The critic William Empson made his name in 1930 with the book “Seven Types of Ambiguity.” When the history of our political epoch is written, it will be named “Two Types of Stupidity.” Today we shall begin with the Republican type, then consider the Democrats.
Republican stupidity is epitomized in Vice President Mike Pence, the world’s greatest sycophant. It boils down to ignorance, arrogance and fanaticism. This was exemplified in his urging the president to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
Pence did this, White House sources tell us, because he believes a “prophecy” that the end of the world will come when a world leader emerges in Judaea.
Let us leave aside for the moment whether all humanity anticipates the end of the world with as much joy as Pence does. What’s certain is that this prophecy has been around for 2,000 years.
Followers of Vespasian cited it when he declared his bid for emperor in 69.
The Jews cited it when they revolted against Roman rule in 66 and 132.
Admirers of Nero cited it three times after that despicable emperor’s death, declaring that he was returning from the East, in or about the years 69, 81 and 92.
Let us also leave aside the reasons why anyone would want Nero back. What’s certain is that if Pence is relying upon this prophecy, as he appears to be, he is stupid.
It didn’t work for the Jews, Mr. Vice President; it didn’t work for the pseudo-Neros, and it won’t work for you.
Yet this fanatic 2,000-year-old bilge has been pronounced as an allegedly rational policy by the leaders of the Western world’s most powerful nation.
That’s ridiculous. Those people weren’t even Christians, Mike.
Moving on: Until recently I attributed the Democratic Party’s stupidity to cowardice, in accord with Kahn’s Elemental Theory of U.S. Politics, and its corollary.
The Elemental Theory states: Republicans are liars, and Democrats are cowards.
The Corollary is: U.S. voters will always prefer a liar to a coward.
Now, however, I believe the Democrats may be just plain stupid.
Consider the recent presidential election, and the seven years that preceded it. In these years, the Republican Party devoted itself body and soullessness to telling us that the Affordable Care Act was the work of the devil. They tried to repeal it 70 times. Day after day they shouted it from the rooftops. It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell; it pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat; they swore they would repeal it when their team came up to bat.
They rode these seven years of hollering into office. Neither public good nor truth had anything to do with it. It was the relentless pounding against a single health-care bill that helped millions of people.
Now the Democrats have their chance: a wildly unpopular tax bill that will help hundreds of people — perhaps a few thousand. And we all know who they are.
Will the Democrats seize this opportunity and unleash daily outrage against a bill most of the country already hates? Will they do it every day, for 332 days, until Election Day, as the Republicans did?
They will not. That’s not (solely) because Democrats are cowards: It’s because they’re stupid.
Here is another example. One of the worst laws in recent history, passed under George W. Bush, prohibits the federal government from negotiating prices with drug companies for bulk purchases under the Medicare Part D program. This is an inexcusable giveaway of billions of dollars a year to the pharmaceutical industry.
No mass purchaser of anything would cut a deal like that.
Big Pharma is not popular these days, and just because of slimy people like jailbird Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli. But it doesn’t matter why Big Pharma is unpopular. If the Democratic Party had any brains or guts (vide supra), its officeholders would be hollering day and night to repeal the Medicare Part D law and replace it with a simple alternative: If we’re going to buy a billion doses of Panaceic Acid from you, Pharma Bro, you’re damn right we’re going to bargain for it.
It’s not just old people who would vote for candidates who propose that — everyone would.
But the Democrats have not done that — not a peep from them in 25 years.
The Republicans introduced the strategy: Run on a platform of repealing everything the other guys have done. And it got them elected.
Why don’t the Democrats try it?
I think it’s because they’re stupid.