The Republican presidential field for 2012 stands out as possibly the most incoherent, incompetent mess of poorly-educated and narrowly-read individuals to have ever collectively sought either party's nomination for the presidency of the United States.

I can only cringe when I hear those 53 seconds of comic gold as Texas Governor Rick Perry attempts to name that now infamous third department-to-be-cut. If this originally appeared as a bit on "Saturday Night Live" (which aired a parody after the debate), the show would have been criticized for making Governor Perry look too stupid.

Should such verbal gaffes worry us? For minor gaffes, my answer is clearly no. Obama has had a few, of course, as has pretty much any president or presidential candidate in history. Most of these I can laugh off as ironic, or hilarious slips of the tongue.

However, if the president abuses the English language, attacking his or her opponents with the syntax of a kindergartner, and is routinely unable to answer basic questions about American history, economics and politics, such gaffes would, of course, present a serious issue for his credibility.

But assuming that this is not the case (and in this Republican field, the assumption that a candidate has an acceptable general knowledge of American history, economics and English grammar is quite a big assumption), what I find the most troubling is not the now famous (and common) gaffes—it's the extraordinary na‹ve worldview that these candidates' statements imply.

When asked about Libya, to say that Qaddafi was the president of Egypt would be to make a verbal gaffe.

But to spend five minutes producing an absolutely incoherent chain of thoughts on the matter shows not only that the speaker knows nothing on the subject, but also that he has not paid enough attention to global news to form even a basic opinion on what has happened. This is inexcusable, but this pattern of behavior has become, I fear, Republican politics as normal.

Or one could make the extraordinary claim that three departments of government should be abolished—without any clear understanding of what those departments actually do. If one makes such a bold statement, it would be helpful to at least make sure you knew the names of those three departments.

Having a slip of the tongue is acceptable, but not even knowing what drastic policies you are supposedly advocating (which was clearly the case) is a sign of utter intellectual incompetence.

To be a viable candidate in the Republican race, one only needs name recognition and a blind adherence to the most basic principles of modern Republicanism: attack Obama, cut taxes, make America great again, love Jesus, and be against gay marriage and abortion. And the individual must do this in a manner that is down to Earth, of course—no showing any signs of being a part of the intellectual elite.

Are we really in an era where many Americans value a sheer lack of intellectual ability in their politicians, where candidates feel their way to the right decisions, in a Stephen Colbert-esque manner?

Was Herman Cain correct when he declared that America wants to elect a leader, not a reader?

This anti-intellectualism is enormously dangerous. I, for one, want to believe that my president is smarter than me.

I would like to think he or she could pass an Economics 101 final, and I would like to think he or she has a basic understanding of American and global history.

I have no worries about such things with Obama—or Romney, or Huntsman.

I may disagree with them, certainly, but they at least have shown a desire to intellectually engage with the world, and I can at least believe that these men bear the ability to create informed opinions on important topics (even if they seem to change those opinions on a whim).

However, the sheer lack of intellectual capacity possessed by so many members of the current Republican field is staggering.

One must hope that the voices of sanity and reason within the party, those who have shown, at some level, a commitment to such elitist concepts as learning and thinking, will ultimately win the chance to challenge President Obama in next fall's election.

Otherwise, our nation runs the serious risk of being run not by a reasoned individual whose policy roughly half of America will disagree with, but by an utterly incompetent fool.

Sean McElroy is a member of the Class of 2012.