Before and after the 2004 election there were a lot of snarky comments made about the intelligence and sophistication of people who would vote for George W. Bush. Bush, we were frequently told, was an imbecile, and we had to be imbeciles to vote for him. The insults flew so fast and furiously that if one didn't stop to think about them they might have almost believed them to be true.
But of course they weren't. It wasn't Republican voters, after all, who couldn't figure out how to use a ballot in the Florida election of 2000. Nor is it Republicans who are absolutely dependent upon the least well-educated members of our society for their success.
Nor is Bush the dolt his opponents like to portray him as. Not only did he surpass the relatively modest academic achievements of John Kerry at Yale, but also it turns out that the president is a voracious reader who reads over a hundred books a year. Nor is the stuff he reads just fluff as Steven Hayward notes at No Left Turns. Hayward quotes John Lewis Gaddis:
So what might shift contemporary impressions of President Bush? I can only speak for myself here, but something I did not expect was the discovery that he reads more history and talks with more historians than any of his predecessors since at least John F. Kennedy. The President has surprised me more than once with comments on my own books soon after they've appeared, and I'm hardly the only historian who has had this experience. I've found myself improvising excuses to him, in Oval Office seminars, as to why I hadn't read the latest book on Lincoln, or on-as Bush refers to him-the "first George W." I've even assigned books to Yale students on his recommendation, with excellent results.
"Well, so Bush reads history", one might reasonably observe at this point. "Isn't it more important to find out how he uses it?" It is indeed, and I doubt that anybody will be in a position to answer that question definitively until the oral histories get recorded, the memoirs get written, and the archives open. But I can say this on the basis of direct observation: President Bush is interested-as no other occupant of the White House has been for quite a long time-in how the past can provide guidance for the future.
Anyway, the calumnies against the intelligence of Republican voters really is a joke. The Democrats, even as I write, are feverishly at work trying to enlist young people as well as the poor and marginalized, groups not noted for their close following of political matters, in the service of Barack Obama. In other words, the Democrats realize that unless they can get a lot of people voting for them who have no idea what they're voting for, they don't have a chance.RLC