H. L. MenckenH. L. Mencken, (1880-1956) American Journalist, Editor, Essayist, Linguist, Lexicographer, and Critic

H. L. Mencken Quote

“Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule -- and both commonly succeed, and are right.”

H. L. MenckenH. L. Mencken
~ H. L. Mencken

Ratings and Comments

Logan, Memphis, TN

Well said. The problems in America today have nothing to do with party politics.

Mike, Norwalk

an astute in the obvious observation

Anonymous, Reston, VA US

Such negativism... I prefer to believe that some truely believe in their causes.

Joe, Rochester, MI

My primary objection tho this quote is the U.S. is a Republic. Calling it a democracy has cause more damage than "ordinary Americans" realize. It's time for the third largest party in the country, Libertarians, to run things. We could have some of our freedoms restored, balance the budget, and stop attacking other countries.

E Archer, NYC

No party is fit to 'rule' -- their job is to secure the Liberty of the people, not rule over them. Mencken's humor certainly lightens up an already depressing reality.

E Archer, NYC

Joe, Thomas Jefferson referred to the nation as a 'democratic-republic' -- his party was called the Democratic-Republicans. He also referred to the government as 'the democracy' in addition to 'the republics (plural as each state and county were 'republics')'. Today, we have neither a democracy nor a republic in their truest senses. A democratic process is referred to as a 'democracy' and when used in that context, it does relate to the US government. The type of government the US has is 'republican' with some democratic processes (but not everything is up for vote by all the people). May I suggest to those who remind us regularly that we are a republic, we do employ democracy as part of the management of the republic(s) and it is not entirely incorrect to refer to America as a democracy -- the word 'republic' does not necessarily mean a 'democratic-republic' (like the People's Republic of China, etc.). Let's argue over the principles of these words rather than the words themselves.

Logan, Memphis, TN

Joe, I think you're absolutely right about the damage. Though I think Mencken was right in his observation of democracies, because, once each political party grows stronger than the next, in such a democracy, the other parties must show that the party in power is unfit -- this is the only way to overthrow the majority, while in a democracy. Our supposed anti-democratic Republic, however, can also exist with parties, though it is difficult without sliding into a democracy. As Archer said, "No party is fit to 'rule' -- their job is to secure the Liberty of the people." In a Republic, it doesn't matter WHAT the masses (different parties) want, if it violates the foundation of the individual's rights, liberties, and freedoms -- it can't be done.

Ray, Dallas County Texas

E Archer NYC---The two words democracy and does not appear in the constitution. republic is in the pledge of allegiance , of which there are many that claim to be the parent of that written verse. How many countries can you name other than RUSSIA that are REPUBLICS ?

Mike, Norwalk
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Mike, Norwalk Ray, Dallas County Texas 10/11/22

     I've posted this before. Use of terms and concepts matter. There are four (4) Terms that are misused, confused and otherwise incorrectly abused - by an extremely terse explanation. The States united founders new the destructive nature of democracy, socialism, monarchies, etc. thus laying a foundation for "a republican form of government" (Article IV, Section 4, U.S. Constitution).

     Democracy is: “That form of government in which the sovereign power is exercised by the people in a body,” (Bouvier’s Law Dictionary) Democracy can not perceive or identify a single tree - its domain is solely limited to recognizing the forest’s ostensively supposed will. By democracy’s definition and practice, there is no individual sovereignty, personal rights, liberty, nature’s law or anything outside a mobs will. Attributed to Benjamin Franklin is a quote that describe democracy well: “Democracy is 2 wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for supper. Freedom is a well armed lamb contesting the vote.”

     Democratic process describes a procedurally measured system that maintains “A series of actions, motions, or occurrences; a method, mode, or operation, whereby a result or effect to produced.” (West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, ed. 2.) A “democratic process” may be useful in a democracy, a republic or a republican form government (it is not exclusive to democracy). A “democratic process” also indicates one (1) man, one (1) vote.

     A Republic is primarily bifurcated into ostensibly differing references. By example: A “republic” is “A commonwealth; that form of government in which the administration of affairs is open to all the citizens. In another sense, it signifies the state, independently of its form of government.” (Bouvier’s Law Dictionary) - A democracy perceives a/the “body” - people or otherwise are an inconsequential annoyance only required for voting; while, a republic administers the affairs of each citizen. A republic can also be the term that describes the specific boarder (boundaries) of a particular jurisdiction, not denoting any system of body politic application.

     A republican form of government is an egalitarian based system where individual sovereigns exercise personal inalienable rights and liberty at “the laws of nature and of nature’s God” (Declaration of Independence)

Editor, Liberty Quotes

Ray, dozens of countries call themselves republics: the People's Republic of China, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Honduras, the Dominican Republic, etc.. John Adams published a great comparison of the republics of his time -- check out Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, 1787

Annie, Warsaw, Indiana

I totally agree! U.S. political parties spend so much time bashing each other and trying to prove each other unfit to govern that I honestly don't believe either party should rule. I think they should all be cleared out and start over



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anonymous    1/7/14

Some parties prove themselves unfit - no help needed.

Bruce Sammut, Naples FL

Says it ALL.

Too bad we are asleep.



J Carlton, Calgary

Which describes the gong show that is our "Democracy". We have self serving politicians selling us down the road to corporatism and globalism. They don't care at all for our sovereignty or the autonomy of the nation...the whole thing is a fire sale...but we get to "vote" for it....nice!

jim k, Austin, Tx

Mencken is exactly right, as he usually is.

watchman 13, USA

It does bring to mind among the rhetoric a poem so well stating this current mess we are in. People not knowing there was ever another way.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the war of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe.
And the gods of the copybook headings said: Stick to the devil you know.
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But though we had plenty of money , there was nothingour money could buy,
And the gods of the copybook headings said: if you don't work you die.
Rudyard Kipling.

phil, Newberg

To me it seems that the democratic party has become so hateful since GWB became president, I would hope they would care more for our country and less concerned with sticking it to the other party. Seem very petty of them when even their standard bearer BHO is carrying on with the policies of the former president. It just show that there are few true differences between them. Guards can be assigned to block access to our war memorials, but those same guards could have easily been assigned to keep them open. It was all about punishing the American people... Very petty. So now Obama are is a horrible law that few had the guts to stand up and try to stop it or at least warn the public. Oh well, we get the monsters we deserve.

Fredrick William Sillik, Anytown

This fellow seems to be ascribing the label of democracy to the pathetic election process that presents itself in this country and maybe others. This is, I'm sorry to diagnose, is a very limited scope of perception of the broad picture that is our violent environment. 


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