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How Smart Are American Voters?

One rule of American politics (and American political discourse) is that commentators and (Democratic) politicians are not allowed to even suggest that a large percentage of the electorate is none-too-bright. Forty percent of people think Saddam was behind 9/11, huh? Don't say it is because they are dumb; don't you know how elitist and out-of-touch that makes you sound? (The other great answer given here is that people are too busy. Yes, people may watch four hours of television every day, but they do not possess the time to pick up a newspaper and learn that Obama is in fact a Christian). All of which is a belated way of saying that a report in this morning's New York Times is noteworthy. An excerpt:

For 90 minutes on Wednesday, during a lively, at times tense closed-door meeting in Manhattan, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pleaded his case, trying to persuade five Republican chairmen to let him run on their party’s ballot line this fall.

The scene seemed riddled with contradictions: a mayor who had ditched the Republican Party and stressed his disdain for party politics, beseeching the Republican Party to embrace him.

But at stake, for Mr. Bloomberg, now an independent, are potentially tens of thousands of votes in this fall’s mayoral election. He is the undisputed front-runner in the race, but without the backing of a major party, his name could appear six rows over to the right on the ballot in November, turning off voters who have always favored brand names in municipal politics.

What is the implication here, and why is Bloomberg so concerned about getting his name listed with everyone else's? Is the mayor(-for-life) suggesting that the great and good American people are not intelligent enough to find the name of the person they want to vote for? And the New York press, of course, has been reporting on this story frequently, but without mentioning the obvious upshot. Apparently it is acceptable for everyone to take stupidity for granted, but only elitists have the indecency to say so.

--Isaac Chotiner