“When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost… All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most 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.” — H.L. Mencken, Baltimore Sun, July 26 1920
Wisconsin election officials are preventing Ieshuh Griffin from using the above phrase below her name on the ballot. Ms. Griffin is running for the state Assembly and, you’ll be surprised to hear this, she’s running as independent. Quoth the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal: “Unlike candidates from the established Democratic and Republican parties, independents are allowed a five-word statement of purpose on the ballot to explain to voters what their candidacy is about.”
The state’s Government Accountability Board apparently has at least three members who either have a sense of humor or an admirable dedication to the First Amendment or both as the board voted 3-2 in favor of the phrase. Unfortunately, it takes four votes to approve and so the voting this fall will be far less colorful.
Ms. Griffin defended her slogan by saying: “"I’m not making a derogatory statement toward an ethnic group. I’m stating what I’m not. It’s my constitutional right to freedom of speech." Had the phrase been allowed it certainly would have posed a challenge for any truth-in-advertising requirements. How, exactly, would one prove whether or not you are the whiteman’s bitch?
It’s probably no surprise to you to learn that Ms. Griffin is African-American, as retiring Rep. Annette "Polly" Williams, whose seat Ms. Griffin is running for. Rep. Williams said that some of her constituents were offended by the phrase. Not so board member Thomas Barland, who voted to allow Griffin to make the statement. "She says a lot in five words. It wasn’t pornographic. It wasn’t obscene, and I didn’t interpret it as racial." Like the other five members of the board, Mr. Barland is a retired judge who is not African-American. Which would seem to make him the perfect person to judge whether someone is or isn’t a bitch for his particular ethnic group.
The press has been trying not to call this one for days. A careful reading of the stories has shown journalists who felt obliged to offer a McCain win as a plausible outcome. The only thing at issue is the size of the Democratic victory. Given the condition the nation is in this is hardly surprising. My sympathies to Sen. Obama. I do not envy anyone who gets the job.