I’d been reading this general theme in a lot of places recently but Jane Smiley really spells it out with The unteachable ignorance of the red states. A few paragraphs follow to give you a taste:
The error that progressives have consistently committed over the years is to underestimate the vitality of ignorance in America. Listen to what the red state citizens say about themselves, the songs they write, and the sermons they flock to. They know who they are—they are full of original sin and they have a taste for violence. The blue state citizens make the Rousseauvian mistake of thinking humans are essentially good, and so they never realize when they are about to be slugged from behind.
… they [Republican politicians] tell you that you are the best of a bad lot (humans, that is) and that as bad as you are, if you stick with them, you are among the chosen. This is flattering and reassuring, and also encourages you to imagine the terrible fates of those you envy and resent. American politicians ALWAYS operate by a similar sort of flattery, and so Americans are never induced to question themselves. That’s what happened to Jimmy Carter—he asked Americans to take responsibility for their profligate ways, and promptly lost to Ronald Reagan, who told them once again that they could do anything they wanted. The history of the last four years shows that red state types, above all, do not want to be told what to do—they prefer to be ignorant. As a result, they are virtually unteachable.
Third, and most important, when life grows difficult or fearsome, they (politicians, preachers, pundits) encourage you to cling to your ignorance with even more fervor. But by this time you don’t need much encouragement—you’ve put all your eggs into the ignorance basket, and really, some kind of miraculous fruition (preferably accompanied by the torment of your enemies, and the ignorant always have plenty of enemies) is your only hope. If you are sufficiently ignorant, you won’t even know how dangerous your policies are until they have destroyed you, and then you can always blame others.
The reason the Democrats have lost five of the last seven presidential elections is simple: A generation ago, the big capitalists, who have no morals, as we know, decided to make use of the religious right in their class war against the middle class and against the regulations that were protecting those whom they considered to be their rightful prey—workers and consumers. The architects of this strategy knew perfectly well that they were exploiting, among other unsavory qualities, a long American habit of virulent racism, but they did it anyway, and we see the outcome now—Cheney is the capitalist arm and Bush is the religious arm. They know no boundaries or rules. They are predatory and resentful, amoral, avaricious, and arrogant. Lots of Americans like and admire them because lots of Americans, even those who don’t share those same qualities, don’t know which end is up. Can the Democrats appeal to such voters? Do they want to? The Republicans have sold their souls for power. Must everyone?
Oh. An interesting point about Ms. Smiley is that she is John Ross’s (if you don’t know who John Ross is then you must be one of the ignorant people in favor of gun control) second cousin. Mr. Ross gently confronts her and explains things to her here. My favorite part is when he says this:
… I couldn’t help feeling as if I were reading a paper written by a French aristocrat in 1789 who had narrowly escaped to England just before the blade of the guillotine had fallen on her neck. Or something penned by one of the higher-up Communists in 1989, right after the Soviet Union collapsed.
Ross has it right. In essence, we have been telling the elitists for years and years what the problem is with their policies (in particular gun control) and they dismiss us without even looking at the evidence. I’ve literally had several different elitist liberals tell me “I disagree with you.” When pressed for evidence they just say, “I disagree with your data.”. No evidence of their own to offer, no rational argument, just, “I disagree.” And they call us ignorant. Now they lost an election in a big way and the best they can come up with is that we are ignorant. Smiley and her ilk are bigots and it’s time they were told that to their faces. And they should thank us for voting them out of power rather than being forced to use guillotines.
And if you think I am being harsh read this link before you start calling me names. These people say things like:
… country, an archaic synonym for stupid that should be revived in our post-2004 election world