Ah, the election season is upon us again. It seems to actually be never ending in recent years but merely more intensified as we get closer to voting. Some campaigns come across as dirty politics and can get quite nasty but as it turns out, not as nasty as the campaigns of the 19th and early 20th century. Someone created the video Attack Ads, Circa 1800 using the campaign material from those elections:
Negative Campaigning: A History is about a 5 minute overview of several of the nastier campaigns from that era. It seems our modern day campaigns are a bit more civil. Now, I am not so much weighing in on the elections but rather how some seem to use or more importantly misuse quotes from the past. Someone sent me an email last week which subject line, “A 94 Year Old Prophecy Fulfilled.” The email read:
A 94-year-old Prophecy is Fulfilled:
H.L. Mencken (born 1880 – died 1956) was a journalist, satirist, critic and Democrat. He wrote the editorial below while working for the Baltimore Evening Sun, which appeared in the July 26, 1920 edition.
“As democracy is perfected, the office of the 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 occupied by a downright fool and complete narcissistic moron.”
—H.L. Mencken, the Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920
So it was written, and so it has come to pass.
I had 2 thoughts as I read this. First, is this being circulated about the current occupant of the White House? Since it is titled “A 94-year-old Prophecy is Fulfilled” the obvious answer is yes. What those who are circulating it now don’t realize is that this email was borrowed nearly in its entirety from an email that was sent out about George W. Bush when he was occupying the Oval Office. Snopes points out in Moron This Story that this was first collected in 2004. Snope’s notes that this was applied to both Bush and now Obama and opines:
This despite the fact that both men earned undergraduate and advanced degrees from prestigious universities: George W. Bush from Yale and Harvard Business School, and Barack Obama from Columbia University and Harvard Law School
Unfortunately, just because someone can earn a degree that does not prevent them from also being a moron. It is entirely possible to be an educated moron. I am not saying either one of these men are I am just pointing out something which Snope’s seem to be unaware of on this score. Snope’s gives the background and then give the quote in its context (what a novelty):
The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre – the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.
The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. 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.
“…the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people” Mencken was correct. We actually find this confirmed in Scripture. God does grant nations and groups to choose leaders who may be evil or corrupt or morons or … fill in the blank. In 1 Samuel 8 we find the Nation of Israel rejecting God’s rule and demanding that they have a king:
Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” (1 Samuel 8:5c-9)
As Samuel announces that God will honor their demand, he also explains the consequences of their decisions:
So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. (1 Samuel 8:10-17)
Oddly, this seems to mirror the current state of our government. Samuel’s next statement is somewhat chilling:
And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day (1 Samuel 8:18)
1 Samuel 8: 19-22 seals their fate:
But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”
Like ancient Israel, our nation has abandoned God. In addition, we have largely abandoned the Constitution. As a result, the elected leaders have abandoned the role of being servant and instead have become task masters using the citizens to feed and provide for the demands of the ever growing and voracious government. Have Mencken’s observations of human nature and predictions regarding the future of the presidency come to pass? Perhaps, but it would only confirm something with Scripture demonstrated several thousand years ago. This will only change if a) we as a nation turn back to God and b) we as a nation hold our leader’s feet to the flame of following the Constitution which as it turns out, limits the power of the Federal Government to the 18 Enumerated powers which are there to protect the people from the government in order to preserve their God given inalienable rights.