Thursday, December 10, 2009

Politics under Democracy: Quote from H.L. Mencken

I am reading "Notes on Democracy" by H.L. Mencken published in 1926. Its a great read. Mencken had a sarcastic, biting style typical of the great literary critics of the time. Here is a passage on the role of fear in a Democracy:

Fear remains the chiefest of them. The demagogues, i.e., the professors of mob psychology, who flourish in democratic states are well aware of the fact, and make it the corner-stone of their exact and puissant science. Politics under democracy consists almost wholly of the discovery, chase and scotching of bugaboos. The statesman becomes, in the last analysis, a mere witch-hunter, a glorified smeller and snooper, eternally chanting "Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum!" It has been so in the United States since the earliest days. The whole history of the country has been a history of melodramatic pursuits of horrendous monsters, most of them imaginary: the red-coats, the Hessians, the monocrats, again the red-coats, the Banks, the Catholics, Simon Legree, the Slave Power, Jeff Davis, Mormonism, Wall Street, the rum demon, John Bull, the hell hounds of plutocracy, the trusts, General Weyler, Pancho Villa, German spies, hyphenates, the Kaiser, Bolshevism. The list might be lengthened indefinitely; a complete chronicle of the Republic could be written in terms of it, and without omitting a single important episode. It was long ago observed that the plain people, under democracy, never vote for anything, but always against something.