Friday, September 26, 2008

Menken, Revisited

I posted this quote last March, when the Democratic Primary got silly. Now that the presidential race has taken a turn for the bizzare -- see Sullivan, Fallows, Bernstein, Parker, -- I thought it would be helpful to remind myslef that American politics has always been a bit of a circus.

H.L. Mencken wrote this in 1922:

Consider, for example, the current campaign for the Presidency. Would it be possible to imagine anything more stupendously grotesque? I defy anyone to match it elsewhere on earth. In other lands, at worst, there are at least issues, ideas, personalities. Somebody says something intelligible, and somebody replies. But here, having perfected democracy, we lift the whole combat to a gaudy symbolism, to a disembodied transcendentalism, to metaphysics, that sweet nirvana. Here [politics] is purged of all menace, all sinister quality, all genuine significance – and stuffed with such gorgeous humors, such extravagant imbecilities, such uproarious farce that one comes to the end of it with one’s midriff in tatters.

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