Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 39 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 7/22/17

Revisiting H.L. Mencken in The Age of Trump

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   6 comments
Message LA Progressive

See original here


H. L. Mencken
H. L. Mencken
(Image by YouTube, Channel: Gottfried Leibniz)
  Details   DMCA

Ninety-seven years ago next Wednesday -- on July 26 1920 to be specific -- cultural critic and journalist, H.L. Mencken, wrote a column that appeared in The Baltimore Sun. Entitled "Bayard and Lionheart." That piece included this oft-quoted sentence:

"On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of this land will reach their heart's content at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

Many observers -- myself included -- associate Mencken's reference with Donald Trump.

Was Mencken prescient, a clairvoyant? One thing is certain: Mencken -- who stopped writing in the late 1940's and died in 1956 -- was being ... well ... Mencken.

An inveterate critic, Mencken took on everything that mattered and anyone who counted. An iconoclast of epic proportions, he delighted in holding a mirror to society. With scorn and malice intended, he especially liked to target politics. It was theatre to Mencken, and that's how he saw the Presidential race in 1920 -- the frame of reference for that now-famous column.

It was a contest between eventual winner, Warren Harding, and Democratic challenger, the long since-forgotten David Cox. Mencken viewed Harding as a man "with the face of a moving-picture actor ... and the intelligence of a respectable agricultural implement dealer." He saw Cox as a person "with a gift for bamboozing the boobs."

While Mencken treated politicians unmercifully, some of his most pointed criticism was reserved for the American public and the institution of democracy. Mencken held both in contempt -- not so much in theory as in practice. He detested the relative inability of upstanding people to be elected to office.

"In the face of singular passion for conformity, the dread of novelty and originality," Mencken wrote, "it is obvious that the man of vigorous mind and stout convictions is gradually shouldered out of public life. He may slide into office once or twice, but sooner or later he is bound to be held up, examined, and incontinently kicked out. That leaves the field to the intellectual jelly-fish and inner tubes." (Gender-restrained language is from the original.)

Mencken believed that citizens would eventually screw up democracy. "As democracy is perfected," he wrote , "the office (of the Presidency) represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people."

It was Mencken at his hyperbolic best. But make no mistake about it: Mencken wasn't bombastic. Instead -- in shrill voice and with dagger-like pen -- he offered strident commentary about America's socio-political life.

And he had plenty to write about.

America a century ago was grappling with its destiny -- about whether to enter the World War, about what America should be to the world, and -- most fundamentally -- about who we were as American people.

Immigration was a big issue. By 1910 15% of those living in the States had emigrated from other lands. About 40% of those living in New York City -- the epicenter of immigration entry -- were either foreign-born or first-generation American s. America struggled with other forms of diversity, too -- of African Americans as free people and of women seeking to be full-fledged citizens.

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Must Read 2   Valuable 1  
Rate It | View Ratings

LA Progressive Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

The LA Progressive openly and unapologetically supports and employs advocacy journalism. They are committed to advocating for the public interest as opposed to the corporate agenda. The LA Progressive covers the gamut of progressive issues both (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

David Cay Johnston: Trump's Worse Than You Think

Joe Arpaio: Watch Whiteness Work

Impeachment: What Is to be Done and Where to Begin?

Broadening the Scope of Sexual Abuse

Revisiting H.L. Mencken in The Age of Trump

Ukraine May Finally Sink Trumputin

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend