Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Up Hill And Down Dale

After damning politicians up hill and down dale for man years, as rogues and vagabonds, frauds and scoundrels, I sometimes suspect that, like everyone else, I often expect too much of them.  Though faith and confidence are surely more or less foreign to my nature, I not infrequently find myself looking to them to be able, diligent, candid, and even honest.  Plainly enough, that is too large an order, as anyone must realize who reflects upon the manner in which they reach public office.  They seldom if ever get there by merit alone, at least in democratic states.  Sometimes, to be sure, it happens, but only by a kind of miracle.  They are chosen normally for quite different reasons, the chief of which is simply their power to impress and enchant the intellectually underprivileged.  It is a talent like any other, and when it is exercised by a radio crooner, a movie actor or a bishop, it even takes on a certain austere and sorry respectability.  But it is obviously not identical with a capacity for the intricate problems of statecraft.

-- Henry Louis Mencken (1880 - 1956), 20th-Century journalist, satirist, and social critic, "The Politician", A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949), from a lecture before the Institute of Arts and Sciences, Columbia University, 4 January 1940

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