Angelo Codevilla discusses claims of intellectual superiority in politics. I can’t remember much concern with intelligence in political discussions when I was a child, though the campaign of Adlai Stevenson did allege a kind of intellectual superiority that seemed divorced from both intelligence and achievement. In recent years, however, intellectual superiority has become an important argument on the Left. As Codevilla observes, it’s part of the argument for socialism. The elite should be making centralized decisions; they’re so much smarter than we are.
But why should we believe that? Where’s the evidence?
In fact, it seems that the more any person’s public standing depends on his or her being perceived as bright, the less willing they are to disclose their scholastic record.
Indeed. Leftists argued that John Kerry was much brighter than George W. Bush; in fact, his score on the Armed Services Qualification Test, a close proxy for IQ, were more than a standard deviation lower than Bush’s, correlating with an IQ of approximately 110. (So much for “nuance”!) Obama was sold as brilliant, but I’ve never seen evidence of it, and his inability to talk without a teleprompter suggests an IQ in the Kerry range.
“How, then, did he become editor of the Harvard Law Review, become a law professor at Chicago, etc.?” Well, what if he didn’t earn those things? What if they were just given to him?
I’m not talking about affirmative action here, though that’s real enough, but about something more individual. Barack Obama is the chosen one.
Here’s my conjecture: He was selected at a young age to become President of the United States. He was groomed for it. Someone got him into college, and then into Harvard, and then onto law review, and then into the editorship. Someone got him a position teaching a class at Chicago so that he could be said to be a law professor. Someone got him into the Illinois legislature, and then a spot speaking at the Democratic National Convention, where he was suddenly, even before his speech, heralded as a rising star, as a master of eloquence, and as a future Democratic leader.
I spent some time with the highest tenured faculty member at Chicago Law a few months back, and he did not have many nice things to say about “Barry.” Obama applied for a position as an adjunct and wasn’t even considered. A few weeks later the law school got a phone call from the Board of Trustees telling them to find him an office, put him on the payroll, and give him a class to teach. The Board told him he didn’t have to be a member of the faculty, but they needed to give him a temporary position. He was never a professor and was hardly an adjunct.
The other professors hated him because he was lazy, unqualified, never attended any of the faculty meetings, and it was clear that the position was nothing more than a political stepping stool. According to my professor friend, he had the lowest intellectual capacity in the building.
Many of the commenters on Codevilla’s piece point out that in political leaders common sense—I would prefer to say wisdom—is more important than IQ. I think that’s right. But let’s not concede the intelligence point too quickly. Leftists think that leftists are bright and conservatives are stupid. That’s rather stupid of them.
UPDATE: Here’s an amazing instance of political intelligence. “My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated it will tip over and capsize.” Yeah, that happens a lot.