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.It seems harsh, hopeless and -- despite the hand-wringing pontifications of pundits in the Press -- not exactly here yet. Can't kid you, sometimes I think we'd be better off with an honest and self-aware moron in the White House than the kind of egos that run for the Presidency. Yet it's such a lousy job that without that excessive dollop of ego, who would want it? Live over the store on 24-hour call, and whatever you do, no matter how clever you are, no matter how glib you are, no matter what a great salesman you are, right around half of the electorate will loathe you and three-quarters of them will blame you for anything that goes wrong.
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.
Oh, I know -- your guy, whoever he or she is, is essentially all right, despite a few foibles. It's those other bastards, or perhaps stubborn or sneaky or personally-ambitious underlings, or the devious activities of the opposing party. (And the same is true of Congressthings and Governors and so on all the way down.) But it always is; the only thing that changes is the color of the choir robes and the flavor of the promised pie in the sky.
Google and Toyota and handful of other big multinational corporations are pleased you feel that way. Me, I wonder what Adam Smith would make of it. We're richer than ever; this world feeds more of the hungry than ever before, infant mortality is way down and we've nearly eliminated the killer diseases of the past. Influenza remains slippery and the planet keeps coming up with new ways to kill us, or pulls old ones out of the back file and loads them onto modern transportation, but looking from Smith's day, we've built a paradise -- a loud, rude, garish paradise, to be sure, but a paradise nonetheless.
Why aren't we happier about it?