely to the positions they took, they would be wrong, but because they seem dishonest, they are also pathetic.
The other high-profile offenders are not Trump’s rivals but those seeking his affection. When JD Vance rose to national fame, it was as the intelligent and accomplished author of Hillbilly Elegy, a bold critique of rural white America that is resolutely conservative, analytical and thoughtful. His name not only the Ivy League, but the Marine Corps and his stints in a law firm and venture capitalist made him look like the opposite of Donald Trump. And indeed, when Trump came to prominence, Vance was among his harshest conservative critics.
These days, as a candidate for an open Senate seat, Vance has moved closer to Trump politics and is more likely to blame rural decay on China and free trade than on declining family values. and hard work. It’s a valid ideological shift, and it may even be sincere: Many people have rethought their politics over the past half-decade. But in his haste to flee his past criticisms of Trump, Vance has become an instinctive caricature of the kind of ignorant moron he once skewered.
I kind of had problems with Trump from the start, Vance said Time Last year. I just thought that this guy wasn’t serious and that he wasn’t really going to be able to move forward on the subjects that were close to my heart. So Vance set out to make himself just as unserious. (Vance can be surprisingly reckless about what he does: if I really care about these people and the things I say I care about, I just have to suck it up and support it, he added.)
He drew heavy criticism in October, when, after actor Alec Baldwin accidentally shot and killed a cinematographer on a film set, Vance tweeted to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Cher @jack let Trump come back. We need Alec Baldwin’s tweets. He referred to LeBron James, perhaps Ohio’s greatest living, as one of our country’s most despicable public figures. He gives floury half-responses on anthropogenic climate change. He refuses to reject Trump’s stolen election claims and offers red herrings about donors which intensified when states were unwilling to fund election commissions to adapt to the pandemic. On Tuesday, after gaining an endorsement from Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and infamy, Vance tweeted, Honored to have Marjories’ endorsement. Were gonna win this thing and take the country back from the scumbags. (Vances’ main GOP rival, Cleveland-raised Josh Mandel, pulls a lot of faces himself, including adopting the worst trailing fake in the south. since Hillary Clinton left the runway.)
Vance has a kindred spirit in Missouri, where Eric Greitens is seeking a political comeback after he was forced to resign in a bizarre scandal in which (among other violations) he allegedly blackmailed a woman he was having an affair with. Like Vance, Greitens has built his appeal on his impressive run. In addition to his formal education, he received a Purple Heart in the Navy, wrote several books, and served as a member of the White House. For most of his life he was a Democrat, only to switch parties just before running in Missouri. admirers compared him to a Boy Scout, and even its detractors agreed that he was very smart. He gave lectures with titles such as The Cultivation of Character: Building Strength Through Study and Service.
It’s hard to maintain that image when you quit in a sordid sex scandal, so Greitens is now campaigning as a Trump sidekick. He’s become a regular on the podcast of Steve Bannons, buddies with Rudy Giuliani and Michael Flynn, endorsed Arizona’s bogus election audit and claims to endorse other debunked theories about the 2020 election. In a March interview 2021 with Hugh Hewitt, who was skeptical about his candidacy for the Senate, Greitens repeated the the same fragile sentences again and again, posing as a Miliband from Missouri.
To see a different take on how an academically-leaning Republican tries to make his way into the post-Trump party, watch Greitenss, Missourian Josh Hawley (Stanford; Yale Law; Supreme Court internship under John Roberts). Hawley is not lacking in cynicism, as demonstrated by his endorsement of Trump’s efforts to annul the 2020 election. Some of his former mentors are dismayed by his actions. But Hawley tried to use his intellectual reputation to forge a kind of thinking man’s Trumpism. It’s almost certainly a contradiction in terms, but the attempt at least fits his personality.
Compare that with Vance. Last week, in an interview with Spectrum News, he dismissed concerns over his rude remarks, including Alec Baldwin’s tweet.
Unfortunately, our country is kind of a joke, and we should be able to tell jokes about it, he said. I think it is important that our politicians have a sense of humor. I think it’s important for us to be real people.
Ohioans have to choose if that’s the kind of attitude they want in a US senator. As for Vance, he has to choose whether he wants to be a real person or a joke.