When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost... All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most 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, Baltimore Sun (26 July 1920)
In response to my column (Democracy – whatever!) of a couple of weeks ago, I received a note from a friend including the above quote from H.L. Mencken. Bush detractors will of course focus like a laser beam on the last line, no doubt in awe of Mencken's seeming prophetic powers. But the point of the statement is not the “moron in the white house”, rather the mob who wants him there.
As much as I am disturbed by the current administration, I do not forget that they are in power because the collective “We the People” put them there and want them there. It is easy to blame Fox news and Rush Limbaugh, but a simple fact remains. Were it not for the public, all the lobbying money in the world, all the right wing spin in the world would mean nothing. After all, an informed public would be influenced little by political commercials or even talk radio right? So we must accept that we have the government that the collective “we” want and deserve.
When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental
Most of us are aware of this factoid, but it bears repeating: As late as October of 2004, 3 of 4 Bush Supporters still believed Iraq had WMD and Alquaeda ties.
I will share a true story with you that summarizes this mentality.
A friend and I went to eat at a local restaurant. The waitress took our order and then asked me if I would like soup or salad. I asked her if I could have just lettuce in my salad. No tomatoes, onions etc. just lettuce. She looked at me straight faced and dead serious and said “Well thats why our boys are fighting in Iraq”. It took a moment for this particular brand of logic to register in my sometimes limited brain ... a few seconds passed and all I could muster was “Huh?”. “You know”, she said, “your free to have your salad any way you want honey”.
Baffled, I said I would take the soup.
My friend meanwhile decided to pursue, in a patronizing fashion, this line of reasoning and engaged the waitress in a ridiculous discussion of the terrorists plans to limit American's choice of vegetables thereby threatening our way of life. Obviously frustrated at my complete lack of common knowledge but satisfied that my friend at least partially understood she scurried away.
What I learned is that THIS is Bush's America. Sure there are a group of hardcore Bush supporters that understand some of the issues but by and large they don't come at them from any historical perspective. The idea that “9-11 changed everything” has been used to justify remaining in ignorance of every lesson ever taught by history. When it comes to todays foreign policy issues this group has absolutely nothing to offer any discussion beyond fear mongering, save perhaps arrogance.
men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand.
Ignorant, Scared and arrogant fairly well sums up the mindset of the ditto heads and Hannity lovers. Any question regarding prudent use of military force is immediately met with talk of terrorists, islamo fascist and 9-11. If you attempt to actually dialog regarding whether the torture of potentially innocent people is a wise practice, you will likely be labeled a moon bat. Even suggesting that nuking Iran deserves at least careful contemplation gets you tagged a “leftist”. Which I suppose is OK if you are one, but I am not and yet this happens all the time. Interestingly, I have not seen where the political leadership on the left has had much of anything to say regarding Iran, but somehow questioning whether bombing Iran is prudent qualifies one as a political enemy to the “conservatives” (so called). Pure emotion no doubt ... but dread? Dread of what?
To answer this question would require psychological investigation of which I am surely not qualified. I suspect however that it has something to do with controlling other people.
the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost— the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.
Certainly by 2004, the pack was an American people who still had “security” at the top of the priority list. George Bush certainly ran with the pack if not ahead of it. All polls showed him as the clear front runner when it came to the trust of the American people regarding security.
John Kerry knew this. His plan ... exploit his own military service ... a real commander in chief. At the Democratic National Convention, he stood in front of his adoring fans, saluted and proclaimed “reporting for duty”. Many lefties don't like to admit it, but Kerry was trying to run with the same pack.
2004 was also the year that Intelligence Quotients were front and center. George Bush's public bumbling and his knack for precise ambiguity had left many to view him as ... well ... dumb. The idea that Bush was a mere puppet on the strings pulled by Dick Cheney and Karl Rove had been firmly planted in the minds of many. Thankfully we were rescued from this apparent mis-assessment of the Commander In Chief when reports came out that in fact George Bush had a higher IQ than John Kerry.
Experts got their hands on old IQ tests and determined that Bush's brain did work, and pretty well according to the data. Whewwww! Just in time too. Certainly the vast roles of voters on the fence in 2004 could have made a grave mistake in judging the President's critical thinking on his body of work over the last four years. Thankfully this information was made available. Come to think of it, how did we ever manage without such information in the past? I suppose the lessons learned by Gerald Ford and Dan Quale finally paid dividends for the GOP.
In his own defense, John Kerry told Tom Brokaw “I must have been drinking the night before I took that military aptitude test.”. An alibi that Joe Six Pack would have no doubt embraced, but too late, the cameras had stopped rolling.
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.
On the front page of Freedoms Phoenix today is a piece by Jim Bovard. Mr. Bovard discusses this beyond just the Presidency. His book Attention Deficit Democracy details an apathetic America.
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.
Was Mencken right? You be the judge.