The New Snopeses

Author: Gary Hart

Many years ago I wrote a graduate school term paper on the several levels of humor discussed by Aristotle and used William Faulkner’s trilogy The Hamlet, The Town, and The Mansion to show how Faulkner had qualified in every Aristotelean category.

Faulkner was using his great literary gifts to pillory the rise of a new class of ambitious, lower class, not well-educated clans then breaking into Southern politics and trades.  The family in the trilogy was called Snopes and they often gave themselves colorful names in a misbegotten effort to self-create status if not also nobility.

There was an Admiral Dewey Snopes, for example, a Montgomery Ward Snopes, and the patriarch was Flem Snopes who invented names for others who came along.  But the stories trace their lineage back to Flem.

The Snopes family appeared overnight in the hamlet and, after taking it over, moved onto the town, and then ended up in the mansion, the residence of the Governor of the State.  They were ambitious beyond capability but most of all conniving, calculating, persistent, resilient, intrusive, and eventually engulfing anything in their way.

Faulkner found many occasions to use animalistic qualities to describe their cancerous reach.  And, needless to say, they were endlessly greedy.

All this to speculate, had Faulkner lived into the second decade of the 21st century, whether he would not have almost been forced to make the trilogy a quartet by adding The White House.

Having achieved the mansion, would not a Snopes heir have inevitably created a national “base”, more correctly a cult, and gone after the ultimate American political prize.  The Snopeses were by character and definition populist.  They were canny at representing grievance, resentment, and social division.  Their enemies were always the educated, wealthy, achievers, those we now call “elites.”

Literary critics concluded Faulkner, a Mississippian, was satirizing the Long family in neighboring Louisiana, particularly after the vivid Hughie Long leapfrogged more established old families into the Governor’s mansion and then elected himself Senator (and attempted to hold both jobs at once, until told he couldn’t do that, and so put his brother Earl in the Governor’s mansion) and it was Hughie’s son Russell with whom I served in the Senate.

Unlike the Snopeses, the Longs proved generations can improve themselves.  Like his populist father Hughie, Russell Long was canny, witty, and clever and, as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, was thought to quote passages from the federal tax code in his sleep.

Whether Faulkner would have, given the occasion, created a White House Snopes in recent days we will never know.  There certainly would have been more than enough material for it.

Recent evidence proves that it is possible to be President without being presidential, to manage Constitutional government without knowing the Constitution, to claim to govern using the rule of law while breaking the law right and left.  The Snopeses created the pattern.

What fun Faulkner would have had in inventing colorful names for the outgoing governing family.  All the while he would have shaken his head in disbelief at the catastrophic circus created by those who had no idea what they were supposed to be doing and didn’t care in any case.

Anyone seeking an explanation for how the great United States got here could do much worse than reading the Snopes trilogy.  But the question remains: someone voted for them.


5 Responses to “The New Snopeses”

  1. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Many, many someones voted for them. I think the question is how to counter and persuade in an effort to reduce the number of someones.

  2. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    But, one thing is very clear, from my vantage point – America and Americans can still be very proud of how this presidential election was run and be especially proud of all of those patriotic Americans who worked so hard to keep the Republic, despite all of the Trump shenanigans and efforts to subvert American democracy. Well done!

  3. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Hey, everyone who told the truth in this election and protected democracy – civil servants, election officials, judges, poll workers, bloggers and blog commenters, MoP friends – Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!!! … and, you too, Tom Friedman! 🙂

  4. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


    Oh yes, for sure, for all, humour a much needed asset indeed!

    And on a happy subject Happy Thanksgiving to you senator Hart, colleagues, here, from the Uk, from me, and my wife…

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