….and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron
–H L Mencken 1920
It is 97 years since H.L. Mencken’s comment was reportedly published in the Baltimore Evening Sun on 26 July 1920.
Who was this person? As per the Wikipedia, “Henry Louis Mencken (September 12, 1880 – January 29, 1956) was an American journalist, essayist, satirist, cultural critic, and scholar of American English. He commented widely on the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians, and contemporary movements.”
His satirical reporting on the Scopes Trial, which he dubbed the ‘Monkey Trial’, also gained him attention. As a scholar, Mencken is known for ‘The American Language’, a multi-volume study of how the English language is spoken in the United States. As an admirer of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, he was an outspoken opponent of organised religion, theism, populism, and representative democracy, the last of which he viewed as a system in which inferior men dominated their superiors.
Mencken was a supporter of scientific progress and was critical of osteopathy and chiropractic. He was also an open critic of economics. Mencken opposed the American entry into both World War I and World War II. Some of the terminology in his private diary entries has been described by some researchers as racist and anti-Semitic, although this characterisation has been disputed. His attitude to African-Americans reflected the conservative paternalism of his era and “the kind of anti-Semitism that appears in Mencken’s private diary may be found elsewhere: for example, in the early letters of Eleanor Roosevelt and Adlai Stevenson.”
The world could judge whether Mencken’s prediction 97 years ago is accurate and whether the incumbent in the White House is a ‘downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron’. The events that unfurled since the Presidential election on 3 November and what was witnessed today (6 January 2021) perhaps will strengthen and confirm Mencken’s prediction 97 years after that prediction.
How else could one describe the happenings since 3 November? Only a fool would pursue with the litany of challenges that President Trump engaged in directly and indirectly through his cronies. The legality and the admissibility of all challenges had failed one after the other. But Trump continued unfazed. His accusations that there was mass scale fraud and failures in the voting system and mechanisms, were unproven in every State where he made such challenges. The Senate runoff election contradicted his stand that he had won Georgia by “hundreds and thousands” of votes.
The runoff election delivered both Senate seats to the Democratic party and the “hundreds and thousands” of votes never materialised for the GOP contestants.
Why is the President a fool? A simple reason. He has been in power for four years and both houses of congress have been in Republican control during his tenure. If fraud occurred due to systemic and systematic shortcomings in the election system, the man who presided over the system was none other than Trump himself. It is then his lack of leadership and ability to manage the system by working closely with State leaders, both Republican and Democratic, to address shortcomings, if any, and loop holes, if any, the crux of the problem. When he accuses others of fraud and mismanagement, he is in fact spitting in the air with his face up. All the legal challenges have concluded that he has not been able to produce any acceptable evidence of substantial fraud or mismanagement. Trump should be happy that he had a good system working!
What about a person being a narcissistic moron? Help Guide.Org states that “a narcissistic personality disorder involves a pattern of self-centred, arrogant thinking and behaviour, a lack of empathy and consideration for other people, and an excessive need for admiration. Others often describe people with NPD as cocky, manipulative, selfish, patronising, and demanding”.
It is difficult to argue that Trump has not shown these characteristics although it is left to the readers to dwell on his behaviour and make up their own minds.
A moron? Who is a moron? Dictionaries uniformly describe a moron as a person who is notably stupid or lacking in good judgment. The encouragement given to the mob invasion of the Congress to thwart a hitherto ceremonial final constitutional process of ratifying the electoral college vote was, for many, the last straw. This lack of judgement on what is more important, whether it’s himself or the country and law an order, demonstrated an elevated degree of stupidity.
Whilst not wishing to pre judge President Trump, his record after four years in office, and especially his judgement and actions since he lost the election so convincingly to Joe Biden, does not auger well for him and his place in history. Above all, he has cast doubts on the key plank of democracy, law and order, in a country that championed democracy throughout the world.
He has divided his own country and he has extinguished the flame that the USA held as the citadel of democracy. He has brought it closer to the rank of third world countries as far as law and order is concerned, and who were lectured incessantly by the USA about democracy and law and order. He leaves office as the Emperor without clothes.
Another aspect to his performance is how he has managed to infect some 74 million of his countrymen with the deadly virus he is carrying, COVID-21. While COVID-19 affected the lungs, COVID-21 appears to have affected the brain. It is unlikely that a vaccine could be found for this virus. Joe Biden and Kamal Harris have a monumental task to bring some degree of sanity back to a divided country.
Meanwhile, the principle adversaries of the USA, China and Russia are perhaps raising toasts in celebration of what the last four years have done to the USA, and if they had a hand in it, congratulating themselves for winning a bloodless battle.
The USA needs to be strong in the democratic front as the alternative of rising authoritarianism is not a welcome development. The expansion of Chinese and Russian dominance in the world needs to be kept in check and the USA needs to give leadership to all forces who desire this to happen.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, just confirmed as the next President and the Vice President of the USA by a joint session of the congress, have a monumental task to undo the damage done by the outgoing President and restore the seriously damaged credibility of the USA.