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VOICES / A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY ISSUES

Voting: Beating up Smarty Pants

October 28, 2000|ROSS G. BROWN | Ross G. Brown is a television and screenwriter who lives in Westlake Village

Everything I need to know about the current presidential election, I learned in fourth grade. Back then, I was the smartest kid in my class. I knew it, and I wanted everyone else to know it too. Math, science, history--I had all the answers. The minute the teacher asked a question, my hand flew up and I panted, "Oooh, oooh, I know, I know."

I was not very popular with my classmates. In fact, I got beat up a lot after school. I suspect Al Gore did too.

As I watched Gore during the debates, I saw a bright, hard-working, dedicated guy with an impressive command of the pertinent information and an astounding ability to synthesize this knowledge into concrete proposals on domestic and foreign affairs. Unfortunately, I also saw myself in grade school--too smart for my own good.

Gore studied hard and was thoroughly prepared for the televised civics and government quizzes each debate provided. A teacher might have given him an A. But much of the rest of the class just wanted to punch Mr. Smarty Pants in the nose.

The rap on George W. Bush is that he doesn't know what he's talking about, that he offers only vague generalities and sound-bite platitudes. This may be so, but I learned an important life lesson at the hands of several of my beefier, if intellectually less gifted, fourth-grade classmates: People may poke fun at a Know-Nothing, but they can't stand a Know-It-All.

I'm a liberal Democrat and I'm voting for Gore. I thought Gore "won" the debates, meaning I found his arguments far more detailed and persuasive.

But the vast majority of people who vote based on issues, such as taxes, education and abortion, chose sides long ago. The election is now in the hands of others, those who put off doing their homework until the last minute. These folks don't evaluate candidates in a purely analytical fashion. They don't grade on a point system. It's strictly pass/fail, based on gut reaction, and the plain truth is Gore fails with too many of these voters. For them, his superior intellect isn't an asset, it's an irritant. He just rubs them the wrong way. They may not beat him up, but they surely won't vote for him, and that means trouble for Gore when the final exam comes on Nov. 7.

The intellectual part of me cries out, "This isn't fair." I want the principal to step in and acknowledge that Al Gore is far more qualified than George W. Bush. But this is a democracy, not a meritocracy. The best and brightest student doesn't always get to be class president. The most popular one does.

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