Some people are annoyed with me for a post from yesterday. They take the post as me personally devising and endorsing the theory that Bush voters are dumber than Kerry voters. In some cases, this is despite their saying to me earlier in the week "How could people be so dumb?" in response to Bush's victory, and myself disagreeing that electoral dumb-ness really played that large of a role in the electoral outcome.
Anyway, with a day's distance, I can see where the post can be pretty justifiably read in a way that makes me look like a jerk.* I am sitting here now with the desire to provide some explanation of why I posted yesterday's numbers, but I have to admit I don't really know what I was thinking. You could call my doing so dumb in its own right, and I wouldn't argue. I mean, I would not, myself, try to seriously defend the position that Bush voters are dumber on average than Kerry voters. That whole idea would seem ridiculously elitist, and I do believe that Elitism is Bad. Indeed, in contrast to some people who are annoyed with me about the post, I even think Elitism is Bad as a general moral principle, as opposed to just thinking Elitism is Bad because the non-elites resent it and so it costs Democrats votes.
Although, at the same time, I would be being dishonest if I didn't say that I felt like the Bush campaign appealed to more base parts of the human intellect and spirit than did the Kerry campaign. I mean, ads with wolves, for crying out loud. The Bush campaign also appealed more explicitly to anti-thinkingism, although at least it wasn't like 2000 where they had supporters do the completely-beyond-freaky "No Fuzzy Math! No Fuzzy Math!" chant in response to any obvious reckoning that Bush's fiscal proposals were not going to add up (which, as history then showed, they didn't). The "No Fuzzy Math!" chant marked a moment of individual dispiritedness with electoral politics that might not have been matched by anything in this election.
Anyway, here is the explanation for the post that feels most honest: One thing about having a blog is that sometimes when you have procrastinated-from-work by looking up / figuring out something that you shouldn't have bothered to take the time to look up, you feel somewhat--even if illusorily--vindicated if at least you post the results of the inquiry to your weblog. The reason I looked up these numbers is that I had twice been sent snarky e-mails from others with the wrong set of test-score-by-state numbers that I mentioned in my earlier post. Those numbers seemed so obviously wrong and biased that it annoyed me, and set me off on an online quest to find a source that would seem like it had more defensible numbers. I found the numbers, and then, having nothing else to do with them, thought I would at least post them to my blog. But, then, I didn't want to write some long disquisition about them, since I had already wasted enough time, and plus I was conflicted about them myself. So I thought I would just put them up there without comment. But, in retrospect, I should have at least dashed off a few sentences about elitism, about my conflicted character in posting them, about my varying opinions about test scores anyway, about my anger at the anti-thinkingism of the Bush campaign, etc..
The first e-mail I received with the seemingly-obviously-incorrect-test-score-by-state numbers, incidentally, had the subject line "Fun!" and said "[prominent academic] forwarded this to me. Check it out. Don't forward to any Republicans." The link itself was contained in an e-mail from [prominent academic], who wrote "Check this out -- terribly elitist but rings true to me..."
Anyway, I could write several screensful about elitism and liberalism here. I might do so later, but right now I cannot let this Saturday get away from me.
* Or, alternatively, to beat the less charitable to the less charitable punch, one could change "makes me look like a jerk" to "reveals that I am a jerk." I report, you decide.