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October 26, 2003

The Normal Majority

In 1925, Will Rogers wrote a newspaper column on the occasion of Washington's birthday entitled "The Normal Majority." A couple of quotes from it have made it down through the years to be remembered in the present, notably "This country is not where it is today on account of any one man. It is here on account of the real common sense of the Big Normal Majority."-- but like The Hireling Ministry, the entire text of the column is not to be found on the Internet, at least not by me, and I'm pretty good at looking.

So I've reproduced the column here, at the bottom of the post. I wasn't totally sure if the essay had passed into the public domain yet or not, thanks to Sonny Bono, may he roast for a thousand years in the dripping pans of Hell, but according to this site The Normal Majority passed into the public domain in 1993.

The Normal Majority was pretty influential for its time. Even though the essay itself is not now a part of current discourse, some of the ideas it first introduced are. Pat Buchanan was obviously recalling it when he included the term "Silent Majority" in Nixon's speech of the same name, though the original coinage has been claimed by others.

It's worth reading the essay just to see what things Will Rogers thought ought to be capitalized, but many of the points he makes easily make the transition from 1925 to today. One just has to update the groups he's talking about.

Or not, as the case may be.

On the impact of Radical Left:

So that's how it is with this so called Radical Element. Let them have a Park or a Hall as an exhaust Pipe. Then when they have some particular Noted Denouncer, why, you will hear a loud report. You will listen, or read what he said and go on about your business the same as the listeners to a back fire.

On Bloggers?:

Give 'em a Hall or a Box to stand on and say "Sic 'em; knock everything in sight" and when they have denounced everything from Bunions to Capitalistic Bath Tubs, then they will go home, write all week on another speech for the following Sunday and you never have any trouble with them.

On the Self-Importance of Politicians:

We lost Roosevelt TR, a tough blow. But here we are still kicking. So, if we can spare men like Roosevelt and Wilson there is no use in any other Politician ever taking himself serious.

I'd quote more, but there wouldn't be much of the essay left, and it deserves to be read in context. I've added explanatory links where I felt they would be useful, but the text itself is all Will.

------------------------

The Normal Majority
--Will Rogers, 1925

THE LAST FEW DAYS I have read various addresses made on Lincoln's Birthday. Every Politician always talks about him, but none of them ever imitate him. They always make that a day of delivering a Lecture on "Americanism." When an Office Holder, or one that has been found out, can't think of anything to deliver a speech on, he always falls back on the good old subject, AMERICANISM. Now that is the one thing that I have never delivered an Essay on, either written or spoken. They have all had a crack at it every Fourth of July and Lincoln's Birthday. So now I am going to take up the subject and see what I can wrestle out of it. Let's get our rope ready and turn it out, and we will catch it and see really what brands it has on it. Here it comes out of the Corral. We got it caught; now it's throwed and Hog Tied; and we will pick the Brands and see what they are.

The first thing I find out is there ain't any such animal. This American Animal that I thought I had here is nothing but the big Honest Majority, that you might find in any Country. He is not a Politician, He is not a 100 percent American. He is not any organization, either uplift or downfall. In fact I find he don't belong to anything. He is no decided Political faith or religion. I can't even find out what religious brand is on him. From his earmarks he has never made a speech, and announced that he was An American. He hasn't denounced anything. It looks to me like he is just an Animal that has been going along, believing in right, doing right, tending to his own business, letting the other fellows alone.

He don't seem to be simple enough minded to believe that EVERYTHING is right and he don't appear to be Cuckoo enough to think that EVERYTHING is wrong. He don't seem to be a Prodigy, and he don't seem to be a Simp. In fact, all I can find out about him is that he is just NORMAL. After I let him up and get on my Horse and ride away I look around and I see hundreds and hundreds of exactly the same marks and Brands. In fact they so far outnumber the freakly branded ones that the only conclusion I can come to is that this Normal breed is so far in majority that there is no use to worry about the others. They are a lot of Mavericks, and Strays.

A bunch of Bobbed Haired men gathered in Madison Square Garden last Sunday at a meeting of these Reds, or Bolsheviki, or whatever they call themselves. It was one of their denouncement meetings. They denounced the heavy snow, Declaration of Independence, 5 cent Street Car Fare, Floods in Georgia, Mayor Hylan's Bathing Suit, Twin Beds, and the Eclipse. A Kid 14 years old delivered such a tribute to Lenine that he made it look like George Washington or Abe Lincoln couldn't have caddied for Lenine. Oh, this Boy had got disgusted with America young in life. Incidentally, while he was making this tirade, NORMALISM of his age, at least a million of them were out skating.

Now some say that a thing like that should not be allowed. Why sure it should be allowed! England can teach any Country in the World how to handle discontent. (Maybe it's because they have more of it.) They give 'em a Park, Hyde Park, they even furnish the Soap Boxes (as the former contents of the Box is generally as foreign to the Speakers as his Nationality is to the Country he is speaking in). Give 'em a Hall or a Box to stand on and say "Sic 'em; knock everything in sight" and when they have denounced everything from Bunions to Capitalistic Bath Tubs, then they will go home, write all week on another speech for the following Sunday and you never have any trouble with them.

It's just like an exhaust on an Automobile. No matter how high priced the Car, you have to have an exit for its bad Air, and Gasses. They have got to come out. It don't do any particular harm, unless you just stand around behind smelling of it all the time, but who would want to follow a Car to smell of its exhaust when you could just as well be in the Car riding?

Now sometimes there is a loud explosion, and everybody on the Streets will turn around and see what it is. The minute they see, they will go right on their business. They know there has been no damage done. So that's how it is with this so called Radical Element. Let them have a Park or a Hall as an exhaust Pipe. Then when they have some particular Noted Denouncer, why, you will hear a loud report. You will listen, or read what he said and go on about your business the same as the listeners to a back fire. You know it's necessary.

Now I am not much on History but I don't think any of these people were drafted over here, nor that there are any Immigration Laws in Europe against this Country. I have often thought what would happen if the Government sent somebody to one of those meetings and he got up and announced that he was instructed to send every one of them back to the Country where they come from, and had been raving about. Say, there would be such a stampede they would tear down the building to keep from going. You couldn't Shanghai them out of here.

No, sir! This country is too big now. To stop this Country now would be like spitting on a Railroad track to stop a Train. These Reds are on their backs snoring and they ain't keeping anybody awake but each other. No Element, no Party, not even Congress or the Senate can hurt this Country now; it's too big. There are too many men just like those Dog Team drivers and too many Women like that Nurse up in Nome for anything to ever stampede this old Continent of ours. That's why I can never take a Politician seriously. They are always shouting that "such and such a thing will ruin us, and that this is the eventful year in our Country's life."

Say, all the years are the same. Each one has its little temporary setbacks, but they don't mean a thing in the general result. Nobody is making History. Everybody is just drifting along with the tide. If any office holder feels he is carrying a burden of responsibility, some Fly will light on his back and scratch it off for him some day. Congress can pass a bad law and as soon as the old Normal Majority find it out they have it scratched off the books.

We lost Roosevelt TR, a tough blow. But here we are still kicking. So, if we can spare men like Roosevelt and Wilson there is no use in any other Politician ever taking himself serious.

Henry Ford has been a big factor in the Industrial development of the Country. Yet if he was gone there would still be enough of those things left to clutter up the Highways for Years. John D. Rockefeller who has done a lot for humanity with his Gifts; yet when he is gone and Gasoline raises 2 Cents, and all expenses and the Estate is settled we will kick along. Even when our next War comes we will through our shortsightedness not be prepared, but that won't be anything fatal. The real energy and minds of the Normal Majority will step in and handle it and fight it through to a successful conclusion. A war didn't change it before. It's just the same as it was, and always will be, because it is founded on right and even if everybody in Public Life tried to ruin it they couldn't. This Country is not where it is today on account of any man. It is here on account of the real common Sense of the big Normal Majority. A Politician is just like a Necktie Salesman in a big Department Store. If he decides to give all the Ties away, or decided to pocket all the receipts, it don't affect the Store. It don't close. He closes, as soon as he is found out.

So I can find nothing for alarm in our immediate future. The next time a Politician gets spouting off about what this Country needs, either hit him with a tubercular Tomato or lay right back in your seat and go to sleep. Because THIS COUNTRY HAS GOT TOO BIG TO NEED A DAMN THING.

------------------------

Now that I've gotten the scan to text process down on the scanner, I'll be reproducing other essays from the past that haven't yet made it onto the web for some reason--not that they will by any stretch of the imagination be as historically important as The Normal Majority and The Hireling Ministry. It'll be stuff I run across, or have a particular liking for, much like a Lileks matchbook, though it will text instead of images.

Posted by Bigwig at October 26, 2003 09:14 PM | TrackBack
Postscript:
First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself.
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