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'Radical Pique'

The US midterms rebutted cynical liberals who rail about the public's stupidity and ignorance.

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To quote President Bush, the Republican Party received a good old-fashioned thumpin' in last week's elections. But so did many American liberals, who love to rail about the naiveté, ignorance, and general stupidity of the American electorate.

Call it Radical Pique. Way back in 1970, Tom Wolfe coined the term "Radical Chic" to mock the white-liberal romance with the Black Panthers, striking grape-pickers and other fringe protest groups. But Radical Pique is different, and much more insidious. Instead of proclaiming "Power to the People," it presumes that the people are simply too stupid to understand or obtain power.

Well, they're smarter than you think. And maybe, just maybe, they're smarter than you.

You know who you are. Reading about the war in Iraq or the massive federal tax cuts, you put down your newspaper and ask incredulously, "How can the voters be so dumb?" You imagine the American citizenry as a herd of gullible sheep, led happily to the slaughter by the likes of Ken Mehlman and Karl Rove. And you sign your e-mails with a quote from the Nazi henchman Hermann Goering, who has enjoyed a bizarre burst of popularity in Radical-Pique circles over the past several years.

"Of course the people don't want war," Mr. Goering told a psychologist, midway through his war-crimes trial at Nuremberg. "But, after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.

"Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to greater danger."

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