Where Is H.L. Mencken When We Really Need Him?

“As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal.”

H.L. Mencken at his desk at the Baltimore Evening Sun

Nobody Sees Through the Boobery Like the Sage of Baltimore

Mencken wasn’t always right. He was frequently wrong. But he pronounced these prophetic words on the state of American democracy in 1920, which for me exonerates him from all the rest:

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. 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.

Mencken, H. L. (July 26, 1920). “Bayard vs. Lionheart,” Baltimore Evening Sun
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