Another Kind of Stupidity

Way back in time, in my first year in college, I took the introductory course in Political Science in a school that was known to have a strong department, and I was stunned, because, for the most part, the course dealt almost exclusively with the Executive Branch. So did the majority of courses dealing with U.S. politics, and none of the professors seemed really to understand grassroots politics, and some actually minimized the electoral side of politics, which struck me as a form of arrogance.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised because most of the professors teaching, those who had any experience in government, had been political appointees in the Executive Branch. At that time, I didn’t have, obviously, that kind of experience, but my father had been a city councilor and acting mayor of the town where I grew up, and my mother was an executive board member of the League of Women Voters for the state of Colorado.

Later on, after I finished my tours in the Navy, and after being less than successful as an industrial market research analyst and real estate salesman, I got involved in local politics as a precinct committeeman, and then as a researcher for a political campaign for Congress, which led to a job as a legislative assistant to a congressman (the campaign was successful) and staff director for his successor. In turn, that led, after ten years, to an appointment in the Reagan Administration as Director of Legislation and Congressional Affairs at the U.S. EPA, after which I spent another ten years working for a high-powered D.C. consulting firm.

The head of EPA when I was there was an intellectually brilliant attorney who’d been a noted and successful state representative in Colorado. Although she thought otherwise, she didn’t know squat about how the federal government worked. Neither did a great many of the senior Reagan administration appointees who came out of state governments. The result was a political nightmare, with the result that almost all of the political appointees at EPA, including the Administrator, either resigned or were fired [two of us out of 36 survived], and one assistant administrator went to jail. Also, the Secretary of the Interior and a few others were canned.

Why? Because all these people who’d been successful elsewhere carried an air of arrogance, a definite feeling that they knew better than all those elected officials and federal bureaucrats. They assumed that intelligence and past experience would suffice… and they also didn’t listen to those who’d been there. Just like the Freedom Caucus and the Trumpists.

This is scarcely new, but what is frightening to me is that the current Trumpist/populist wave is also being led by a group of arrogant grassroots politicians who understand nothing about how government works. One can complain about Biden being a creature of Washington, D.C., but in two years he got more substantive legislation passed than Trump did in four years and, from what I can tell, more than Obama did, as well.

Not only do the populists not understand government, but they don’t want to. The fact that they excuse/ignore the January 6th insurrection and the three indictments and forty charges against Trump is a good indication of their indifference and arrogance. In addition, they essentially want to destroy the U.S. rule of law because they don’t like the results, but they also have no constructive plan about what to do once they have.

So far, neither Trump nor his GOP allies in the House have yet to accomplish anything except to attempt to significantly cut federal spending with no real understanding of what cuts might be useful and what would be disastrous and to seek to impeach people they don’t like, while defending the greatest liar in American political history.

What’s happening with Trump and the Trumpists is because too many people know too little about how government works while dismissing the knowledge and experience of those they don’t like and believing they know far more than they do.

And we’re all going to pay for that arrogance.

4 thoughts on “Another Kind of Stupidity”

  1. KevinJ says:

    Arrogance and intolerance.

    They want an America that looks like Leave It to Beaver or The Donna Reed Show. Is our government delivering that to them? No? Then wreck it.

    They want everyone to be “Christian.” (Scare quotes because…well, there’s Christians and there’s “Christians.”) Does science prove their beliefs right? Then wreck that too.

    They’ll go on rampaging unless and until reined in. We can only hope the ballot box will be enough. Jan 6th suggests it might not.

  2. Bill says:

    Having grown up in the 70s I occasionally put on the 70’s station. It occurred to me that most of the rock and roll of the 70s was depressed. Then there was a brief time of acceptance and then denial and anger at the end of Carter’s term. Which reminds me of the stages of grief. It seems like we are going through a similar cycle where the people who are voting for the destruction of the country are either in denial or angry.

    The world is changing, and they are angry because their way of life is going away. They may even be bargaining with the devil in an effort to keep it. Make America Great Again ties directly to that feeling. If I go along with these people, I will get my way of life back.

    From their perspective they have nothing to lose. Their world is crumbling around them so a disaster couldn’t be any worse.

    I don’t say this to minimize their actions, but it may help to understand the situation from a different perspective. Helping people to work through their grief could change the dynamics of the situation. Or it could require something dramatic to shock the people into acceptance. Not that I am looking for something like that.

    What worries me though to borrow a phrase are the enemies of the US both foreign and domestic that encourage the anger for their own profit and the destruction of the US.

  3. Tom says:

    “Helping people to work through their grief could change the dynamics of the situation.”
    So the psychiatrists and psychologist would say; but if the bills and other stressors are over-whelming then its work that is needed to focus one’s mind and pay the bills. For the US and the “developed” nations the realization of the size of the potential consumer economy in India, China, Brazil and the cost of competition, is the primary “stress” created through the chaos caused by our inefficient management of the Covid 19 pandemic. We still do not seem to understand the importance of reserves when one does not have reliable partners. The uncertainty of leaders of commerce and politics transmits directly to those without the power to change/do things.

    “… the enemies of the US both foreign and domestic that encourage the anger for their own profit and the destruction of the US.” The personal sovereignty outweighing the national sovereignty instead of being replaced by global cooperation is difficult to manage.

    Even though the multinational corporations found out how tenuous their control systems are/were, they have not yet created workable solutions to these changed international relationships nor the interference of business relationships from frightened old fashioned nation/state short-term self-interests.

    Each level of society is faced with complex situations which appear insoluble by methods used in the past, hence we grasp at new, AI-like, straws not realizing that the human created problems can only be solved by humans (all be it with a little help from Number 5’s Short Circuit).

    The stupidity might be a manifestation of inability and unpreparedness.

  4. Tom says:

    Another look at “stupidity”.

    Confidence and arrogance are easily confused for one another, as people tend to think positively about confident people. In contrast, arrogant individuals often have a negative perception by others. While confidence is based on a realistic assessment of one’s abilities, arrogance is often rooted in insecurity or a need for validation.

    Anger – Arrogance! There is a relationship between the two emotions. A perceived slight instigates a desire to do others down to preserve one’s special entitlements. This is why arrogant people are angry. Arrogance and anger feed each other. They are part of a vicious circle of ever increasing aggression and disrespect.

    Perhaps this is why we are as we are at this time? When we constantly compare ourselves to others and judge ourselves harshly, thinking we are incompetent, we easily get angry at others and put other people down in an effort to show them how powerful we are. Another attribute that anger and arrogance share is that they both push people away: which leads to division!

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