Our battle against the stupid

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The Dunning–Kruger effect is a phenomenon of cognitive bias whereby people with low ability, low expertise, or little or no experience with a certain type of task or area of knowledge tend to overestimate that ability or knowledge. The phenomenon was first formally identified in a 1999 paper by Cornell University psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger. The pair tested participants on their logic, grammar, and sense of humor, and found that those who performed in the bottom quartile rated their skills far above average.

It’s no accident that poor “logic, grammar, and sense of humor” are foundational traits of the Dunning–Kruger effect and traits that are also common to conservatives. Think otherwise? Consider this, name five conservative comedians. I’ll bet you can’t. Put another way, name five comedians at random and notice that they are all (probably) liberals.

Still think otherwise? Have you ever noticed that bad logic, awful spelling and worse grammar are vastly over-represented by Trump supporters? So have I. And it’s no accident. Dunning and Kruger have explained why.

It’s important to remember, in light of this phenomenon, that Dunning-Kruger specifically names such people as the most likely to overrepresent their abilities. This means that people in the bottom quartile of intelligence question themselves less and have greater confidence that they are right. Think of Sidney Powell and her rock-bottom certainty that she is right that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, for example. Think of Trump himself, for that matter.

Dunning-Kruger is why so many conspiracy theorists believe the crazy things they believe with such fervent certainty. They have all the same information we have, but they reach different conclusions because they are severely lacking in logic and intelligence. Again, it is no accident that conspiracy theories are popular among Republicans. Conspiracy theories are plants that require the manure of ignorance and stupidity to grow, so to speak.

This is why it is futile to debate the average Conservative online. They lack the ability of self-reflection. They can’t conclude that they could be wrong about anything. Thinking is hard and it makes their heads hurt.

The smarter Republicans in Congress know this and exploit this. (Louie Gohmert, you can leave the room.) They cynically exploit the stupidity of their constituents in the interest of advancing their Republican agenda. That agenda includes making themselves richer and more powerful at the expense of the liberties of the very constituents who support them. That is why they cultivate the votes of the stupid.

People who see clearly what most Republican lawmakers are up to would never vote for them. That is why, paradoxically, key Republican witnesses at the January 6 committee hearings, including Rusty Bowers, who detailed the awful things Trump did to the American people and to themselves, still say they would vote for Trump if he runs in 2024. They simply cannot make the connection between the evil Trump does and the evil that he is.


Stupid people are over-represented in the rank and file of the Republican Party, and there is very little we can do about it except hope that the next generation is smarter than they are. And vote, of course. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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