Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Monday, September 29, 2014

Steve King: Leader Of The Asshole Caucus

One of the tropes you see a lot in political reporting is that "So-and-So isn't stupid..." and then goes on to explain why this person does what are apparently stupid things.  A variation of this is the Newt Gingrich Effect, whereby a person gets a reputation as being intelligent, despite all evidence to the contrary.

The profile of Steve King quotes people who note that he's "not stupid" and by that they mean that the outrageous things he says are not impulsive, off the cuff statements, but rather a conscious political calculation to change the debate.

And change the debate he has.

But this "Steve King is smart" idea is confusing successful with smart.  The central fact of American politics right now is the narrowing of the GOP base.  Both generationally and racially, the GOP is losing its future, and as the country becomes less pale, the ensuing panic among whites - especially whites in relatively racially homogeneous areas (and the South which is a weird mix of segregation and coexistence) - has made people like Steve King popular.

The article notes that King was a college drop-out and entered construction, where he was also successful.  The idea of college has been the cultivation of the mind beyond the vocational.  The term "liberal arts" refers to the freedom of thought that should be engaged at the collegiate level.  (This is the theory, keg stands and frat basements notwithstanding.)

But it is in that lack of perspective, nuance and intellectual empathy that we see King's essentially blinkered and, yes, stupid side.

King routinely makes up his own numbers - either because he can't understand how to read them or because he doesn't care.  His position resonates well within the GOP base, but it has a negative effect on the GOP as a whole.  It makes Steve King important in a party that is going to struggle to win a national election absent a scandal.

King has succeeded in defining the immigration debate in his terms, but I think the Democrats are having some success in making King the face of GOP immigration policy.  (see "self-deport")

Steve King has been successful in promoting Steve King, but it's tough to see that as "smart".

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