A quotation by H.L. Mencken has been a recurring favorite on my Facebook feed since 2016. Famously curmudgeonly (is that a word?), Mencken wrote that
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 Trump Administration has fulfilled Mencken’s prophecy, but his prediction arguably didn’t go far enough. Those “plain folks” who elevated the “downright moron” have also saddled the other branches of government with a wide assortment of defective/dishonest incompetents.
There’s a tried-and-true assortment of ignorant racists in Congress. There’s Louie Gohmert, perfectly described by Charles Pierce as “the dumbest mammal to enter a legislative chamber since Caligula’s horse.” Steve King finally lost his seat, but Jim Jordan is still there. And of course, there’s Devin Nunes, who memorably sued a cow...There’s no dearth of candidates for the dubious honor of “dimmest lawmaker.”
The Washington Post recently ran a column by Dana Milbank that should have embarrassed newly elected Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville. However, Tuberville and those who voted for him appear immune to embarrassment, since the emotion requires recognition of what constitutes an embarrassing defect.
Tuberville — or “Tubs,” from his college football coaching days — is the Republican senator-elect from Alabama, and he’s proposing to object to the election results in the Senate on Jan. 6. Trump exulted: “Great senator.
Problem is, Tubs, if he were a Democrat, is what Trump might call a “low-IQ individual.” In their wisdom, the voters of Alabama chose to replace Democrat Doug Jones, who prosecuted the Birmingham church bombing, with a man who recently announced his discovery that there are “three branches of government,” namely, “the House, the Senate and the executive.”
He further informed the newspaper that “in 2000 Al Gore was president, United States, president-elect, for 30 days.” (Actual number of days Gore spent as president-elect: zero.)
Evidently, “Tubs” was able to avoid debates and interviews during the campaign. He did, however, issue a few statements transmitting a variety of his less-than-well-founded beliefs. When asked about his denial of climate change, he explained that “only God can change climate.” In response to a question about the opiod epidemic, he responded that “it isn’t just opioids, it’s also heroin.”
On health care: “We don’t have the answer until we go back to open up being a capitalistic health-care system where we have more than one insurance company.” (There are 952 health insurers in the United States.)
On education: “We’ve taken God out of the schools and we’ve replaced the schools with metal detectors.”
Tubs has declared his desire to serve on the Senate “banking finance” committee, apparently unaware that banking and finance are separate committees — and that he is ineligible to serve on banking because Alabama’s senior Republican senator already does.
Milbank characterized Tuberville’s Senate campaign as “a magical voyage of discovery.” Tuberville had been unaware of a little Senate prerogative called “advice and consent,” or the existence and purpose of the Voting Rights Act–despite its centrality to years of public debate.
As Milbank notes, as long as there are mental giants like Tuberville, “Trumpism will remain.” Trumpism, in this iteration, contains equal amounts of ignorance and venality;
when his business partner in a hedge fund pled guilty to fraud, Tuberville claimed he didn’t know anything. (Given his general performance, the assertion was convincing.) He also set up a foundation purportedly to help veterans, but veterans got only a third of the money raised.
As a candidate, Tubs offered exotic views on why rural hospitals closed (“because we don’t have Internet”), on impeachment (“I’ve been trying to keep up with it but it’s so hard”) and on constitutional democracy (“We’d probably get more done with just the president running this country. So let the Democrats go home”).
Alabama voters–who twice made Roy Moore the Chief Justice of their state Supreme Court– evidently epitomize the “plain folks” of Mencken’s observation.
Actually, it may be time to amend that Mencken prediction. It should read “On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and they will be governed almost entirely by morons.”