Saturday, October 28, 2017

Wherein I Push Back Against Mencken

“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
― H.L. Mencken, On Politics: A Carnival of Buncombe (thanks, MM)
Depend on Mencken to take a dim view.

"The plain folks of the land." The very phrase is offensive, reeking of an elitism that Fox News likes to demonize. Mencken's prejudice was not nice, not humane, and extended to religion and democracy itself, so let's just say we read Mencken for the laughs and not for the philosophy.

Plain folks. I come from poor. I come from the heart of the heart of the everlasting soil, from the Panhandle of Texas. I come from working a rich man's land under the supervision of a father who was under the supervision of the rich man. I know from plain.

So I also understand resentment, and the fortifying jolt of lifeforce it can set loose in plain folks who've been disrespected and who suddenly discover a champion who'll fight for them and maybe even smash the system. So, yes, that's how mobs happen.

Plain folks rise up against evolution
in "Inherit the Wind" (1960)
But keep this in mind: a majority of Americans did not elect Trump. A majority of a minority elected Trump. Granted, many of that majority are rural, plain folk Americans, who are a tragic minority of the greater country. The censuses of the United States record an undeniable trend of rural folks re-congregating in urban centers, to become cogs in larger, powerful wheels of industry and commerce. The first census to show the nation tilted slightly to "majority urban" ... 1920, 51%. The census of 2010 = 80% urban.

The rural has become rare. And increasingly a kind of majority public joke, from hillbilly clowns in early string bands to every clodhopper, rube, and hick to show up in sit-coms -- to reality show deep-dives into the weirdest and most grotesque displays of the rural "booboisie" (another Mencken sneer) that TV show producers can think up. "Buckwild," anyone?

But the plain folks I grew up with, and who I still know, are what you'd call "sweet people," at heart community-oriented and good-hearted and respectful of others, and who instinctively recognize injustice and who will eventually and inevitably sniff out even the most accomplished snake oil salesman, those guys who've always rolled into town promising long life and prosperity for just a measly buck.


Anonymous said...

"But keep this in mind: a majority of Americans did not elect Trump. A majority of a minority elected Trump"

That durned constitution!

Anonymous said...