January 03, 2008
If Huckabee Gets the Nomination…

H.L. Mencken in The American Mercury of October, 1925, on the occasion of William Jennings Bryan’s death:

Bryan came very near being elected President of the United States. In 1896, it is possible, he was actually elected. He lived long enough to make patriots thank the inscrutable gods for Harding, even for Coolidge. Dullness has got into the White House, and the smell of cabbage boiling, but there is at least nothing to compare to the intolerable buffoonery that went on in Tennessee.

The President of the United States doesn't believe that the earth is square, and that witches should be put to death, and that Jonah swallowed the whale. The Golden Text is not painted weekly on the White House wall, and there is no need to keep ambassadors waiting while Pastor Simpson, from Smithsville, prays for rain in the Blue Room. We have escaped something — by a narrow margin, but still safely.

That is, so far. The Fundamentalists continue at the wake, and sense gets a sort of reprieve… But it is too early, it seems to me, to send the firemen home; the fire is still burning on many a far-flung hill, and it may begin to roar again at any moment…

Heave an egg out of a Pullman window and you will hit a Fundamentalist almost anywhere in the United States today. They swarm in the country towns, inflamed by their pastors, and with a saint, now, to venerate. They are thick in the mean streets behind the gasworks. They are everywhere that learning is too heavy a burden for mortal minds, even the vague, pathetic learning on tap in little red schoolhouses.

They march with the Klan, with the Christian Endeavor Society, with the Junior Order of United American Mechanics, with the Epworth League, with all the rococo bands that poor and unhappy folk organize to bring some light of purpose into their lives. They have had a thrill, and they are ready for more.

Such is Bryan's legacy to his country. He couldn't be President, but he could at least help magnificently in the solemn business of shutting off the Presidency from every intelligent and self-respecting man.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at January 03, 2008 04:43 PM
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Bryan is an excellent example of why I take Huckabee seriously as a candidate. There are plenty of folks who would readily discount his wacko stances on scientific questions because they have plenty themselves; and as others have noted the numerous scandals in his background are relatively small-change deals, mainly because he comes from a small, poor state. But there's also the giving-gifts-to-the-pastor thing that apparently matters to those in the proper mindset.

All in all, he's a threat at a time when people across the political spectrum are looking to send a message. Plus, he's quick with one-liners, not all of which are pre-written, and he comes across as a nice guy. He's made the Republican nomination process interesting single-handedly, IMO.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on January 3, 2008 8:02 PM

Well, Jennings would certainly have done the common man of the day a world of good. He might have been the Roosevelt of his era had he actually won the Presidency. But then we might never have cured polio or diptheria or whooping cough because only God can do miracles. Forget scientific advances like breakthroughs in stem cells. Maybe not though. In some ways we are less advanced than we were in the late 19th and early 20th century. In those days there was a sense that science and inventiveness was marvelous and that man could do wondrous things through science. People like Thomas Edison were hailed as heroes. Today we have our Donald Trump's and Warren Buffets who are hailed as our heroes.

On a side note, our good friend Albert Jay Nock was well acquainted with both William Jennings Bryan and HL Mencken. I understand Nock even made some trips on Bryan's behalf to Europe when Bryan was the Secretary of State. Knowing what they wrote makes you wonder what these guys could have possibly had in common on a personal level.

And so it goes.

Posted by: Buck on January 3, 2008 8:07 PM
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