THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 89, September 11, 2000
Guts and Gore
by Joshua Freeman
Special to TLE
Recently, it has been a chic political opinion that, "Americans don't like Al Gore because he's too intelligent."
It is part of the popular mythology to attribute this inanity to "the Right Wing," a vague, vast, vile mass of evil that appears to include everyone who is not an orthodox New Deal Liberal. On inspection, this belief makes little sense: politicians on the Right, presumably, don't wish for Gore to be elected; why would they initiate the spread of a bromide suggesting that he's "too intelligent for most Americans?" seeing as such a rumor, if believed, could cause some people who would otherwise vote Republican to vote for Gote just to reassure themselves that they aren't one of those who doesn't support Gore because his alleged intelligence intimidates them.
In fact, although the Republicans' chosen candidate is notorious for his apparent unintelligence and ignorance, they make the most of that by promoting a "simple, friendly, regular guy" image for him. If Gore were also to adopt such a public persona, the Republicans would have to abandon their strategy of winning the elction by personal charm and promote George Bush on other, even more dubious aspects of his personality and career.
It's unlikely that Gore could accomplish such a reversal of his image, given the current view of most Americans concerning him; he is now widely viewed as an austere, shrewd, calculatinng man, as well as boring and somewhat aloof- quite the opposite of the folksy, friendly image Bush possesses.
If "the Right Wing" made Gore out to be "too intelligent," then he might have a similar advantage of personal appeal, regardless of his political views. They must wish to keep his appearance one of complete featurelessness, of no appeal, neither from intelligence nor "simplicity."
It is far more likely that this nonsense was created by a supporter of Gore with the goal of intimidating people into voting for Gore by causing them to question their own intelligence if they do not support him.
It is clear that Presidential campaigns in the United States are never more to be about issues. They're about appearance, personality, populism, orthodoxy, and slogans. Fortunately, there's nothing truly devastating in the orthodoxy now, but as the country's commitment to reasonable and broad debate debate on all levels of society erodes, the safeguards against the popularization of more destructive political positions are being eliminated.