Once again, I find myself drawn to former Congresswoman Liz Cheney from Wyoming.
The other day, she said that “what we’ve done in our politics is create a situation where we’re electing idiots….how do we elect serious people? And I think electing serious people can’t be partisan.”
Many followers of this blog probably have read one of my pieces in which I critique partisanship and partisans. For me, Ms. Cheney is preaching to the choir. Perhaps to you as well.
Nevertheless, I want to analyze her statement a bit more. Ms. Cheney equates idiot politicians with partisan politicians. There are many ways to be an ‘idiot’ and when I first heard Ms. Cheney’s quote, part of me thought of other indicators.
Such as educational attainment. Is it possible that our elected officials are becoming less educated and more partisan simultaneously?
According to the Census, 23.5% of the U.S. population had a bachelor’s degree and 14.4% had an advanced degree as of 2021.
As Pew Research detailed in February: “in the 118th Congress, 94% of representatives and all but one senator hold at least a bachelor’s degree” which continues a multi-generation trend.
Judges, whether on the local, state or federal level usually have a law degree or some kind of legal training, although the U.S. Constitution does not list “specific requirements about who can become a federal judge.”
Ballotpedia did some excellent work analyzing “the 192 officials holding the top four state executive official positions of governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and secretary of state.” 185 have a bachelor’s and 58 have a master’s.
In 2011, The Chronicle of Higher Education found that 74.7% of the 7000 state legislators across the country had a bachelor’s.
Regarding mayors, Zippia claimed that 60% hold a bachelor’s. I am not entirely confident in the data, but they were the best available.
As you can see, politicians have much higher educational attainment than the general populace. This fact makes their general behavior more concerning, as they should know better than to pander to partisans. They do not restrain the worst impulses of their electorates, instead focusing on short term gain at the expense of long term stability.
Perhaps Ms. Cheney could modify her quote to ‘educated idiots.’