Walt Whitman on the Democratic Party

Nowadays it is the Democrats who are (ahem!) the high- minded crowd, compared with their competition, the Republicans. Times change. This is Whitman ‘s take on the Democratic Party Convention in the US in the 1850s:

“The members who composed it were, seven-eights of them, the meanest kind of bawling and blowing office-holders, office- seekers, pimps, malignants, conspirators, murderers, fancy- men, custom house clerks, contractors, kept-editors, spaniels well-trained to carry and fetch, jobbers, infidels, terrorist, mail-riflers, slave-catchers, duellists, carriers of secret weapons, deaf men, pimpled men, scarr’d inside with vile disease, gaudy outside with gold chains made from people’s money and harlots’ money twisted together; crawling, serpentine men, the lousy combings and born freedom-sellers of the earth. And whence came they? From back yards and bar-rooms; from out of the customs-houses, marshals’ offices, post offices and gambling hells; from the President’s house, the jail, the station-house; from un-named by-places, where devilish disunion was hatch’d at midnight.

“Such, I say, formed…the entire personnel, the atmosphere, nutriment and chyle of our municipal, State, and national politics – substantially. permeating, handling, deciding and wielding everything – legislation, nominations, elections, “public sentiment” etc, while the great mass of the people, farmers, mechanics and traders, were helpless in their gripe”.

Like Epicurus, Whitman seemed to have a thing about politicians.  We no longer have writers who have the command of English that enables them to  pour out such vivid vitriol onto paper. However, were he alive today Whitman might have admitted that Democrats had become a much more respectable lot, if somewhat devoid of effective ideas to regain power, and would turn his attention, shall we say, elsewhere.  American political life has not changed that much.  Lack of lnowledge seems to be power.