Mencken.org | The truth is, of course, that the sagacity of professional politicians exists only in the imagination of the public. They are, as a class, not shrewd men at all, but merely crooked men. Drag them out into the open, make them fight on the square—and any half-intelligent gladiator can beat them. When they win, it is almost always by foul tactics. Let them stuff ballot boxes and pack registration lists and ladle out money to their swine, and they have a likely chance. But make them face the daylight, matching their socalled wits with the wits of their foes, and nine times out of ten they quickly take on the aspect of feeble-minded children.
If the public only understood this clearly, the professional politicians would have a harder row to hoe. As it is, they profit by the popular tendency to credit them with a stupendous and irresistible sapience. People think that they can’t be beaten and therefore make no genuine effort to beat them. But they are beatable all the same, swiftly and easily, and by any intelligent man who goes after them in earnest.
Their most conspicuous characteristic, indeed, is not a superior intelligence, but an almost entire lack of inlelligence. Taking them as they come, they are tedious jackasses—as deficient in brains as they are in morals. Go through the whole list of local “leaders,” Democratic and Republican, and you will not find half a dozen men who can think clearly or state a proposition intelligently. Their average intelligence is that of so many car conductors or bartenders. They win so often, not because they have sense but merely because they have no decency. They do things that most men of self-respect would shrink from doing. At their best they are successful bullies, at their worst they are pitiful imbeciles. Read Entire Article
Published in the Baltimore Evening Sun (4 July 1912)