The Todd Akin debacle has me wondering why we don’t take measures to block the ignorant and dim-witted from gaining high elected office. I know what you are going to say: that’s what elections are for. But we can’t bar ignorant and stupid people from voting: that’s been settled in court. It shouldn’t surprise us that they frequently tip elections toward candidates that the pollsters describe as “people like them”, and voilà! Todd Akin.
Akin is far (well, maybe not very far) from the most intellectually suspect member of Congress. For example, Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson once expressed concern that the island of Guam might tip over, like a raft. There are too many other telling anecdotes relating to other members of Congress, in both parties. For those who shrug cynically and argue that it’s always been that way, there is solid evidence that indeed, Congress is getting dumber over time. A study of every word spoken in Congress concluded that the grade level at which members of the legislative branch speak has fallen a full grade since 2005, to just half-way through the junior year of high school. Democrats are slightly more articulate (.4 of a grade) than Republicans as a group, but that just could be because Joe Biden left to be Vice-President.
Why should we tolerate this? These people have our life and welfare as well as the future of our country in our hands, and a critical number of them would be challenged running a bait shop. Their collective ignorance allows them to be manipulated by staffers and lobbyists; they don’t read the bills they vote for because they can’t comprehend them, and they have the attention spans of puppies. The cumulative results of allowing dumb people to govern us are 1) a political class that pitches its campaigns at voters as stupid and ignorant as they are, and 2) incompetent government at all levels. I think this is intolerable, and it is irresponsible of the public to tolerate it. We have to make ignorance and stupidity a political liability. That means:
- Requiring all candidates for high elected office to release complete academic transcripts and achievement scores.
- Requiring all candidates to take a standard IQ test, and release the results. I suspect that a statutory requirement of a minimum IQ score would be found unconstitutional, but I also suspect that most voters will hesitate to pull the lever when the test shows that their party’s candidate would lose a game of Trivial Pursuit to a sea sponge.
- Engaging an independent, non-partisan commission to create a qualification test for all candidates, covering basic Constitutional content, basic science, essential budgeting skills, American and world history, how the government functions, geography, reading comprehension and communications ability. It would be voluntary, but a candidate refusing to take it would risk the rebuttable presumption that he or she was a Pet Rock, and had no more business making laws or policy than, well, Todd Akin.
I don’t think these measures are unfair, unreasonable or overly burdensome. I think they are, in fact, desperately needed…unless, of course, we are satisfied to be governed by fools.
Graphic: Future Sight