A.K.A. “You heard it here, first!”
This started off as a Facebook post, about a week ago. Many of the people who replied to the original post are of a liberal persuasion, and some took umbrage to my assertion that Sanders isn’t as intelligent as some of the other candidates. The second half of this essay is a response to those objections. As with all my posts, I take no offense at being disagreed with, but do request that any disagreements be presented respectfully and intelligently.
As a self-described centrist, I’ve watched the most recent Republican and Democratic presidential primary debates. I’ve noticed some striking differences that have influenced my opinion substantially, at this juncture.
1) Right or wrong in her policies, Hillary Clinton is the most intelligent person in the running.
2) Sanders is the only one who seems to care about or understand the major concerns of the millennial generation. He is, however, extremely vague (compared to Clinton) about how to fund any of the changes he wants.
3) The Republican candidates disagree with each other a lot less, but they don’t go into as much detail about their positions, or how they intend to accomplish their goals.
4) The Democratic debate facilitators ask much harder questions. Their candidates often dodge the question, but have stayed on topic better than in past elections. Republican debate facilitators ask much easier questions, and their candidates don’t dodge them as often.
5) The Democratic candidates put more focus on how they intend to do things, and are more specific about what they intend to do. The Republican candidates focus more on who they’re angry at.
6) Governor O’Malley makes much more concise, salient remarks, and asks harder, more intelligent questions than the facilitators or other candidates. He seems to lack the assertiveness to lead effectively at the presidential level, but he adds much to the election by way of keeping the other candidates honest.
7) Sanders and Trump are more childish than the other candidates, in their mannerisms and speech patterns. Trump is extremely so, to the point that I wonder if he suffers from a neoteny-related disorder.
8) Bush made more sense than any other Republican candidate, and seems to have some understanding that issues that have yet to be solved are unsolved because they’re complex and are trade-off centric. Clinton has a much better apparent understanding of this than any of the other candidates, including Bush, although Bush may be catering his responses to the less detail-oriented format of the Republican debates.
9) Sanders and O’Malley seem to be the least corrupt, in terms of taking money from special interests.
10) Sanders and Clinton get almost all the attention, and are rude to O’Malley when he tries to speak.
11) Trump really is an idiot. He has basically no understanding of politics, diplomacy, foreign affairs, economics, the economics of immigration, etc. (Research early 20th century immigration and it’s effects, if you don’t believe me.)
12) Sanders is also pretty stupid, but he has a handful of ideas that could basically save my generation if he implements them with sufficient foresight (which he may or may not possess). If elected, he would screw a lot of stuff up, but maybe fix the things that most need fixing. He also doesn’t understand foreign relations, many aspects of economics, diplomacy, etc. In other words, a vote for him is a vote for sacrificing a lot of things that (mostly) work in favor of fixing a few things that are severely broken–if he’s clever enough to pull it off, which is worth questioning.
13) Clinton would hold down the fort with stunningly apt alacrity, but not seriously work on our country’s most severe domestic problems. She would make small, incremental improvements, and do a darned good job of that…slowly. Under her rulership, we should expect small, consistent improvements across the board (barring unforeseen circumstances). She has foresight, leadership ability, and genius-level I.Q. She’s one of the greatest diplomats alive. What she lacks is out-of-the-box thinking on some pressing issues.
14) I’m sad to admit that, in spite of my centrism, I can’t see any of the Republican candidates’ proposed solutions as being very sapient or realistic. Sorry, guys: you’re going to lose, this year.
15) Clinton listens intently to each of her opponents and nods appreciatively, apparently to herself, when they say something particularly intelligent. I expect that, like Obama, she’ll ask some of her former opponents to join her cabinet. Sanders is an ideologue who is too busy concentrating on making his next point to listen very well. (Referring to active listening, not hearing loss.) He may or may not have the wisdom to hire his former competitors.
16) Sanders has an annoying demeanor. Those I was watching the debate with (stalwart democrats) kept turning him down because he was a “loud mouth” and a “hot head”, which mostly speaks to his presentation, rather than his ideas. If people can’t stand listening to you, it doesn’t matter how good your ideas are.
In conclusion, either Sanders or Clinton will most likely be our next president. I like what Sanders is trying to do, but his demeanor is unpalatable, and he lacks the intellect to do a good job, on most fronts. He has admirable compassion, but precious little logistical sense, and would end up a lot like Jimmy Carter, in the eyes of history, were he to win. Clinton will probably be our next president, and will almost certainly do a very solid job of it, taking into account the quirks specific to her party (fixation on gun control, LGBT/race/female issues–all of which are sometimes sensible, and often not), and a penchant for small, safe changes, rather than large, riskier ones (some of the latter we seem to need). To put it simply, we are probably in safe hands, this time around, and the big changes will probably have to wait.
“But I like Bernie Sanders, and I think he’s smart!”
“He’s been working for decades to do what he claims to want, so shouldn’t we give him more credit?”
I don’t doubt that Sanders is sincere, or that he’s been working toward his goals for a very long time. He is, indeed, very committed. My concerns about his intellect come from a variety of things about him, most of them small and hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t also noticed it. Here are a few that seem relatively easy to communicate.
1) He stays “on message” a lot more than the other candidates. When asked about gun control, he talked about Wall Street. When asked about digital security and Constitutional concerns, he talked about Wall street, and then, eventually, about terrorists. When asked about racial inequality, he talked about Wall Street. Yes, the financial sector (which is larger than just Wall Street in New York City!) needs to be sat on for the way they have screwed up our economy and some other stuff. Yes, they’re crazy rich, while their employees are just getting poorer. They’re on my “sh*t-list”. They are not, however, the cause of every evil in the world, and changing how we interact with them isn’t going to solve most of our problems. That’s lazy thinking. He’s been on the job for long enough to know better…but he apparently doesn’t.
2) His vocabulary is limited.
3) He’s reactionary in the same way as people I know who have a fanatically-held set of beliefs, but who lack the wherewithal to justify those beliefs saliently to others. He gets upset, raises his voice, interrupts incessantly, gesticulates to get attention, etc. This is another sign of a weak mind.
4) His facial expressions are very limited. This one is a bit harder to explain, but I’ll try. For illustration, watch Trump speak and count how many distinct expressions he has. That’s an approximate number that can be used to extrapolate his range of emotions. People who have only, in the extreme example, “happy” and “sad” make you think of what group of people? According to psychologists, what is the average IQ of people with that kind of disorder? (Down Syndrome sufferers are one example. They have an average I.Q. of 80, whereas “normal” is ~100.) A person without nuanced feelings is probably incapable of understanding partial victories, mitigated defeats, trade-offs, moral gray area, etc.; if they did understand these things, they would have a decidedly more developed range of emotions, which would result in more unique facial expressions. Trump regularly displays fake sadness, sullenness, child-like delight, and anger–and not much else. Now, watch the same length of video and count Sanders’ unique expressions. There aren’t many more. Now, take a look at either of the Clintons (who have approximate IQs of 138 and 140, respectively). Do they look sideways in amusement? Do they smirk, wink, look ponderous, etc? You bet they do. They have also been shown to understand things like partial victories, mitigated defeats, trade-offs, moral gray area, etc. I know this might not make a lot of sense unless you’ve already noticed it, but here’s hoping…
5) He doesn’t seem to know when he has made his point, and people have stopped listening intently.
6) When he was asked whether he was raising taxes on the middle class to pay for universal health care, he prevaricated for over 2 minutes, apparently without realizing that everyone with half a brain cell would see that he was doing so. If you boil it down enough, his answer was, “Yes, I’m raising taxes on the middle class, but the savings from medical costs will be bigger.” For many, including me, this is probably true. However, anyone with a little life experience knows that some people get sick and/or go to the doctor more than others, so for the latter group, the math doesn’t add up. (I go to the doctor more than most people.) Having worked on this problem for several decades, he should know better than to make such a brash assumption, but either he doesn’t know better, or is lying. It’s been previously agreed (by most in the conversation, so far) that he’s genuine; therefore, he’s stupid.
7) As obtuse as Congress is, if he were even a little bit good at explaining his ideas in a way that made other people who knew about the subject matter agree with him, he would have gotten the Democratic Party leadership on-board with his plan, after all this time. Overwhelmingly, his colleagues seem to think of him as being unrealistic. Often, when he seems to have “stumped” his opponent with a response, the expression on the opponent’s face isn’t one of concession or sullen disappointment about being bested in an argument, but of bafflement that he would even say such a thing. How do you deliver a snappy retort to a statement that’s factually incorrect on a dozen different levels? If you think back to a time when someone made such an argument to you, that debate dynamic will become painfully clear. As previously mentioned, he consistently dodged Clinton’s questions about his previous voting record, and likewise refused to explain in any detail how he intended to mitigate the negative side-effects of his proposed changes. Many of the bills he authored are only a couple of pages long, and make no effort to state, in practice, how they are to be accomplished, if made law. Valid questions include: How do you enforce it? What are the specific rules that businesses, individuals, and government agencies must follow, in day-to-day life? Are those people actually able to follow those rules without it putting them out of business or turning everyone into a criminal–technically or judicially, depending on enforcement? A 2-page bill can’t address these concerns, and Sanders repeatedly presents such bills, trying to make them into laws. They are consistently voted down by his peers. (Yes, he has managed to pass a handful of laws in the 25 years since he first got elected to Congress, which means that he occasionally writes a law that his colleagues don’t think is asinine.) To my understanding, his biggest accomplishments as a member of Congress center around adding a little “heart” to bills that others have written–which makes him a decent Congressman, but doesn’t qualify him for the duty of vetoing poorly-written laws.
I could go on, but this should provide a little justification for my assertions about his intellect. Again, I think he has a few really good ideas; but I doubt that he has much understanding of what the side-effects of those ideas will be. Therefore, I’ll reassert that a vote for Sanders is a vote for sacrificing a lot of things that (mostly) work, in favor of fixing a few things that are badly broken. This comes down to the priorities of an individual voter; but be warned: some of the things he wants to change will make essential goods like food, fuel, clothing, and building supplies more expensive. Will his other ideas counteract this by making you richer? Will you be made richer in a way that doesn’t prevent industrialists from making those goods at a reasonable price? Maybe, if he’s smart enough. Do you care to roll the dice? Vote according to your mind, heart, and conscience.