Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
The thing about presidential elections in the United States that really scares me is that whenever there is a clear difference in the intelligence of the two candidates Americans always choose the less intelligent person. Consider recent history: Adlai Stevenson was clearly more intelligent than Dwight Eisenhower, yet Eisenhower prevailed - twice; Jimmy Carter was clearly a brighter bulb than Ronald Reagan, yet Reagan won by a landslide; George W. Bush cannot hold a candle to Al Gore, yet Bush was able to run away with the 2000 election. This year we have John McCain facing Barack Obama. There is no contest from the platform of simple intelligence. The better choice is crystal clear. Where there is no clear difference in the candidates’ intelligence is when the outcome is really hard to predict.
But I could be wrong. What is it that we call intelligence, and how do we measure and determine it? And, who am I to say such things, anyway? Certainly it benefits candidates when their intelligence is under-estimated. In fact, they may revel in being under-estimated by domestic opponents and foreign leaders both. But that smacks to me of nothing but mere cleverness, and cleverness is not at all the same thing as intelligence.
Perhaps what is going through the collective imagination of the American electorate is a folksy notion that demonstrations of higher intelligence look dangerously like undemocratic elitism, and so the culture swerves towards the more pedestrian intellect as an expression of democratic equanimity. Americans seem to appreciate an Everyman kind of president, which I am suggesting is not a good thing. It’s the American version of the Japanese axiom that the nail that stands up gets hammered down.