Expertise We Can Believe In

Long time, no post. I’ll have something more substantial to say soon, but I wanted to pass along this snippet from an Onion AV Club interview with Daily Show “resident expert John Hodgman:

The thing that I find so compelling is that right now Obama’s whole campaign strategy is simply [to] speak to people as though they were adults and trust that the truth of the world situation will be evident to them. For him to be attacked as a friend of a terrorist, for “palling” around with terrorists and to simply go back and say, “No, I’m not”? That was such a refreshing political moment. …I’m enchanted by the idea that a politician can come along and speak simply and clearly and truthfully to an electorate as though they are grown-ups and to feel the electorate respond to that. I’ve found that to be astonishing and especially now that we are in the end game and you see basically the McCain campaign has nothing left but conspiracy theories to throw at Obama. It really has become a fight between fantasy and reality, and although I don’t make my living off of it, I endorse reality.

It’s a wide-ranging interview, but Hodgman speaks frankly and at length about his own political views, which is refreshing in and of itself, considering the usual disingenuousness of late-night comics asked what they “really” think. You can read the whole thing here (while you’re in the neighborhood, you should also check out their interview with another of my Daily Show favorites, Samantha Bee).

Hodgman’s comments on Obama encapsulate something I’ve been thinking about for a while: I love this candidate. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how much I love him (especially given all the messianic mockery directed at Obama and his supporters). It’s not because I think he’s perfect, or that every policy position he takes is the right one, or that he somehow transcends politics.

I love him because he doesn’t talk to us like we’re idiots.

This is not to say Obama doesn’t pander, on occassion — he does. But it’s not his primary mode, like it is with so many politicians. It’s not to say other politicians aren’t as smart, or even smarter: Bill Clinton has a world-class intellect. But he sometimes talks to us like we’re idiots, and not just when he’s saying he did not have sexual relations with that woman. Hillary — another very smart person — also seemed to assume the rest of us were dopes, most of the time (Crown Royal, anyone?). Bush is a pea-brain himself, but when it comes to talking down to the American people, that doesn’t seem to stand in his way.

The media, with a few rare exceptions, also treat us like the proverbial 12-year old for whom newspaper editors and J-school professors have always instructed writers to tailor their prose.

The thing about that is, if you create and maintain a model of discourse based on the presumption that people are stupid, they will either:

A.) become stupid, or

B.) wise up, and start to resent you

We’ve seen option A. play itself out for the last eight years. We — or enough of us, anyway — were dumb enough to go to war against the wrong country, let corporations rob us blind, and count 9/11 and the terrorism “issue” as a plus for Bush (that one still baffles me). But now we (or, I hope, enough of us, anyway) are wising up.

If Obama is, as he seems to be, the Man of the Moment, that’s a big part of the reason why: not because we’re “ready” for a black president, or even because we’re ready for “change.”

It’s because we’re ready to be treated like intelligent adults.


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