Contemporary American politics can be described in many ways–few of them complimentary. One of the most analytically accurate terms would be stupid–bringing to mind Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Theory of Stupidity.”
As an article from the Big Think recently paraphrased that theory, the stupid person is often more dangerous than the evil one. The article quotes an old internet adage on the subject:
“Debating an idiot is like trying to play chess with a pigeon — it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory.”
According to the article,
Once something is a known evil, the good of the world can rally to defend and fight against it. As Bonhoeffer puts it, “One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion.”
Stupidity, though, is a different problem altogether. We cannot so easily fight stupidity for two reasons. First, we are collectively much more tolerant of it. Unlike evil, stupidity is not a vice most of us take seriously. We do not lambast others for ignorance. We do not scream down people for not knowing things. Second, the stupid person is a slippery opponent. They will not be beaten by debate or open to reason. What’s more, when the stupid person has their back against the wall — when they’re confronted with facts that cannot be refuted — they snap and lash out.
Which brings me back to Hoosier politics, and the depressing likelihood that Indiana Congressman Jim Banks will become Senator Banks.
I don’t know Banks personally, and I am clearly unable to determine whether he is evil or stupid, but I’m pretty sure he falls into one or both of those two categories. Banks has generated a trail of Rightwing evidence, but perhaps the best illustration that he is unfit for public office was his January announcement of plans to create an “anti-woke” caucus in the House of Representatives.
The Republican representative from the Hoosier State is first out of the gate in a race that many believe will be filled with other conservatives. But Banks has his whole policy-absent catchall ready to go: He’s promising to form an “anti-woke caucus” in Congress just in time for him to run for election.
Banks now represents Indiana’s reliably Red Third district; he first entered politics via the Tea Party in 2010, and served six years in the Indiana State Senate. During that time, he voted against Medicaid Expansion, co-sponsored bills to drug test welfare recipients and defund Planned Parenthood, and helped pass an anti-choice bill requiring women to bury or cremate fetal remains. (This was, obviously, before Dobbs.) He was widely known as the Hoosier errand boy for ALEC, after carrying that organization’s deceptively-named right-to-work legislation.
The linked article describes Banks as “a classic modern Republican,” thanks to his votes against impeaching Trump, and his insistence that the 2020 election results be overturned by the Supreme Court.
HIs campaign video highlights his service as a veteran and his reportedly working-class upbringing. It also highlights how Banks has fought against China for “for stealing our jobs and for giving us COVID.” … Over the weekend, Banks went on Fox News to explain: “Most Republicans are now awakened to this fact that wokeness is weakness, it’s a cancer that is eating America from the inside-out.” He goes on to talk about “girls sports,” and you know where that’s headed.
Which brings me back to Bonhoeffer, who says that the problem with stupidity is that it often goes hand-in-hand with power. Bonhoeffer writes,
Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or of a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity…
More harm is done by one powerful idiot than a gang of Machiavellian schemers. We know when there’s evil, and we can deny it power. …But stupidity is much harder to weed out. That’s why it’s a dangerous weapon: Because evil people find it hard to take power, they need stupid people to do their work.
Bonhoeffer says we should get angry and scared when stupidity takes reign.
Since stupidity does not disbar people from holding office or wielding authority, “History and politics are swimming with examples of when the stupid have risen to the top (and where the smart are excluded or killed).” Bonhoeffer posits that the nature of power requires people to surrender certain faculties necessary for intelligent thought — faculties like independence, critical thinking, and reflection.
We should never give power to people like Jim Banks. But of course, this is Indiana….
20 thoughts on “Anti-Woke Jim Banks”
If an opponent in politics manages to succeed garnering votes to win elected office, I find it difficult to label them stupid. Cunning, yes … but not stupid. To defeat an opponent is to expose their Achilles’ and with equal measure of cunning message strategy, defeat them at the polls. Calling them stupid only feeds the wolf from Sleepy Hollow and the rest of the pack.
Don’t you think this is why Republicans stay away from debates? 😉
I mean, Trump was warned in the courtroom by the judge NOT to incite violence over his indictment, and what did Trump and his family do?
Stoopid people work well in an oligarchy where critical thinking is not required. Only doing what they’re told is the minimum skill for the job. If you’re stoopid, your conscience doesn’t make enough noise to stop you from talking or acting.
For instance, our City Council has a majority of Republicans, but none can run the meeting, so they elect a minority Democrat. It’s that simple. And they rarely speak up to show everyone how stoopid they are in person. Occasionally, they speak, and you wish they’d remain silent.
Do you honestly think people like that are interested in serving the public good? I’m not sure how they dress themselves…
Where do we count the mute and idle sitting Republicans; are they stupid or evil? Either way they are a tentacle of the openly evil faction using wrecking-ball tactics to control the GOP and using their current slim majority in the House to accomplish their destruction. Slim or not, it IS the majority and today it is numbers that matter.
Where do we put Democratic Sen. Manchin and former, recently Independent, Sen. Sinema; stupid or evil? The results of their votes are the same as the destructive tactics the current entire GOP (speaking or mute, idle or active) party. Come election day they will all vote for the Republicans all the way down ballot to maintain their knee on the neck of America.
I have become even more afraid of another Trump takeover of this country since his arrest and arraignment; he is still the seditious president and now former president with the same seditious following who have too much power in their hands, protected by democracy, Rule of Law and the very Constitution they are trying to abolish. Stupid or evil? Does it really matter when they are proving they cannot be stopped by laws.
It’s no slam dunk that Banks, if nominated, wins the Senate race.
The GOP is dramatically losing support in the northern suburbs, particularly well populated Hamilton County. Trump inspired Secretary of State candidate Diego Morales only had 47.9% of the vote in Hamilton County in 2022 which was a midterm, not a general election. (Indiana is substantially less Republican during presidential election years. ) Hamilton used to be one of the most Republican counties in the state percentagewise. Now it’s one of the least Republican counties percentage wise. Other Indy metro area counties are bleeding support, but none as dramatically as Hamilton.
Then you have Indianapolis/Marion County which is now the least Republican county in the state in many elections. Marion County has been beating out Lake County in terms of percent Democratic support for candidates.
If Democrats nominate a candidate who can do at least reasonably well in the non-urban areas of the state, or if GOP turnout is low, then Banks could easily go down.
If Trump is at the top of the ticket, that will drive GOP turnout in the state, but also drive Democratic turnout in the urban and suburban districts.
I just think insurrectionist-supporting Banks may be too far out there for Indiana voters. But it will take a well-funded Democratic opponent with some appeal to non-crazy GOP-leaning voters to beat him.
I get it that you don’t like Joe Manchin, but don’t worry. After the next election Manchin is out.
Instead you’ll have a far right conservative Republican in that seat. Gov. Jim Justice is going to run.
Democrats ought to start every day thanking their lucky stars that have a Democrat elected Senator in one of the most Republican, most Trump states in the union. Instead they attack him. Go figure.
W. VA is more backward than Indiana, which says a lot!
Manchin is just another Koch puppet, regardless of his stripes.
Paul; or will we have Republican Manchin in that seat? He appears to me to be a transpolitician!
Thus far today, no one has mentioned the people who stand by while this happens – the “voteless”. By them, I mean specifically three groups:
1. Registered or policy-leaning DEMs in Red districts/counties who assume their geography will be GOP and don’t bother to vote
2. “Independents” (the largest party in the country) who don’t care enough/know enough about the candidates and/or their potential policies to bother with voting
3. All those non-GOP voters (especially people under 40) who find politics boring and think “pols”, like oligarchs and big business are something we can’t do anything about, so they sorta vote sometimes
Are they evil? I don’t think so. Are they stupid? I don’t think so. “Resigned” is more like it…
Lester, rest assured, non-voters are by definition stupid. Anyone who has an opportunity to have a say in retaining their future liberties who cannot be bothered to do so is profoundly stupid. All of the excuses employed are merely evidence of Dunning-Kruger Syndrome in action.
Jim Banks is not stupid but very evil. He does not have the dull eyes of an idiot but the dead eyes of a psychopath.
The greatest problem in Indiana is the fact that the intelligent leave and the stupid stay.
One of the greatest problems for Democrats is that they are too accepting of stupidity, believing that tolerance equals goodness. Tolerance of mental weakness is itself an evil, and stupidity from whatever source must be fought, not accepted, or it will ultimately lead to tyranny.
Manchin is an admixture of both coal and Koch, the worst of all worlds, and if I were a West Virginia voter and he were the Democratic candidate I would leave my Senate vote blank.
Our usual and deserved lament about Democrats who stay home on election day (especially by Vern) is, I think and hope, about to end. Evidence? Nashville and some 8 million voters come of age in ’24, and Kansas, Wisconsin, and other states on the issue of abortion. Abortion and school shootings are, finally, big time issues with independents as well. I thus conclude that with women, the young, independents, and traditionally voting Democrats such as most of us here will be enough to turn some traditional red venues blue, recapture the House from the crazies and secessionists, and return Democrats to the Oval Office.
Is it possible for Republicans to become issue-oriented and vote accordingly rather than blindly pushing the lever with the R beside the name? With such heavy issues and Trump fatigue, I think it possible among some Republicans I used to know if not the MAGA 1/6ers cum fascists. Let us hope.
Sometimes we confuse ignorance for stupidity. We are all ignorant, just about different things. I speak only one of the hundreds of human languages and don’t know how to repair my car but I am not incapable of learning, i.e., stupid. We have a significant segment of the population that is largely ignorant of the higher levels of critical thinking skills and are therefore easily deceived. If neither their parents nor their schools taught them these skills, it is unfair to blame them. The teaching of these skills should be built into the curriculum of every public school system at every level of development in every subject. If Finland does it, so could we.
Speaking of stupid/crazy…. Is it true that Kansas over-rode a governor’s veto and will require female athletes to have their genitals examined before being allowed to participate in sports? I guess that pesky 4th Amendment doesn’t have the same meaning in church-driven politics in the most backward places. And Idaho wants to arrest and jail women who cross into states where abortion is legal to acquire the health care regarding pregnancies.
Evil? Stupid? Certainly NOT conservative. These creatures are anything but conservative. This blog has bandied about different labels for backward-thinking Republicans, but “conservative” should never be one of them.
I have long held to the “theory?” that the world is not made of atoms, but of stupidity, as one can find it wherever one looks!
The Dunning-Krueger effect explains a lot.
Will congress devolve into a party of dunces, or is it already doing so?
For the next two years all Dems should focus attention on the two Ds, That is Dobbs and democracy! Get a good energetic young candidate and ramp up efforts to register and get the vote out!
FYI Polls in Arizona show a generic Democrat winning that Senate seat.
Gerald – abortion is not a “silver bullet”:
From today’s NYT:
“Democratic candidates in Republican-leaning states emphasized abortion in last year’s midterm campaigns. The Democrats saw it as a way to energize liberals and win over swing voters and moderate Republicans:
In Georgia, as CNN reported in September, Stacey Abrams had “found an issue to center her campaign around as Election Day approaches: protecting abortion rights in Georgia.” Abrams, a Democrat, was trying to defeat Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican.
In Florida, television commercials for Democratic Senate and governor candidates mentioned abortion nearly 28,000 times, according to one estimate.
In Ohio and Texas, Democrats also emphasized the issue in statewide races.
Democratic donors were hopeful enough about all these races that they poured money into them — and yet the party lost all of them.”
As always – your article is SPOT ON. Thank you. I don’t miss one!
The problem here is not solely with “stupid” candidates. It is the ignorant, uninformed “stupid” voters who put these malevolent office seekers into power. There will always be horrible candidates; what do we do about those that elect them?
Lester is 100% correct. There were numerous places in the country – Georgia, Florida, Ohio, Texas – where the abortion issue didn’t work for Democrats in 2022. Dobbs is much more of an electoral mixed bag than what Democrats (and some Republicans) want to admit
Democratic advisor Ruy Teixeira was on the Bulwark podcast with Charlie Sykes the other day. Sykes brought up how Dobbs has really helped Democrats out. Teixeira was much, much more restrained. He said it helped out Democrats only in certain elections. He wasn’t optimistic that the abortion issue will continue to help out Democrats at the polls. He suggested that it was inevitable that the Democrats are going to overreach on the issue and start pushing public funding and no gestational limits on abortion. He said that the issue would likely end up in a politically popular compromises such as a 3 month window to get an abortion with the three exceptions. I think he’s right about the compromises, but I think the window will be a bit wider than 3 months.
Well, Lester, of course abortion is not a slam dunk electoral win for Democrats. People in electoral caves didn’t get the word, but the numbers in red and swing states show that such issue is a winner for Democrats – even in right of Genghis Khan Kansas. However long such an issue will command split ballots cannot be known at this stage of the game. Perhaps a lag in abortion voting by Republicans for Democrats (if any) will be compensated for by a surge in votes by Republicans for Democrats on the issue of school shootings, an issue, unlike abortion, immune to choice based on morality. Perhaps not. The jury is still out.
My Sykes-like guess is that voter response to these two issues along with Trump fatigue will make the difference in favor of Democrats in the closely divided swing states come ’24, and unless Republicans or their captors throw in the towel on such issues, thereafter.
Picture Banks sitting in his car with pantyhose on his head/face.
Sent in an attempt to intimidate a young woman who was successfully arguing with him on his fb page. Stupid move, Banks.
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