Is it true that coup d’etats arise exclusively from that particular region of France? Which would mean that Donald J. Trump’s doomed attempt to remain in the White House after January 20, 2021 was just another attempted putsch. It seems to me there’s an entirely understandable reluctance on the part of Americans to use such terminology to describe what he’s been up to, however accurate it may seem to be if the facts are dispassionately examined.
Whatever you call such undemocratic changes of leadership, successful coups require the competence of the ringleader(s) and the participation of the military, other national security types, and various other elites, elements mostly absent in this case. Donald J. Trump has rarely displayed competence in any of his endeavors, the notable exception being his springboard to the presidency – reality television star. He did well there, unfortunately for us.
It was much further back this awful year, on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, that it seemed to me we had attained our highest stratum of royally screwed thus far, once Trump himself claimed to have suddenly discovered the COVID-19 coronavirus needed to be taken seriously, while also suggesting he was the man to make it all better.
Suddenly that Tuesday, Trump revealed that this “is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic. All you had to do was look at other countries.”
Fortunately for me, insatiable consumer of alternative media that I am, issue #50 of The Baffler magazine had arrived in my mailbox only the week before, and I immediately knew they were onto something, as they entitled it The New Booboisie.
Here’s what Jonathon Sturgeon, Editor in Chief of The Baffler, had to say about this edition.
Idiots, as a rule, should be kept apart, but for this, The Baffler’s fiftieth issue, we’ve asked them to hold hands under the banner of “The New Booboisie.” A word often attributed to H.L. Mencken, “booboisie” combines the Saxon “boob” with bourgeoisie to describe “stupid people as a class.” In theory, this grouping could include the dregs of any stratum. But we’ve discovered, in our cross-section of these nudgers and mulcters and logrollers, a propensity for power and greed that usually propels them to the top of the American pileup – or close enough.
Educated beyond their intelligence, empowered to inflict lasting damage, the new booboisie is inept and artless yet beset with confused ambition.
Writers, journalists, academics, generic contrarians and all sorts of other folks just love to quote H.L. Mencken, as the Sage of Baltimore used his typewriter to create ruthless vituperation and satire like no one before or since. Unfortunately, as Jeet Heer of The Nation recently observed, he also tended to allow his “sarcasm and invective do the work of argument.”
The great Randolph Bourne wrote that “Mr. Mencken gives the impression of an able mind so harried and irritated by the philistinism of American life that it has not been able to attain its full power…..In order to show how good a writer is, he must first show how deplorably fatuous, malicious or ignorant are all those who dislike him. Such a proof is undoubtedly the first impulse of any mind that cares deeply about artistic values.”
Yet Mencken remains one of the most admired and continually quoted scribes in our history.
Anyway, back to The New Booboisie. When The Baffler #50 arrived, I had just discovered that 2020 was the centennial of one of H.L. Mencken’s more entertaining outbursts. It was his column of July 26, 1920, titled Bayard vs. Lionheart. Here at the Raucous Rooster we are perpetually turning over the rocks of history to see what mysteries have been growing underneath, unobserved in the darkness, as it has always seemed clear that to not learn from history is frequently disastrous. And sometimes the past is a marvelous form of escapism from a dreary present.
In 1920, Mencken was deeply discouraged by the presidential race between Republican Warren G. Harding and James M. Cox, but I found the close of that column of his to be most befitting our current predicament with President Donald J. Trump.
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.
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.
Mr. Trump sure does seem like that moron to me. But he is far from alone amongst the New Booboisie. The good folks at The Baffler found, in the form of artist William Powhida, a brilliant artist highly skilled at identifying and depicting some of the USA’s current membership of that remarkable group.
Mr. Powhida titled his eight depictions the Boob Jubilee. Enjoy them below. Reposted without permission for as long as I can possibly get away with it.
From The Baffler #50, March/April 2020:
William Powhida is an artist who makes fun of the art world. His most recent exhibition Complicities was selected by New York Times art critic Holland Carter as one of the best New York gallery exhibitions of 2019. He is currently looking for a job.