Although Richard Hoste provides stimulating fare, by identifying the Blue States with the cognitively gifted and the Red States with the dullards who didn’t make it into the big cities, his argument is nonetheless flawed. Let me begin by noting that the New York Times ran a story today about the Tea Party activists, who seem to be “wealthier and better educated” than ordinary Republicans. According to this report from an unfriendly source, these rightwing activists are both highly intelligent and “driven by ideology more than economic anxieties.”
Richard is describing or lampooning ordinary Republican voters, who may be dumber than Thanksgiving Turkeys. He may also have in mind those movement conservatives who believe anything and everything that Bill Kristol, Sarah Palin, and Rich Lowry say about the world. But there is no reason to generalize from this about the Right or Left in general or about the respective inhabitants of Red and Blue States. The backbone of Democratic support in the Northeast is the visible minorities and the (predominantly Irish) Catholic vote. Jewish investment bankers and Asian neurosurgeons do not contribute much numerically to Democratic majorities anywhere. And the groups to which these professionals belong do not weigh heavily in the Democratic vote in most of the Blue States outside of California; while those who do contribute to this vote are mostly from low or middle-level achieving groups. By the way, would Richard like to argue that those who turned out for Obama rallies looked more intelligent than those who were attracted to Ron Paul?
Wedged in among the Blue State voters, moreover, are pockets of dissenters, like the very militant Tea Party people in New England, and Orthodox Jews in the New York area, who are not likely to become rightwing activists but, who like conservative Catholics, generally vote Republican. It’s also not clear that those intelligent Northern European living in the Upper Midwest (Swedes in particular score well on IQ tests) have left their region for the urban life. What might have happened (and I speak here as someone who lived in that part of the country for many years) is that the groups in question have taken over the leftist opinions of Eastern, and particularly Jewish, liberal elites. To the extent this has been the case, we’re speaking not about a brain drain but something more sinister, namely, a body-snatching.
What Richard leaves out of his gloom-and-doom account is the growth of a radical Right among highly intelligent dissenters. The increasingly closed character of political debate in the U.S. and the doors that have been slammed in the faces of original young conservative thinkers have resulted in the upsurge of a vigorous alternative to the Fox-news peanut gallery. We’re all a part of that historical change, but many of us may be too stunned by the knocks we’ve taken to notice what’s occurring.
Unlike Richard, I do not stand in awe of either the intelligence of the Blue States or the cerebral inactivity of the Red ones. And I do not necessarily associate “conspiratorial theories” with cognitively challenged minds. As Murray Rothbard used to point out, conspiratorial theories are often the most plausible explanations for what cannot be accounted for otherwise. There is a difference between believing that Martians have come to poison our water supply and thinking that a relatively small number of actors, who are often in contact with each other, control public opinion. As someone (I trust) who is not a dumb-dumb, I fully believe in the second conspiratorial view, while treating the first (until shown differently) as rubbish.