The Phony Populism Of Politicians

Politicians on both sides of the aisle like to tell people they're just "average Americans," but they're lying and the American people seem to have figured out that they're lying.

us-politics-republicans-democrats-flag

In a New York Times Magazine piece set to drop on Sunday, Mark Leibovich takes on some of the Republican Senate candidates and what he calls the “Bumpkinifunciton” of the midterm elections:

Joni Ernst, the Iowa state senator and Iraq War veteran, was standing in a barn in a purple flannel shirt and an unzipped vest. Beside her, various swine burrowed in the hog lot; two small pigs spooned; there was copious squealing. When Ernst, who grew up on a farm castrating hogs, opened her mouth to speak, she drew the inevitable connection between her upbringing and her current role as a Republican candidate for the United States Senate. “When I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork,” Ernst said, smiling. Title cards reinforced her credentials. (“Joni Ernst: Mother. Soldier. Conservative.”) “I’m Joni Ernst, and I approve this message because Washington is full of big spenders. Let’s make ’em squeal.”

The 30-second spot, titled “Squeal,” was part of a trilogy of ads for the candidate released earlier this year. In another, Ernst, enrobed in a biker jacket, rides a Harley-Davidson to a gun range. (“Joni Ernst: Set Sights on Obamacare”). In a third, titled “Biscuits,” the camera focuses on a man’s hands as they add butter to flour and use molds to cut circles. “When I was working fast food, I learned the key to a great biscuit is lots of fat,” Ernst tells the camera. “Problem is, Washington thinks the same thing about our budget.”

(…)

As we have often been reminded, this was supposed to be a very important election cycle. The Republicans’ hopes of retaking the Senate could easily hinge on squeaker races like Ernst’s in Iowa. This, along with the possibility of padding their majority in the House, would be a significant development for the nation, just as the issues loom huge, complex and ISIS-Ebola scary. And yet countless candidates seem determined to tout their fitness for these enormous challenges by trying to out-bumpkin one another. This spring, Ernst’s opponent, Bruce Braley, a four-term congressman, assured voters that he “grew up doing farm jobs and working a grain elevator.”

There is, of course, a delicate art to bumpkinizing. Republicans, in particular, have been burned in recent Senate elections by nominating candidates — Christine O’Donnell, for instance, or Todd Akin — who turned out to be too bumpkin for their own good and imploded in winnable races. This time around, the strategy has been tweaked: If you want to come off as an amateur, it’s helpful to be a pro of some sort. One of the year’s more unlikely populist heroes, after all, is a cowboy poet from South Dakota named Larry Pressler. This Washington outsider, who is running for Senate as an Independent, also happens to be a former Republican senator and a lobbyist who has considered running for mayor of Washington.

Because the piece predominantly focuses on Ernst and other Republican candidates, both those running those year and those who have run in the past, Leibovich’s piece is inevitably being criticized as a partisan attack by several commentators on the right. Leon Wolf at RedState for example falls back on the idea of this being part of an attack by elitists on Americans outside the New York-Washington corridor and even titles his piece “The New York Times Hates Being In America,” This type of argument isn’t new, of course, it has roots all the way back in the Nixon Administration and Vice-President Agnew’s attacks on the “nattering nabobs of negativism” in the media. More recently, it can be seen in the assertions of those such as Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh who talk about “liberals” on the East and West Coasts considering the rest of America as being “flyover country” that can safely be ignored, likely not recognizing that their own attacks are essentially arguing that the people who live on the East and West Coasts don’t represent “real America.” It is, in other words, the rhetoric of the culture war that Pat Buchanan claimed existed in his incendiary and infamous speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention, and one that the right has been fighting since the time Nixon was in office.

Jazz Shaw dosesn’t go quite as far as Wolf, but he makes a similar argument:

These “bumpkins” which Leibovitch so casually dismisses as being unworthy of participating in a modern democracy are, in fact, representative of a large swath of the nation. There are still people who actually live in farm country and maintain the values he so cheerily derides. There are people working in factories and mills – at least those few who can still find jobs – and get up every day worrying about problems which probably seem quaint, if not fictional, to those who spend their lives living in Manhattan, D.C. or Hollywood.

Now, it’s certainly true that there are certain caricatures of the conservatives by people on the left  that classify their political opponents as stupid, or ill-informed, or whatever you may have, and I suppose one can read Leibovich’s piece in that way. However, it’s worth noting that the same sorts of caricatures exist on the right when it comes to their political opponents. It’s also true that conservative politicians have a disturbing tendency to dismiss the opinions of experts in almost any field if their conclusions or recommendations disagree with their political positions, and, in the case of people like Sarah Palin, to dismiss the importance of expertise on issues entirely. When you do something like that, it’s not too hard to see why people who think education and expertise is  important tend to look down on you. These caricatures are, perhaps, a natural consequence of political rivalry and the fact that people increasingly tend to socialize and interact only with people like them, but that doesn’t make it true in either case. More importantly, focusing on Leibovich’s comments about Ernst and other candidates misses a broader point that he makes in the speech that speaks to something that’s true of all of our politics, and which I think explains to a great degree why the average American, who is far less interested in politics and partisan battles than politically engaged people on either side of the aisle:

Skilled politicians have a proud tradition of conveying utter contempt for their profession, especially when they’re running to keep their jobs. This is, to some degree, rooted in our history. As they drafted the Constitution, the founding fathers envisioned that their new republic would be governed by a temporary leadership class of farmers, doctors and assorted commoners who would retain close ties to their communities. Self-styled feisty populists, like Andrew Jackson, tended to denigrate the well-bred qualities of their opponents. “Andrew Jackson, who can fight” was how the decorated general sold himself in the 1828 presidential campaign, compared with “John Quincy Adams, who can write.” Jackson, who in fact was a wealthy and experienced politician, won easily.

The historian Garry Wills has referred to this entrenched American tendency as “the glorification of the amateur and contempt for the professional.” This dynamic was heightened during the 1960s, and even more so after Watergate, when an increasingly antiestablishment electorate gravitated toward candidates who could prove that they had no link to the professional order. The 75 new Democrats who were elected to Congress in 1974 — the so-called Watergate babies — swept in largely on a promise to overturn “traditional” politics. The Republican House overthrow of 1994, in response to Bill Clinton’s shaky first couple of years, was grounded in fashioning a class of 73 anti-Washington Washingtonians. Led by Newt Gingrich, nearly all of them were committed to term limits and to spending as little time in Washington as possible. (For the record, many of them are still there.)

Whether he intended to do it or not, Leibovich has made a point here that applies to all politicians on both sides of the aisle, and which has been a part of American politics for time immemorial. It points to the most common theme of politicians, which can generally be described as the idea that they are a man or woman “of the people,” that they are in touch with the “regular guy,” and that they are running against Washington and the government. That last one tends to be particularly hilarious when it comes from someone who has been a part of politics for much of their adult lives, and ever more so from Members of Congress, Senators and Presidents who are running for re-election while trying to tell the public that they are not part of what’s wrong in the system that they are the predominant part of. Even more so, though, every politician feels the need to try to pretend that they are just like “regular” Americans even when it quite obvious that they aren’t. Members of Congress are in Washington working at most four days a week. When the House and Senate are gaveled to a close on a Thursday afternoon they are out the door and on an airplane to their home districts for fundraising, parties, or glad-handing, or sometimes all three at once. They get special parking places on Capitol Hill and National Airport, and priority access through TSA and boarding lines while their constituents just look on. With a base salary of $174,000, and the ability to use their office budgets to hire family members to “work” for them, they earn an amount of money well above what the average American earns and that gap becomes even larger when you add in benefits and pensions. This leaves out of the equation, of course, that many of these people, on both sides of the aisle, were independently wealthy before ever entering office and will have the opportunity to become even wealthier after they leave office. The idea that any of them are “average” Americans or have any real connection to such people is, by and large, utterly absurd.

That’s not to say that there aren’t genuine populists out there, of course, but the vast majority of politicians who project the image of being the aw-shucks common man are projecting a false image. To some extent, this is a necessity for them because it seems to be what American voters have wanted to see from their politicians, at least in recent decades. More recently, though, it seems as though Americans are seeing through the illusion that these politicians and their handlers are trying to project and that, combined with the facts of Washington gridlock, general government incompetence, and the fact that nobody seems to ever actually get anything constructive done anymore, it has made them far more cynical about politics than they’ve been in the past. You can see it in the polling that shows increased disapproval of government at all levels, record low approval of Congress and other government institution, and declining interest in politics by the very same “average Americans” that the politicians claim to be appealing to. They know the politicians are lying to them and they’re losing patience with the lies. And I don’t blame them one bit.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2014, Congress, Politics 101, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mikey says:

    More recently, it can be seen in the assertions of those such as Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh who talk about “liberals” on the East and West Coasts considering the rest of America as being “flyover country” that can safely be ignored, likely not recognizing that their own attacks are essentially arguing that the people who live on the East and West Coasts don’t represent “real America.”

    Not recognizing? On the contrary, Doug–“coastal liberals (sometimes phrased as ‘coastal elites’) don’t represent real America” is exactly what they mean.

  2. Pinky says:

    @Mikey: I just read a piece recently that argued that when conservatives say “America” they mean the heartland and they praise it, and when liberals say “America” they mean the heartland and criticize it. I believe the piece talked about soccer and assertive foreign policy, but there are a lot of topics that it applies to.

  3. CSK says:

    There’s always been a stream of anti-intellectualism in American life, and consequently a contempt for refinement and cultivation as attributes of “snobs” and city slickers. Even Thomas Jefferson unwittingly contributed to it with his praise for the “natural aristocrat.”

    This hatred of the so-called “elites” (I loathe that plural) was reinvigorated by Patrick Buchanan with his “peasants with pitchforks” speech, and brought to a high water mark by Sarah Palin with her comment about rural small towns being the “real America.” (She may not have been apprised of the meth and heroin consumption in those rustic paradises.) And then of course there’s Rick Santorum, telling folks that the smart people will never like them.

  4. stonetools says:

    I disagree with you, Doug. I think the electorate are sending to Washington exactly the politicans they want, and what they want is politicans that tell them what they want to hear, even if it’s anti-science.

    You can see it in the polling that shows increased disapproval of government at all levels, record low approval of Congress and other government institution, and declining interest in politics by the very same “average Americans” that the politicians claim to be appealing to. They know the politicians are lying to them and they’re losing patience with the lies. And I don’t blame them one bit.

    Nope, they like the lies. What they don’t like are the fact that their politicans can’t make the lies work. They’re happy to send politicans to Washington that tell them that tax cuts can generate revenue, that they can cut Big Gumint without cutting services and efficiency, that the best way to fight ebola is by quarantines in the US rather than beefing up health services in West Africa, and any number of myths that comfort them in their mistaken beliefs. What they are unhappy about is that these politicians then fail to deliver on their unrealistic promises. The solution? Elect more politicans who are willing to tell them even more lies.

  5. Surreal American says:

    @Pinky:

    That’s odd. When I say “America”, I mean both coasts, the area in-between those coasts, Alaska, and Hawaii.

    Yes, that even includes San Francisco.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    What @Stonetools said.

    First, of course people in Iowa are dumber on average than people in LA or New York. Sorry, but that’s reality. Californians and New Yorkers don’t move to Iowa, there’s nothing in Iowa for a talented or ambitious or highly intelligent person. The coasts not only attract the smartest people across the US but across the world.

    Second, the politicians do this because it works. If it didn’t work, they’d stop. Obviously playing the hick works with hicks.

    But beyond flyover country, people everywhere love to be lied to. They insist on being lied to.

    It is the voter who creates a market for stupidity and dishonesty which the politicians then supply, not the other way around.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    By the way, Doug, you are one of those voters who likes to be lied to. Libertarianism is a crock, everyone knows it’s a crock, and yet there you are, still stuck in what, Sophomore year of college I’m going to guess? Still buying the same Ayn Rand nonsense. And of course you’ve seen the evidence, you know in your heart your “ideology” is pap being spoon-fed to immature males, but you lap it up because it makes you feel good.

  8. wr says:

    @Pinky: “I just read a piece recently that argued that when conservatives say “America” they mean the heartland and they praise it, and when liberals say “America” they mean the heartland and criticize it”

    Then you just read a piece by an idiot. Congratulations.

  9. reid says:

    I always hope that this sort of stupidity is just a recent development and will eventually get better, but then I read that it’s been going on for 200 years and I weep for humanity. We just have too much idiocy and greed built in, I guess.

  10. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK: Like everything else these days, the word “elite” has become partisan. To me, as a good liberal, it means the Koch Bros, congress people, the upper reaches of the government, military, and business, the .01%, Halperin’s Gang of 500, and some smallish number of media and intellectual figures. The financial and power elite who run the country. To a conservative it means anyone who thinks, or appears to think, he’s smarter or better than said conservative.

  11. Rafer Janders says:

    Now, it’s certainly true that there are certain caricatures of the conservatives by people on the left that classify their political opponents as stupid, or ill-informed, or whatever you may have,

    It’s not a caricature if the opponent actually IS stupid, ill-informed, or whatever you may have (or, if not actually stupid or ill-informed, pretends to be such for political gain).

  12. Rafer Janders says:

    @Pinky:

    I just read a piece recently that argued that when conservatives say “America” they mean the heartland and they praise it, and when liberals say “America” they mean the heartland and criticize it.

    Um, no, when I say America I mean the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, and any other territories or possessions I may have forgotten.

  13. michael reynolds says:

    @reid:

    We live in a world where the institutions – church, academia, unions, the political leadership class itself – all have less sway. These were institutions that may be greedy and certainly pursued power, but they had other interests as well. They had beliefs, they had points of view, they had traditions.

    Those institutions have been replaced by pandering media and by Goldman Sachs and the Koch Brothers whose only interest is greed, uncomplicated by nuance. You can’t sustain a democracy where the people have abandoned virtue in favor of sheer greed. Gimme, gimme, gimme, mine, mine, mine is not a foundation for government. It’s the emotion of a toddler.

    Unlike many atheists I’m not hostile to religion, per se. I despise the crassness, nastiness and stupidity of much of American Protestantism, but I have hopes for Pope Francis. I would welcome a revival of genuine Christianity, as well as any other religion which focused on virtue rather than bile. If religion is what it takes for people not to behave like swine, bring it on.

    I also believe we desperately need unions. Workers who abandoned them, and the right-wing creeps who attacked them and used laws to break them, destroyed the middle class in this country. We need workers to have some measure of power. A powerless work force is a scared work force; a scared work force follows their fears, not their hopes.

    And I hate to say it, but we need House and Senate leadership to get their pork back because without it the whole Congress is at the mercy of the guy willing to be the biggest jerk. (Currently Ted Cruz.) You can’t whip without pork which means you can’t get anything done.

    Above all, we need the press to go back to being reporters. The reporting-for-profit thing is not working. I’m getting far better information from the BBC, NPR and Al-Jazeera (!) than I can hope to get from American media. Each of those companies is tax-payer supported.

  14. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It is the voter who creates a market for stupidity and dishonesty which the politicians then supply, not the other way around.

    I don’t really agree with that. I see it as a circle jerk.

    There’s a piece in Esquire this week that’s getting a little buzz. Guy interviewed like 90 Reps and Senators. Found out they all hate their jobs. The GOPs talk about having to say and do stupid stuff or else they’ll be primaried from the right. They skip over the fact that they do and say those stupid things.

    They poll their constituents, find they fear Ebola, then spend millions on ads saying Obama won’t protect you from Ebola. FOX, Limbaugh, and the rest see a trend and pile on with Obama won’t fight Ebola. Then these guys are surprised their constituents don’t trust Obama to fight Ebola. The public drive the pols and the CEC. But the pols and the CEC also drive the public. You can’t understand modern Republican politics without understanding the concept of a positive feedback loop.

    Balloon Juice Lexicon Wingularity, the- the point at which the insanity from the far right and those controlling the Republican Party [continues] to grow exponentially until it reaches an unsustainable weight and collapses upon itself. This is also known as the Purity Spiral, wherein the density of wingnut increases compared to mainstream conservatives to the point of pure wingnut. As the ratio rises, this creates a phenomenon wherein no logic or sanity can penetrate or escape. When rightwing argument has become completely inaccessible to the uninitiated, it has reached the Wingularity.

  15. stonetools says:

    I’ll add that one of the big reasons Obama is unpopular is that he refuses to engage in that phony populism:

    Obama calmly insisted there was nothing to worry about when the news first broke of Thomas Eric Duncan’s infection. “It’s important for Americans to know the facts,” he said on Oct. 6. “Because of the measures we’ve put in place, as well as our world-class health system and the nature of the Ebola virus itself, which is difficult to transmit, the chance of an Ebola outbreak in the United States is extremely low.” It soon became clear the health system wasn’t prepared; the virus spread, infecting two nurses who had treated Duncan. One of them had called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to report having a fever, yet was still allowed to board a commercial airliner on Oct. 13. The CDC’s guidelines were declared “absolutely irresponsible and dead wrong” by Sean Kaufman, director for safety training at Emory University Hospital, where two American missionaries from West Africa were treated for Ebola in August. But Obama clung to his position for two more weeks, even after it began to look ridiculous.

    Only with public confidence slipping and dozens of congressmen calling for a ban on travel from West Africa did Obama submit to the kind of grand theatrical gesture he abhors: He canceled a campaign trip to hold an emergency cabinet meeting and appointed Ron Klain, a veteran political operative, to coordinate the government’s Ebola response.

    Now a more astute (or dishonest) politician would have stood tall, made a speech about fighter pilots landing on carriers(or landed on a carrier himself), looked in the camera, and said , “Ebola, you can’t beat America!” He would have followed by ordering some quarantines.
    Obama was above all that, and will likely pay by losing his Senate majority over his refusal to pander. In typical elitist liberal reformer fashion, he would rather be right than pander.

  16. al-Ameda says:

    @stonetools:

    I disagree with you, Doug. I think the electorate are sending to Washington exactly the politicans they want, and what they want is politicans that tell them what they want to hear, even if it’s anti-science.

    Exactly.

    It’s a timeless Kabuki – the public pretends that they had nothing to do with the people they elect to office, but the public is of course responsible for the dysfunction in Washington.

    What can you expect when you (‘The People’) elect a cohort of politicians who have no interest in good government, or to go a step further, no interest in governance at all? You end up with two government shutdowns in 5 years, and the possibility of default on federal debt securities, just to name two recent obvious irresponsible actions.

    In effect, the voting public has elected a great number of people who, while in Washington, have spent a few years puking on the couch, punching holes in the wall, urinating on the lawn, and now the same people are complaining about the mess and the smell.

  17. george says:

    @michael reynolds:

    First, of course people in Iowa are dumber on average than people in LA or New York. Sorry, but that’s reality. Californians and New Yorkers don’t move to Iowa, there’s nothing in Iowa for a talented or ambitious or highly intelligent person. The coasts not only attract the smartest people across the US but across the world.

    Actually, for your average to work, you’d have to show the coasts don’t simultaneously attract people who are stupider than average. And from what I’ve seen, it gets plenty of those as well.

    My own (unscientific) observation is that the coasts contain both the brightest and the dumbest – the dumb who are unable to hold a job in the interior (simply because there are less jobs there and you really don’t want idiots in charge of heavy machinery like in modern farming) tend to move to the coasts as fast as the bright.

  18. walt moffett says:

    @reid:

    More like 2000+ years read up on the hows and whys of the office of the Plebeian Tribune, bread and circuses, and other bits of Roman history.

    To the point, the public is gaining a realistic appreciation of their leaders, good. Cynicism is much better than blind obedience.

  19. michael reynolds says:

    @george:

    Actually, I’ve got some support for your position: an IQ map. Not sure about the methodology, but for what it’s worth it kind of looks like if anything it’s sunshine that makes people stupid.

    (He says, sitting in the warm sunshine as he types.)

    But then there’s this, which would support my position.

    So, pick your poison, I guess. But I’ve lived all over the country, and my subjective impression is that San Francisco has a good 10 points on Des Moines.

  20. Tyrell says:

    I have thought for some time that congress should appoint committees made of average citizens: construction workers, teachers, store clerks, skilled tradesmen, nurses, preachers, landscapers, fast food workers, and truck drivers. These types of committees would study and make succinct proposals on immigration reform, national health insurance, legalizing marjuana, education, and other important issues. That way the country would wind up with programs and laws that serve and help the people instead of politicians, would be more efficient, and would be written in everyday language that the average American can understand instead of things like the 1,500 page “Affordable Health Care Act”. Instead we wind up with programs and laws written by politicians for politicians.
    “We have to pass it so we can find out what is in it” (Pelosi)

  21. Neil Hudelson says:

    @michael reynolds:

    You’re confusing coasts and urbanization. I work primarily on the west coast (well, did until this week, but the point remains). Put Eureka against Cincinnati and see how your theory stacks up.

  22. george says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Interesting maps, though as you say, the methodology of both are uncertain.

    Not so sure that the average IQ of San Francisco is higher than the average in Des Moines (having spent some time in SF and Minnesota and the Dakotas if not Iowa). I’m certain that the brightest 10 percent in SF is considerably brighter than the brightest 10 percent in Des Moines. However I’d be willing to bet the lower 10 percent in SF is capable of idiocracy you’d rarely see in Des Moines (certainly not in Minnesota).

    People who live in the interior note all the time that the really bright and really stupid both leave. And one of the two the IQ map you provided seems to bear that out.

    I suspect, given that you’re a writer, that the people you hang out with in SF are the brightest 10% – and I’d argue that would prejudice your opinion (as I said, the brightest in SF are almost certainly brighter than the brightest in Des Moines), and wouldn’t necessarily reflect the average.

    I’ve noted this in Canada since I moved here as well – the prairies doesn’t have as many brilliant people, but something about the rural/farming economy also drives away the really stupid (interestingly enough, the prairies in Canada have had the most NDP – leftward gov’ts) as well. Maybe its the cold winters; if you’re really smart you leave because of better opportunities elsewhere, if you’re really stupid you leave because no one trusts you to run equipment and its too cold to live on the streets.

  23. stonetools says:

    In Iowa, a complete jenny ass whose main claim to office is that she castrated hogs when she was young is poised to became Senator from Iowa. This idiot supports a Personhood Amendment, believes the United Nations is coming to take away our guns, wants to abolish the ACA and the federal minimum wage, and generally sounds dumber than Sarah Palin. But she looks about to win Iowa… so maybe Michael is on to something.

  24. ernieyeball says:

    Q: What’s the best thing to ever come out of Iowa?

    A: An empty Greyhound Bus!

  25. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    I have thought for some time that congress should appoint committees made of average citizens: construction workers, teachers, store clerks, skilled tradesmen, nurses, preachers, landscapers, fast food workers, and truck drivers.

    Appoint the same people to special committees – who elect guys like Louie Gohmert and Steve Stockman, and a host of other legislators who supported the two shutdowns, and the threat to force a default on government securities? These people should be on committees to come up with proposals on immigration, national health insurance, education, and so forth?

    That gives me great confidence that we’ll continue to be as dysfunctional as ever.

  26. grumpy realist says:

    @george: Maybe it’s because Mama Nature doesn’t suffer fools gladly? I would think that farming especially would drive this home. You’re dealing with weather, bugs, large lumps of heavy metal called machinery, electricity, and the possibility that the price for your crops will suddenly collapse. I would think that farming leads to a great deal of wisdom about reality and not fooling yourself.

    Pundits and politicians on the other hand…..

  27. Dave D says:

    @michael reynolds: I currently live currently in Des Moines and have friends from here that have left for the coasts. That said I have to agree with Neil it is an urbanization issue. For some reason Dsm is the fastest growing city for young professionals, we are stealing young bright people from around the country. Juxtapose that against the sunbelt or Austin which are growing very quickly and we are ending up with a lot more educated people coming in. It’s cheap to be here, and it’s oddly a mortgage and insurance hub for the nation. That said hog castration and appealing to farmers somehow still works here. Everyone talks about what Braley said about having a farmer from Iowa heading the senate judiciary committee as a gaff. I find it far more troubling that people here view that as a slight. Someone without any legal training whatsoever has no place heading the judiciary comittee. And as much as the right loves talking about government inefficiency compared to the private sector, no where in the private sector would a wholly unqualified person get that important of a job. The problem with Iowa isn’t Dsm it’s that 10 min on the freeway in any direction puts you into farm country. And for some reason even though we all know better especially here, Iowans tend to imagine all farms as small and family owned. We are at the mercy of this because our voting constituency can’t be bothered to vote in midterms.

  28. michael reynolds says:

    @george:

    Yeah, that’s probably the truth of it. We get the cream and the dregs. Although, speaking of harsh environments, try renting or buying a place in SF. You have to outbid some 20 year-old Google millionaire.

    I should admit that I used to live in Des Moines, or Urbandale at least which is several corn fields west of the city. I did 10th grade at Urbandale High before dropping out in Maryland.

    I’ve also lived in Minneapolis, where hipsters outnumber farmers by at least 10 to 1. There’s something to the theory that extreme cold weeds out the weakest. You can die in an hour or less on a Minneapolis street in January. Two hours in April. By June you’re usually safe. July 4th at the latest.

  29. Tyrell says:

    @al-Ameda: I tried to come up with a cross section of various occupations instead of a committee made up of lawyers, college professors, economists, and billionaire corporation owners.
    We need programs that are geared toward average, middle class working people, from school teachers to the people who keep our heating and air conditioners running. They have families. They work hard. And they have too much month and not enough check.
    “Take this job and shove it, I ain’t working here no more” (Paycheck)

  30. michael reynolds says:

    @Tyrell:

    I kind of like this idea. It’s downright Bolshevik, but it appeals to me.

  31. bandit says:

    But the OTB comments circlejerk has got the market for sanctimonious assholery cornered.

  32. Todd says:

    @michael reynolds:

    But beyond flyover country, people everywhere love to be lied to. They insist on being lied to.

    It is the voter who creates a market for stupidity and dishonesty which the politicians then supply, not the other way around.

    Exactly!

    People say they want an “honest” politician. Then when a politician actually says something “without spin” he/she is inevitably punished for it.

    It’s the same thing as our warped definition of “bias”. We don’t want no bias … we want bias in favor or our own beliefs. Then when it comes to “honesty”, we want “our” politicians to always say exactly what we want them to say … and we also want the “other side’s” politicians to say what we are sure they “really” believe.

  33. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @gVOR08: ” Then these guys are surprised their constituents don’t trust Obama to fight Ebola. ”

    This is where your argument falls apart. “These guys” aren’t surprised about that at all. They’re not that stupid and credulous or they wouldn’t be able to play the game at all.

  34. grumpy realist says:

    @michael reynolds: Yeah, but then there’s the lutefisk….

    (When I was in Japan, one of the perks of my job was to visit St. Paul in the middle of winter, stand out on a highway, watch snow-moving equipment run and how it was used.)