“You could say I’d lost my belief in our politicians
They all seemed like game show hosts to me.”–Gordon Sumner
There is a breakdown in our society. It’s a wave of what we might call anti-intellectualism. Like most waves, the seeds were sewn long before we noticed the negative effects. Think back to when we were kids. Who were the popular kids in school? I’m willing to bet that most of them weren’t the smart kids. Obviously, there are exceptions to every rule, but those smart kids were likely referred to as “nerds” or “geeks.”
This quickly graduated out of school and seeped into every facet of our lives. The world can be split into people who trust experts and people who don’t. Sure, there are conservatives and progressives. Sure, there are religious and non-religious. Sure, there are bigots and inclusive people. Yet, all of that could possibly be traced back to educated versus uneducated.
Yet, it isn’t even that. Level of education is not a perfect demarcation for these things. It is a lot more about attitude. Do we admit that there are people that know more about things than we do? Do we respect those people for their expertise? Do we respect them even if they tell us something that we don’t necessarily already think? That is somehow the issue here.
I imagine a campaign commercial going something like this. Fade into a family sitting on an airplane as it is about to leave the runway. The “pilot” comes on the intercom and says, “hello, I’m Mr. Smith and I’ll be flying the plane today. We will be cruising at maybe 180 feet. I’m not really sure. I’ve never done this before, but it’s okay. I’m a businessman.”
These commercials write themselves. I would add another. Fade into a man sitting in a room in the hospital. “Hello Mr. Smith, my name is Mr. Johnson. I will be removing your appendix today. We will be cutting a hole in your stomach about yay big (gestures with hands). It’s going to be okay. I’ve never done this before, but it’s okay. I’m a businessman.”
I think the point is abundantly clear. My pitch is a pitch of competence. What we need right now is not bumper sticker slogans that make people froth at the mouth. We don’t need to demagogue certain groups. We don’t need 30 second sound bytes. We don’t need any of that.
What we need is for our energy grid to work. We need our roads to be paved and drivable. We need our schools to be safe and to help our students learn. We need the police to keep us safe without violating our rights. There are hundreds of things people don’t hear about that needs to happen. People need government to work for them. They need people in government that know what they are doing to work for them.
We owe people the dignity of discussing issues like adults. Of course, anti-intellectuals don’t want that. They would rather slap a label on it and make you afraid of it. Complex issues in police reform become “defund the police.” Complex issues of health insurance reform become “socialized medicine.” Complex discussions about the role of race in our history becomes “critical race theory.” Politicians that want to discuss all of these problems rationally become “socialists.”
My pledge is simple. I would never engage anyone on those terms. You can throw in “cancel culture” or “virtue signaling.” I refuse to engage anyone on any of those things until they are defined by the individual leveling the charge. More often than not, when people hear the details they are able to separate fact from fiction. We just rarely give them the details.
So, if we get beyond the labels and sound bytes we can get back to people in government that actually know what they are doing. We have spent our time in Texas worrying about everything but the stuff that matters. We seem to be stuck on wedge issues that seem to have little positive effect on most people at best. It’s time we do better. At least that’s what I would say if I were to run.