Are American voters just too dumb to choose the best man for president? Al Gore's supporters apparently think so. With George W. Bush now leading in every poll of likely voters, the liberal establishment has come up with an explanation. "If (Gore) loses," The New Republic sniffs, "it will not simply set America on an ideological course that we consider perilous and unworthy of our best traditions. It will be a sign that we are not living in a serious age,"
That's right. If the voters prefer Bush's vision to Gore's, there must be something wrong with the voters.
The Gore camp has come up with a series of explanations why their candidate hasn't locked up the election so far. In the summer, when Bush was ahead in the polls by a wide margin, they said the voters weren't paying attention. The polls simply reflected Bush's popularity, they claimed. But "the presidency is more than just a popularity contest," Gore himself warned. And, the Gore campaign promised, when voters started focusing on issues their guy would pull ahead.
For a few weeks following the Democrat convention, it seemed maybe the Gore campaign was right. Gore led in most surveys until well after Labor Day, and Democrats promised they'd deliver a knock-out blow in the presidential debates. After all, Al Gore is a master of facts and figures, and once voters saw him demonstrate his superior expertise, they'd flock to him in droves.
Of course that never happened -- indeed Bush gained popularity with each successive debate. Privately, Gore supporters acknowledged their candidate's demeanor was the problem. In the first debate, Gore rolled his eyes and sighed, when he wasn't interrupting both Bush and moderator Jim Lehrer. In the second debate, he was too deferential, letting Bush look like -- egad -- his equal. In the third and final debate, though, Gore himself proclaimed he got it just right. In fact, the Gore campaign was so happy with their man, they promised to buy time to rerun the whole debate so more viewers would have a chance to see Gore in action.
Unfortunately for Gore, however, the more voters get to see him, the less likely they appear inclined to vote for him. Now most normal political campaigns at this point might conclude that they've miscalculated their message or even that they haven't done a very good job delivering it. But not the Gore folks. They're too smart for that.
No, the problem must be the people themselves. The Gore campaign has done its best to scare the elderly, to provoke the middle class to wage class warfare against the rich, to convince women that Bush would endanger their health and security and their children's educations. But it hasn't worked. I guess voters are just too dense to recognize what's good for them.
Now, Gore's supporters are back to trying to convince voters George Bush isn't experienced enough to be president. "In a dangerous world, as we have recently been reminded this is," warns the Washington Post, "Mr. Gore offers leadership without the need of on-the-job training." The sub-text of this message: Gore knows more, so he deserves to be president.
But then liberals always know more than the rest of us. Which is why, when we elect them, they expect us to fork over our hard-earned money so they can redistribute it. Al Gore, of course, promises he'll give some of us back a little of our own money, so long as we spend it on things he approves of. After all, he knows better than we do what's in our best interests.
If voters have the audacity to reject Al Gore for president on Nov. 7 -- as I predict they will -- don't expect his supporters to acknowledge they were wrong. They'll be too busy blaming their defeat on the shallowness of the American electorate to notice they weren't so smart after all.