“We need a leader, not a reader.” – Herman Cain
“I’m beginning to miss Sarah Palin’s insights.” – Rahm Emanuel
It’s easy to make fun of some of the intellectual lightweights vying for Republican votes this primary season. (Michele Bachmann: “The very Founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.”)
But there seems to be a lack of insight among certain elements of the punditocracy, too. A Mediaite headline encapsulated it the other day: “Morning Joe Crew Flummoxed By Herman Cain’s ‘Leader Not A Reader’ Comment.” Really? Talking heads on a pundit show surprised by a Republican candidate expressing an anti-intellectual point of view? What country have they been living in?
A recent New York Times op-ed by two thoughtful evangelicals observed, “The Republican presidential field has become a showcase of evangelical anti-intellectualism.” According to Karl W. Giberson and Randall J. Stephens, “Fundamentalism appeals to evangelicals who have become convinced that their country has been overrun by a vast secular conspiracy” and in response have “created what amounts to a ‘parallel culture.'” They quote evangelical historian Mark A. Noll: “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”
Such developments aren’t unique to American Christian fundamentalism, of course. In Israel, state-supported schools in the ultra-Orthodox community base their teachings almost entirely on Torah study. The children thus educated grow up unprepared for modern society – another “parallel culture.” And there’s no need to detail here the products of Islamic fundamentalism.
Of course, looking around at the mess we’re in, we could be excused for wondering what good it’s done us to put a former president of the Harvard Law Review in the White House. What difference does intellect at the top make, in the end? On the other hand, look at the disastrous decisions made by the previous “decider.” A case can be made either way.
Just let’s not pretend to be surprised, nonplussed, confused, or even “flummoxed” when a presidential contender declares something dumb. He’s only playing to the base.