Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mencken the Prophet


The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.


H.L. Mencken in the Baltimore Evening Sun
July 26, 1920

[with a nod to the Dazzling Urbanite, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for introducing me to HLM--can it really be 14 years ago?]

1 comment:

brad said...

Fantastic, and unfortuantely true.

I wonder if there is a way to safeguard against electing such, er, hypothetical, leaders? A more vigilant public? A smarter public?