Donald Trump Has Proven H. L. Mencken Right

By on October 24, 2016

American journalist and satirist H. L. Mencken is misquoted as saying1:

“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

Regardless of who said it or the exact wording of the quote, the statement is hard to argue against.  Look at the baffling popularity of the Kardashians and how anyone who reads or watches the news is forced to hear about them.  The basis for their existence in the public eye is that one of them was in a sex tape that was made public.  (I’m ignoring the fact that their father, Robert Kardashian, was a friend of O.J. Simpson because it has nothing to do with their notoriety.)  The success of most reality shows falls in the same category.  Donald Trump, himself the producer and star of his own reality show (with executive producer credits), is emphatic proof the statement is accurate and even more so as a presidential candidate.

This presidential campaign has required a stronger stomach than previous ones.  I’m not talking about a strong stomach for the candidates; I’m talking about we, the captive audience.  What we’re being subjected to is as shocking, nauseating, disorienting and surreal as it is unprecedented.  Trump relies on loud, irrational and personal attacks on anyone who opposes him or criticizes him.  He has said he respects both Putin and Kim Jong-un.  It’s like he’s pushing to see how far he’ll go before his supporters leave.  Why not add Hitler and Stalin to that list?  He even said he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue shooting people and not lose voters, a comment that alone should have lost him supporters.  Because of the success of his campaign, his opponents have often been forced to go into the unfamiliar territory of his low level, and it didn’t work for any of them.  What’s happening is just counterintuitive, irrational and mind-bending.

Trump has brought attention and energy to the presidential campaign, albeit in a terrible way we’ve never seen at this level of American politics.  Never mind that what he says about his opponents during his campaign and his proposed plans on actual issues are things a dumb, desperate, spoiled and irrational child would come up with.

In the same way Howard Stern and Ann Coulter will do and say anything that will attract listeners and sell books, Trump is focused on saying anything that will help him WIN.  It’s like trial lawyers; it’s not about being right and just; it’s about winning.

Trump’s supporters fall into 3 categories:

1) People enamored with celebrity, which is one of the worst things about dumb Americans. This is a guy who has forced himself into the public eye for almost 40 years.  The first of his 16 acting credits was in 1985.  30 years ago the guy was already parodying himself.  I never saw it but The Apprentice was very successful and highly-rated.  That doesn’t mean it was good and there’s a parallel between the success of his show and what the polls have shown during most of the campaign.

2) Ignorant, narrow-minded and bigoted people who finally feel validated and even empowered because someone is yelling their beliefs on a national level.  Empowering dumb and angry people is dangerous.  Those two traits are often synonymous.  During the big confederate flag thing after the senseless church shooting in South Carolina, some hillbilly was driving around our town with a big one mounted on his truck.  I saw another one in a nearby town but it might have been the same guy.  Not only were CT and NY NOT in the confederacy, wasn’t NY the ultimate “yankee” state?  People who are ignorant, narrow-minded, petty and hateful are actually proud of having those traits, and that’s the basis for all bigoted and racist behavior and why they will always exist.  To them, politically correctness — which shouldn’t mean anything more than “polite”, “delete” and “civil”  — is a bad thing.  America is ALREADY great; it is people that fall in this category that prevent it from being greater.  The reason they’re called the Silent Majority is because smart and rational-thinking people are not interested in what they have to say.  Nor should they be.

3) People who are frustrated with the current political system, which is absolutely understandable:  the partisanship, the game-playing, the bottlenecks, the corruption and everything else that obstructs progress.  While I can understand the motivation, it’s still not enough of a reason to sacrifice logic, reason and civility.

In a country that prides itself on its democracy, the way the GOP establishment is undermining Trump is basically telling his supporters they are wrong, which is not the American way.  Still, these are unusual circumstances to an extreme.  Unfortunately, for too many people it’s apparently also not the American way to aspire to be thoughtful and rational.

I guess better Trump than Cruz or Rubio, who are a different kind of evil entirely.  Kasich, who should be given an award for avoiding the low road, always came across as the best GOP candidate to any thinking person.

I’m bracing myself for anything to the point that I tell myself Trump the president can’t possibly bear any resemblance to Trump the candidate, although there is nothing in his history that supports that stance.  He’s always been an egomaniacal blowhard and someone who talks before he thinks.

I can’t believe he actually threatened Paul Ryan after Ryan spoke out against the GOP front-runner’s reluctance to distance himself from David Duke and the KKK.

I resent how he represents the bad traits associated with New Yorkers; the big mouth, the greed, the thin skin, that his trigger finger on his defense mechanisms, is always ready to attack at the slightest perceived provocation, and that he has to get in the last word, no matter how irrational or childish.

Despite Hillary’s late-campaign lead in the polls, I’m ready for anything on election day.  Donald Trump has defied the odds, convention and logic to get this far.

Tell everyone you can to remember to vote on November 8.

DPW

October 24, 2016

1 What Mencken actually wrote was “No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.” (Notes On Journalism in the Chicago Tribune, 19 September 1926)  That statement is even more applicable to what’s happening one hundred years later.

I actually started this article in March but Trump kept saying and doing such shocking things that I thought I’d use those incidents as more examples of how crazy he is.  I’m not sure if I’ve been more paralyzed by the depression of knowing that this was actually happening or because he did and said so many bizarre and hateful things so frequently that I just gave up.  It’s just been too overwhelming.  I’d never stop adding to the article so I’m keeping it the way it was in March.  God knows the news coverage since then has been more than adequate and his name and face (and hands) have been drilled into our heads in a way I don’t remember happening with anyone else during in my lifetime, the possible exception being Michael Jackson during the “Thriller” period.

About Dan Walker

As part of an Air Force family, I went to elementary school in Great Falls, MT, junior high in Cheyenne, WY and high school and college in the San Francisco Bay Area, graduating from San Francisco State University with a degree in business. I was fortunate to have worked for great companies in Silicon Valley (Oracle Corp) and Hollywood (Miramax Films). I also lived and worked (primarily in financial services, which has no great companies) for eight years in Manhattan, New York City. I now reside in New York's beautiful Hudson Valley.

One comment on “Donald Trump Has Proven H. L. Mencken Right

  1. Jeremy Walker on said:

    Hit the head on the nail again Dan. Good read.

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