Ted Rall seems to have calmed down a little – this column is more condescending than hysterical. The customary sneering at Jesusland is there, and he does not diminish the importance of hatred and bigotry in explaining the election results, but he seems to feel that stupidity was the major factor. It’s always nice to have Rall’s contribution to rational discourse.
Though there is a religious component to the election results, the biggest red-blue divide is intellectual. “How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?” asked the headline of the Daily Mirror in Great Britain, and the underlying assumption is undeniable. By any objective standard, you had to be spectacularly stupid to support Bush.
As evidence, he cites a poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland. I looked up the poll, and it is a real piece of work. Here is a sample question: Is it your impression that the US has or has not found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with the al-Qaeda terrorist organization? According to the poll, 63% of Bush voters but only 32% of Kerry supporters said that the US had such evidence. Rall cites this as an obvious falsehood. To me, the question seems badly worded and the conclusion is not warranted. It is quite clear that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was in Iraq before the war. He was in Afghanistan for the war against the US, was wounded, and came to Iraq for treatment. He stayed on to fight the coalition and carry out the blood rituals of his deviant sect. He has re-branded his terrorist outfit as “Al Qaeda in Iraq.” We’ll leave out the Czech intelligence report about Mohammed Atta meeting with Iraqi agents. The connection looks clear enough to me. I suppose Lex and Nito would agree that there may be enough here for an arrest warrant but we would need more for a conviction. Neither do I see enough evidence to convict someone of stupidity for believing it.
The poll also asks opinions on the national economy, compared to the prior year. Bush supporters answered that it had gotten better (48%), while Kerry supporters tended to think it had gotten worse (70%). Again, the question is badly worded, but this time the answers can be checked. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US unemployment rate was about 5.5% when the survey was taken. It had been between 5.7% and 5.4% for 2004, compared to 6.0% for 2003. Gross domestic product grew at 3.0% in 2003, and at 3.7% annualized for the third quarter of 2004 (US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis). If giving a “wrong” answer to a badly-worded survey is proof of stupidity, well …
Finally, maybe I’m just too suspicious, but PIPA, on whose survey Rall bases his meager analysis, did not even publish its entire survey or the complete results. The questions “to be released” are questions 3-6, 7b-12, 12b, 18, 19, 22, 23, 27-32, 35, 39-40, and 42a-44. It makes me wonder if they failed to make the Bush supporters look sufficiently stupid.
Perhaps encouraged by the low standard set by PIPA, Rall tries some statistics himself:
Educational achievement doesn’t necessarily equal intelligence. After all, Bush holds a Harvard MBA. Still, it bears noting that Democrats are better educated than Republicans. You are 25 percent more likely to hold a college degree if you live in the Democratic northeast than in the red state south. Blue state voters are 25 percent more likely, therefore, to understand the historical and cultural ramifications of Bush’s brand of bull-in-a-china-shop foreign policy.
By the same logic, Mitch is a geek; Bill Gates is a geek; therefore Mitch is Bill Gates. No, really, Ted that doesn’t work, and the bank won’t cash my check for a million dollars. Without going through a couple of layers of supposition, here are the results of the election by level of education. Bush won among high school graduates, people with some college, and college graduates, stated in terms of highest educational attainment. Kerry won those with less than a high school education and those with post-graduate study. Kerry’s winning categories came to 20% of the electorate. That’s a tough way to win an election, or maybe I’m just too stupid to do the math.
A hat tip to Jardine Davies.
Update 11/21/04: Ted Rall proved a little too much for the Washington Post, which has dropped his cartoon. Naturally, he believes this is censorship. Ted, read the first amendment again. The first five words are “Congress shall make no law…”