The 2008 race for the Democratic nomination for the presidency looks like a classic pursuit of the Moron Vote. This seems crude to say, so perhaps we should call it the "mentally challenged vote" or the "clueless vote".
Why do I term it so? Consider where the winning Democratic candidate, Barak Obama, stands on issues most Americans care about. In numerous cases he takes positions that seem based on the assumption that voters are idiots, or else those positions show a serious lack of understanding on his part. On second thought - and in the interest of striking a blow at political correctness - let's stick with the title as-is. The simplest, most direct words are always the best.
Gas, oil, energy and quality of life. As I write this, oil has hit $137 a barrel on world markets. Mr. Obama has joined other lawmakers in bashing oil companies for "obscene" profits. He wants to tax their "windfall profits" and spend the money on "alternative energy sources". Yet he is opposed (as most Democrats are) to using nuclear power or coal (of which we have hundreds of years' supply) to generate power. He will not allow oil recovery from shale, which experts believe might contain some 800 billion barrels of oil. And he is unalterably opposed to drilling in either the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (where some 10 billion barrels of oil can be tapped) or off our coasts (where experts believe potential reserves of at least 18 billion barrels lie).
Mr. Obama's positions and oppositions will not produce a drop of new oil, or lower the price by a farthing, or produce the reasonably priced power Americans need. Yet millions of voters - not to mention legions of enthralled reporters - think he walks on water. One is left to infer that his followers either (1) want higher gas prices or (2) are too stupid to realize that their "messiah's" policies will do nothing about either energy supply or price - two of Americans' biggest worries.
Mr. Obama has gone on record saying that we can't expect to keep driving SUVs, eat as much as we want and set our thermostats at 72 degrees, and have the rest of the world say, "OK." Does he think Americans won't notice these declarations? Or is he so convinced of his own infallibility that he believes voters will swarm to his camp anyway? Color me perplexed. Other observers are more definite in their opposition, like the blogger Patstand who wrote, "Wake up people! Scary stuff coming out of the mouth of Barack Hussein Obama. Who is HE to tell us what we can drive and what we can eat?" It's a good question to which I have no answer.
What I do know is that scarce, high-priced gas and promises of a diminished quality of life have knocked two presidents out of the box in the last 1/3 century. Richard Nixon was the first. The conventional story is that Watergate brought him down, but that's too thin. The real issue was gas. (For your car - not the kind Congress produces.) The Watergate burglary happened in mid-1972. Nobody cared much about it until 1974, after oil tripled and gas doubled in price. Congressional Democrats used the Watergate break-in as a springboard, and Mr. Nixon was toast.
Gas in 1979 was as expensive as now, adjusted for inflation. Jimmy Carter said we should turn out the lights, turn down the heat, and put up with high gas prices - and he told us to quit whining about it. He scolded us - something voters don't appreciate. In 1980 they gave Mr. Carter the boot and elected the candidate of optimism, Ronald Reagan. After the feds stopped trying to allocate gas supplies and control prices, supplies stabilized and gas prices dropped.
The Economy... is where Mr. Obama is most clearly going after the Moron Vote. He is smart to do it because it won for Bill Clinton in 1992. Coming out of the 1990-'91 Gulf War, our economy had hit a downturn. Unemployment was 7.3%. Things were not good, but not really terrible in historic terms.
Mr. Clinton brought voters' niggling dissatisfaction to a boil by repeating the preposterous charge that we were in the "worst economy since the Great Depression" - knowing that a large faction of the public would not know this was complete nonsense. President Bush declined to dispute it, thinking the voters could not possibly believe so silly a statement. But he was wrong. The strategy drew the Moron Vote in droves and was a winner. With some help from Ross Perot, Mr. Clinton sneaked in with just 43% of the popular vote. Soon after he took office, the media began to report that (surprise!) the economy wasn't as bad as we thought it was.
Today, Mr. Obama is selling the same snake oil to voters who wouldn't know the Great Depression from the Great Gatsby. They resonate with Mr. Obama's mantra of "change" without having any idea what change he would bring, what it would cost, or how it would affect them. I'm not the first commentator to note that Mr. Obama wants to take us not forward, but backward - back to the New Deal, higher taxes, less economic freedom, a managed economy and the Fairness Doctrine. Millions of voters evidently think that sounds super. (The Moron Vote rises again.)
Mr. Obama distrusts private business, and has what columnist Cal Thomas calls a "can't do" attitude about the future. He believes the ordinary person simply cannot make it without big government's help. Actually, Mr. Obama distrusts not only business: he distrusts the American people. Are we the indomitable people who built the greatest nation and the wealthiest, most robust economy in history? No! We are pitiable, wretched victims of a failed government and a "broken" system who need his "ministry" in order to avoid ruin.
Another aspect of Mr. Obama's appeal to the Moron Vote is his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Labor unions claim it has drained jobs from old-line industries. In fact, NAFTA has opened numerous markets to American goods - thus creating thousands of new American jobs. Mr. Obama is pandering to unions whose support he must have in order to do well in the general election. Since NAFTA has the force of law, only political dunces could buy his promise to "renegotiate" NAFTA in order to protect union jobs from the competition of imports.
Democrats like to characterize American society as divided between winners and losers in "the lottery of life". Those who have worked hard and succeeded in making good livings and accumulating some wealth must "give back" - i.e., subsidize those who didn't work as hard, didn't get educated, and didn't make wise choices in their lives. Liberals sweep inconvenient facts about personal responsibility under the rug by claiming that these "victims" rolled snake-eyes in the great, cosmic crapshoot.
The irony is that Mr. Obama's policies would not empower the down-and-out, but would permanently prevent them from improving their status. Creation of wealth - not envy-taxes, income-transfer or welfare - enables economic advancement. This seems beyond the ken of Mr. Obama's followers. Indeed, it seems beyond Mr. Obama, himself.
National security. Barak Obama has fashioned a successful campaign around the "novel" idea of negotiating away our differences with such thugs as Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Iran) and Osama Bin Laden (Al Qaida). Except for the serious risk it represents to the country, it would be fascinating to see how long his commitment to palaver with our enemies would last, should he actually gain the office.
Experience shows that no outrage exceeds that of a committed "negotiator" whose overtures to peace and comity have been rudely rebuffed with actual violence. My guess is that Mr. Obama would turn into an "avenging angel" - far beyond anything Mr. Bush has done - once the scales fell from his eyes. Only the danger of actually letting Mr. Obama into the Oval Office restrains me from saying, "let's vote him in as a social experiment."
Mr. Obama's high-minded insistence that negotiation is a novel idea that has not been tried appeals to the Moron Vote. Only the clueless and the appallingly ignorant would buy this line. Negotiating with one's enemies is, in fact, an old idea that has been repeatedly tried and found wanting. Its limitation is the honesty (or lack thereof) of the people one negotiates with.
Japanese ambassadors were in actual talks with Secretary of State Cordell Hull at the very moment when Japanese torpedo planes struck our Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941. His promises notwithstanding, Hitler had no intention of granting "peace in our time" (or any other time) to the British and French at Munich (October 1938). He later contemptuously called them "worms". Hitler promptly broke his word and took over the rest of Czechoslovakia (March 1939), launching World War II just six months later. "That man lied to me," Neville Chamberlain famously complained after Hitler annexed the part of Czechoslovakia he had sworn to "protect".
Of a piece with Mr. Obama's claims that his brilliant new negotiating skills will obviate the need for war is his oft-stated intention to recall our troops from Iraq without delay, whether the job is done or not. The far left loves this, and the Moron Vote sits reverently at his feet while he spins his Sermon on the Mount yarns about no more war. But, as Lincoln famously said, calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one. Just so, saying we won't need to fight any more doesn't make it so - unless we plan on unilateral surrender.
Unfortunately for Mr. Obama, this is the weakest part of his entire messianic presentation. Americans have never developed a taste for surrender. They clearly don't have patience with long wars - much to their credit - but they dislike defeat even more than they dislike long wars. From cab-drivers to construction workers to housewives, Americans must be asking, "Are you kidding me?" when they hear Mr. Obama's rapturous calls to link arms and sing "Kum ba ya" with those loveable fuzz-balls who behead innocent people, strap bombs to children and crash planes into buildings. You don't have to be a war-lover to view this dangerous naiveté with a jaundiced eye.
It's a wicked world, and it's a wicked man (or an idiot) who tries to convince large numbers of people that it isn't. Americans need to ask themselves Dirty Harry's famous question: "Do I feel lucky?" The Moron Vote says, "Yes." What about the rest of us?