I wish it were different. I wish we privileged knowledge in politicians, that the ones who know things didn’t have to hide it behind brown pants, and that the know-not-enoughs were laughed all the way to the Maine border on their first New Hampshire meet and greet. I wish that in order to secure his [or her!] party’s nomination, a presidential candidate would be required to point at the sky and name all the stars; have the periodic table of the elements memorized; rattle off the kings and queens of Spain; define the significance of the Gatling gun; joke around in Latin; interpret the symbolism in seventeenth-century Dutch painting; explain photosynthesis to a six-year-old; recite Emily Dickinson; bake a perfect popover; build a short wave radio out of a coconut; and know all the words to Hoagy Carmichael’s ‘Two Sleepy People,’ Johnny Cash’s ‘Five Feet High and Rising,’ and ‘You Got the Silver’ by the Rolling Stones. After all, the United States is the greatest country on the earth dealing with the most complicated problems in the history of the world—poverty, pollution, justice, Jerusalem. What we need is a president who is at least twelve kinds of nerd, a nerd messiah to come along every four years, acquire the secret service code name Poindexter, install a Revenge of the Nerds screen saver on the Oval Office computer and one by one decrypt our woes. [The Partly Cloudy Patriot, 116-117]That is all.
"Name all the stars . . ."
Through a complex series of mental associations having to do with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, library student jokes about cross-referencing and the Super Tuesday election hoopla, I suddenly felt the urge to share my favorite political quotation of all time from Sara Vowell's essay "The Nerd Voice," written in the wake of the 2000 election (Gore v. Bush, in case anyone has forgotten):