Swamp Rabbit fed the last of his sardines to the swamp cats as I ended my rant about the state of the nation with a quotation that’s been in the news:
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 wrote that in 1920,” I said. “Only a total cynic like him could have predicted the Trump presidency all those years ago.”
Swamp Rabbit tossed the sardine can into my recycling bin. “Maybe he was predicting the George W. Bush presidency,” he said. “Trump ain’t the first moron in the White House and he won’t be the last.”
The rabbit’s comment set me off again. Of course Mencken was predicting Trump. Who could be more moronic than the grabber-in-chief? What better proof that democracy, so-called, is a risky business, subject to the whims of voters who might get into a huff and, just for spite, install a president who would wreck the system of checks and balances that prevents presidents from becoming dictators?
“Don’t flip out,” the rabbit said. “Mencken was a crabby old dude who didn’t like no one or nothing except Beethoven, beer and cigars. I bet he wanted democracy to fail just to prove he was right about the plain folks.”
I told him Mencken was a complicated guy, and his personal deficiencies are beside the point. He was right to mock the sort of people who believe two plus two equals five if Big Brother says so.
“He liked oysters, I think,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Baltimore was his hometown.”
“Enough,” I replied. “Worry about Trump, not Mencken.”
But the rabbit, without knowing it, had raised a good point: The worst thing about Trump is that his success makes thoughtful people today feel as cynical as Mencken was. His presidency is a reminder that it really can happen here — dictatorship, that is — as it did in Weimar Germany and other countries that functioned as democracies until fear took hold and ruthless con men took over.
“Blah blah,” the rabbit said. “I don’t need no history lessons.”
I reminded him that Trump had reneged on Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran then tried to provoke the Iranians into some action that would be his excuse for bombing them. He apparently allowed John Bolton and Mike Pompeo to plan a military strike on Iran then apparently called it off — for now.
Swamp Rabbit shrugged. “He gives his peeps what they want. They don’t want plans, they want fear and hate. They want a leader who’s as dumb and nasty as they are.”
“I should buy you a cigar,” I said. “You sound just like Mencken.”