it's not that people are dumb. some people are, dumb as a sack of hammers, in fact, but as long as they mean well they usually manage to get through life without hurting anybody too badly.
but people in general are not dumb. they understand basic rationality and the operations of logic and consequence. they might willfully avert their gaze and shut their hears to some things, but the basic machinery of thought and understanding are sound.
the problem is, is capitalism, in its endless obsession over the bottom line, operates at the lowest common denominator. and so, because some people are, in fact, dumb as a sack of hammers, then everybody has to get talked to like they are, and our public debate devolves into the sort of ridiculousness that happened at the health care town halls. that people on medicare would decry socialized medicine is beyond farce. you couldn't make this shit up.
then again, now that i think about it. maybe people are dumb. either way, i'm sure about one thing. when you let the loudest people dominate the debate, the ones who think that that's what debate is, a shouting match in which the winner is decided by volume rather than by who has the best arguments that most match up to the facts, what you get in the end is the worst possible outcome: a milquetoast middle ground that includes none of the good ideas of either party, but displeases both enough that they are satisfied that they gave it to the other guy as good as they got. which is great, if you're a football team, but at the end of the day it doesn't really matter who made the highlight reel on sports center, but it matters very much whether or not, say, there is a public option for health insurance, which does all kinds of good things, and, with any luck, will do exactly as its most dedicated opponents fear: provide a benchmark of fairness against which a sector of the market that has no natural profit limitations will have to compete, which'll help economize the system, leading to better outcomes for all, except for the small coterie who presently derive outrageously outsized compensation and profits from the system's present arrangement.