The Mediocritization of America: Why Go for Gold When You Can Have Brass?

I will never be president of the Harvard Law Review. I'm not a Rhodes Scholar. And I don't care whether a presidential candidate can do a kegstand from the roof of an apartment complex or nab a Caribou from her window while making her kids' lunches.

I don't need my cool uncle or friendly neighbor in the White House. I will always prefer eloquence to down-home charm. I will never accept lies just because they're easier to digest. The fact I've historically supported brilliant minds and high-achievers is no coincidence. I would prefer to elect the best America has to offer. I want to be proud of my president. I guess that makes me an elitist.

As the cavalcade of astute cable news pundits so insightfully observes, Barack Obama, with his fancy education, damning record of intellectual pursuit, and sweet sunglasses, is also an elitist, which explains why I'm voting for him. I'm impressed by his virtuosity and prescience, his progressive ideals and modern ambition. But more than anything, I want to stem the flow of elected mediocritists.

Currently, we have a thoroughly mediocre president, of mediocre intelligence, who, along with our mediocre judicial and legislative branches, has plunged our country into the bowels of mediocrity. Look at America circa 2008: embarrassing public school systems, an unconscionable approach to health care, a reputation of maverick jingoism, and an economy crippled by plutocratic greed.

But what's most shocking isn't our ailing status; it's the notion that we as a country would rather perpetuate a cycle of discursive and intellectual poverty than elect leaders dedicated to ameliorating our country's broken machinery.

We want to relate to candidates. We want politicians to pander to us, to say, for instance, that we can "win" in Iraq and defeat a spectral, wildly dispersed network of terrorists. We want to make faith an eternal issue. We listen with rapt attention to our pundits--liberal and conservative--who would rather vomit ad hominem attacks than engage the issues, and then we copy their methodologies in our own private arguments.

Decry the Iraq War a failure, and a certain conservative pundit would call you "seditious" and "unpatriotic." Judge a debate by who argued better and showed more integrity, and suddenly you're an elitist (which is somehow tantamount to being labeled nobility during the French Revolution).

America is in a state of retrogression. And in addition to being mortifying--imagine how our great unipolar power appears to the rest of the developed world--it's really frightening.

As far as I can tell, this anti-progress mentality, this dedication to mediocrity comes down to insecurity and democratic (the ideology, not the political party) arrogance--and perhaps the errant notion that all opinions are created equal.

Maybe some of us feel stupid when we don't fully understand an issue, so we latch on to answers that sound right, such as, "We should always seek to lower, not raise, taxes."

Perhaps there are those who believe that their religious views really ought to dictate federal and state law, and it makes perfect sense to truncate gay rights, prevent rape victims from having an abortion, and teach Intelligent Design to our already badly educated kids.

Maybe we don't think we have the right to call a candidate on unreasonable and asinine opinions or identify an intelligence divide between candidates. If you ask me, It's hard to deny the manifold intellectual discrepancies between Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin. I feel comfortable calling Sarah Palin's opinions on social issues outmoded, offensive, and, frankly, dimwitted. I don't want to hear from someone who believes that dinosaurs and humans coexisted. That is not a valid opinion. But that's beside the point.

Optimally, a politician ought to be someone we admire, an inspiration. Historically, our most successful leaders have been bright, forward-thinking men and women to whom we listen not because they make us feel at home, but because we trust their guidance--an FDR or a JFK, both of whom were "elites." We ostensibly elect our leaders based on their qualifications and potential.

How much more mediocrity must we endure before we realize the problem's with our perception?