Intellectual Pride Makes You Stupid

As I watch the Left ask “What went wrong?” in the election aftermath, I am reminded of an incident a few years back,in my native Seattle.

A tourist returned from the former Soviet Union with a 10-ton statue of Lenin. When he died, the statue somehow wound up in the hands of the city, whose Wise Elders decided it should be erected in a public location for all to admire.

Some protested this, pointing out that Lenin, after all, fathered a system that butchered more innocent people than any other creation of the human mind in all of history. They pointedly suggested that if Seattle was now spending public moneys to honor architects of mass murder, perhaps Seattle would also find it doubly cute to erect a statue of Hitler.

At this point, somebody wrote to one of our local papers, saying it was ridiculous to compare Lenin with Hitler. After all, Lenin was an intellectual.

This fatuous remark, as much as anything, illustrates the problem which faces the Left in trying to grapple, not just with this election, but with the human race in general. In a nutshell, our liberal elites really and truly believe they are way smarter than anybody who disagrees with them.

Illustrations of this from the post-election press abound, but I will limit myself to just a few. One of the most hilarious was the allegedly Catholic Garry Wills, lamenting in the Nov. 4 New York Times that Election Day 2004 was “the Day the Enlightenment Went Out” and asking (I kid you not) “Can a people that believes more fervently in the Virgin Birth than in evolution still be called an enlightened nation?”

He does not inform us when the memo was issued by the Church that made the Virgin Birth a legend fit only for mouth-breathers, but then, he doesn't mean to. Rather, he simply means to confirm to his fellows on the Left that they are intellectuals and that those who differ from them are stoopid.

In a similar vein, William Saletan wrote a piece for Slate to rally the dispirited Left; it was called “Simple but Effective: Why you keep losing to this idiot.” Once again, the dogmatic faith of the Left in its superior intelligence is on full display. First, Saletan assures the faithful of the Left of their intellectual superiority: “Now look at your candidate, John Kerry. What quality has he most lacked? … Not brains — he proved that in the debates. What Kerry lacked was simplicity. … If you're a Democrat, here's my advice. Do what the Republicans did in 1998. Get simple. Find a compelling salesman and get him ready to run for president in 2008. Put aside your quibbles about preparation, stature, expertise, nuance and all that other hyper-sophisticated garbage that caused you to nominate Kerry.”

Translation: “The trouble with Our Set is that we are just too darn intelligent. We appreciate the nuances. We are hyper-sophisticated. We are just so utterly brilliant that we can't win the hearts of all those common, simple people out there.”

So what does Saletan recommend?

“You just need somebody to win the White House and appoint them to his administration. And that will require all the simplicity, salesman-ship and easygoing humanity they don't have. The good news is, that person is already available. His name is John Edwards.”

You read that right. The lesson Saletan takes away from the election is: Since Americans who disagree with him are “simple” (read: “stupid”) then the solution for the Left is to run a pre-fab, blow-dried, empty-headed, talking hairdo like John Edwards — who just lost the last election.

Saletan at least gets as far as asking, “If the Right is so stupid, how come they keep running rings around us?” But like so many on the Left, he cannot face squarely the awful prospect that “maybe we're not nearly as smart as we think we are and conservatives aren't as stupid as we keep telling ourselves.” Instead, Saletan opts to say, in effect, “Sadly, more Americans than we'd like to admit are dumb, unlike us. How can we exploit these morons?”

This is why the Left is losing. Many who populate it are gripped by intellectual pride: a form of pride which is both deadly and funny. For just as the Spirit can take people of rather modest intellectual gifts and sharpen their minds, so the devil can, through intellectual pride, take very bright people and make them stupid.

Mark Shea is an author and apologist.

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