Some years back there was a mercifully short lived television show featuring Jeff Foxworthy as a host, in which he would get a bunch of adults up on stage and ask them questions that were at least theoretically from elementary school textbooks. The show’s gag played off the same dynamic that basically animates every television game show other than perhaps Jeopardy – the innate desire people have to laugh at strangers for looking stupid.
Of course, the game show in question was essentially rigged. I had a fourth grader living at home when the show was on, and I can tell you that many of the questions on that show were not found in any elementary school textbook. However, watching Donald Trump try to answer townhall questions last night, it struck me that Trump is literally not smarter than a fifth grader, in terms of his knowledge of basic civics.
People say that Trump is “populist,” but I think that gives him entirely too much credit, frankly. Trump’s belief about the proper scope and function of government isn’t born of any coherent ideology whatsoever, but rather just plain jane ignorance of what the government does and what it does not do.
Plenty of ink has been spilled on the fact that Trump’s answer on the three core functions of government wasn’t conservative, and that’s true. But more importantly, it was just plain ignorant.
Trump literally answered the question in the same way a fifth grader would. What does the federal government do? Well, it provides education for people, good housing, and healthcare. When you grow up, most people learn that no, the FEDERAL government actually does not do any of those things. It’s basically little kids (and delusional, Bernie Sanders voting liberals) who view the government as some all-powerful force that’s responsible for basically everything that happens.
The worst part is that Trump has just enough smarts to realize that he’s stepped in it when Anderson Cooper asked him the follow up question about healthcare. “Oh wait,” you can almost see Trump thinking to himself, “the fact that he’s asking me this means I screwed up somewhere. Let’s do some doubletalk.” Note that he doesn’t really have a clue about even how to properly backtrack out of such an answer, other than to say “Obamacare is a disaster.”
It’s equally disheartening that someone clearly gave him some cue cards throughout this campaign that instructed him to say that he would abolish the Department of Education, and yet when placed on the spot to name one of the three things Government does best, he pulls out “education” off the top of his head.
At one point in the campaign – maybe last July – you could have excused Trump’s ignorance on certain matters of basic policy. But he’s been running for President for almost 9 months now and he still has no idea of what the federal government even does, even at the most basic level. The answer by now must be that Trump is either excessively lazy or excessively stupid. Neither is a good quality in a President.