Gruber joins Republicans in calling Americans stupid

Republicans have been calling Americans stupid for years. [Photo: Temecula Tea Party]

Jonathan Gruber’s now-infamous reference to the “stupidity of the American voter” deserves all of the ridicule it’s getting. Liberal attempts to defend this are implausible and gross. Jonathan Chait, for example, writes:

Here is where Gruber’s comment most rankles. “Stupidity” is unfair. Ignorance is a more accurate term. Gruber’s error here is that, by describing this as “stupidity” rather than a “lack of knowledge,” he moves from lamenting an unfortunate problem both parties must work around to condescending to the public in an unattractive way.

It would indeed have been more accurate to have said something else, but that is not what happened and there’s no reason to assume Gruber meant anything else. The much more plausible explanation is that Gruber, like most of the DC intelligentsia, thinks that the typical American is stupid. Americans are right to be offended by this.

That said, it’s hard to take seriously the notion that Republicans are actually offended by this. On the contrary, Republicans largely tend to agree with Gruber. In fact, a main point of right-wing criticism of Obamacare was that the stupidity of Americans who elected Democratic majorities should not trump minority beliefs about economics, the Constitution, and so on. This wasn’t just an implicit premise of all the “tyranny of the majority” and “we’re a Republic not a democracy” sloganeering – it was an explicit position proudly embraced by smug Republicans who thought themselves smarter than everyone else.

Of course, there’s nothing more American than for election losers to decry the stupidity of the voters. But Republicans haven’t just indulged in this monstrous rhetoric as petty catharsis – they’ve actively attempted to enshrine it as the central assumption of American governance. It is Republicans, not Democrats, who regularly describe black voters as a hivemind “trapped on the plantation.” It is Republicans, not Democrats, who ended the era of majority rule by abusing the filibuster. It is Republicans, not Democrats, who are making a deliberate and coordinated national effort to obstruct ballot access. All of these efforts revolve around the assumption that the majority of voters are dumb and can’t be trusted with democracy.

Republicans may think it’s convenient to single out Gruber over a ridiculous comment – but in doing so, they’re drawing attention to an odious belief that they ultimately share.