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16. Political Conventions — Carnivals of Buncombe

Observing the political scene of his day, H.L. Mencken once described democracy as "the worship of jackals by jackasses," and a "pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance." Despite this dim but realistic view of politics, Mencken thoroughly enjoyed covering the circus-like atmosphere of political conventions in his capacity as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun:

"There is something about a national convention that makes it as fascinating as a (religious) revival or a hanging. It is vulgar, it is ugly, it is stupid, it is tedious, it is hard upon both the higher cerebral centers and the gluteus maximus, and yet it is somehow charming. One sits through long sessions wishing all the delegates and alternates were dead and in hell - and then suddenly there comes a show so gaudy and hilarious, so melodramatic and obscene, so unimaginably exhilarating and preposterous that one lives a gorgeous year in an hour." — H.L. Mencken

If he were alive today, the 'Bard of Baltimore' would've been thoroughly charmed and exhilarated by this gorgeous year's conventions. As always, both events featured a multitude of addled adults with party hats and streamers cheering the mindless bilge that passes for political speech today — but each convention also boasted its own special brand of nuttiness.

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In Cleveland, this year's Republican Fear Festival kicked off with Melania Trump 'borrowing' a speech from Michele Obama — a time-honored Washington tradition practiced by Democrats and Republicans alike. As they say, imitation is the highest form of flattery, and Mrs. Trump's speech was full of it.

Dr. Ben Carson then revisited the radical roots of the presumptive Democratic nominee. Noting that Hillary Clinton had written her college thesis on Saul Alinsky, and that Alinsky had 'acknowledged' Lucifer in his most famous work, Rules for Radicals, Carson sought to characterize Mrs. Clinton as a devil worshiper, perhaps the only baseless charge hurled her way this election year.

In Philadelphia, the Democrats opened with a tearful wake for the deceased candidacy of Bernie Sanders, the anti-war, anti-corporatist, civil libertarian who honored the dead by offering a ringing endorsement of — Hillary Clinton?!? Following that particular non sequitur, Donald Trump cracked a ham-fisted joke asking "the Russians" to find Secretary of State Clinton's 30,000 missing e-mails, and he was subsequently pilloried by our partisan press for "encouraging espionage" — as if probing Mrs. Clinton's much-publicized communications wouldn't occur to dim-witted Russian intelligence without prompting from the Orange One.

Yes, Mencken would have been greatly amused by this year's conventions. If only he were around to enjoy today's political circus.

 

 H.L. Mencken and Mae West



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