Letters to the Editor,
The Daly Yomiuri,
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8055
The really scary thing about presidential elections in the United Statesis 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 perspective 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 higher intelligence looks dangerously like undemocratic elitism, and so voters swerve towards the more pedestrian and familiar mind 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.
I don’t want to wait any longer for The Japan Times to print my “candidate intelligence” letter, so I E-mailed a slightly revised version of it to the other English-language newspaper that I read, The Daily Yomiuri, only a week after first sending it to The Japan Times. I have had good luck and bad luck with letters to The Daily Yomiuri, but it seems to print letters faster, although less frequently. The Japan Times sticks to its 2-letters-pages-per-week format, while The Daily Yomiuri seems to print letters whenever they arrive.