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Quotable Quotes: More H. L. Mencken

by Miki Saxon

As I promised last week, today is a “tour of Mencken’s irreverent view of politics and democracy that will provide great zingers for holiday get-togethers and leave you chuckling.”

Let’s start with democracy, since everyone seems to agree that it’s a good thing. Of course, definitions vary and Mencken offers some great choices in case you haven’t settled on one.

I’ll start with a basic definition and get more sarcastic from there, Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.

Mencken didn’t think much of “the people” and my guess is no county was excepted from this scathing comment, Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.

Hand-in-glove with that thought is this one, Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

He also said, Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses. Not only worship, but elect; we jackasses keep electing jackals—party be damned.

Of course, you can’t expect a lot more when Democracy is only a dream: it should be put in the same category as Arcadia, Santa Claus, and Heaven.

Finally, Mencken sums up his attitude towards democracy thusly, I confess I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing.

Now on to the politics and politicians.

Again, we’ll start with a definition, A politician is an animal which can sit on a fence and yet keep both ears to the ground.

He also said, A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar. It’s hard to disagree with that comment, too.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that politicians of all stripes say anything to get elected; it’s nothing new, Mencken noticed it, too, If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.

2012 is a presidential election year and the show has already begun, A national political campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in.

Let’s end with one final definition along with the reason for it. Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.

And the reason? Each party steals so many articles of faith from the other, and the candidates spend so much time making each other’s speeches, that by the time election day is past there is nothing much to do save turn the sitting rascals out and let a new gang in.

Image credit: Wikipedia

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