Marvin Folkertsma

In short, does anyone for a moment think that this man would be fooled by starry-eyed appeals for hope and change, to remake America, or to believe anything proclaimed by members of what he regarded as America’s only known criminal class, the U.S. Congress? Not likely.

Indeed, Mark Twain’s famously dyspeptic view of human nature bordered on misanthropy and on occasion was expressed in terms that would make John Calvin blush. His excellent short story, “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg,” was a brilliant statement on humankind’s self-righteousness and gullibility, and should be required reading for everyone, especially those contemplating a political career. He did not believe it possible that politics could alter fundamental tendencies of human nature, a view that has been a staple of progressive thought since the 19th century.

Further, Mark Twain had contempt for that redemptive embodiment of liberal-progressive thought, from the publication of Edward Bellamy’s “Looking Backward” to (in modern times) Al Gore’s latest fulminations on climate change: the expert. After all, the experts responsible for the country’s current financial meltdown—for $1.5 trillion deficits—belong to the same type who, according to Twain, once figured that “just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upward of 1,300,000 miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod” (“Life on the Mississippi”). No doubt, Twain would be appalled by his country in its current condition, but he would not be surprised; after all, it was designed by that most despicable of creatures, the political expert, those who likely had learned the art of the hoax from Twain’s very own, “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

All of which made Twain, and those who follow him, conservatives; that is, individuals who understand life by actually living it, who are skeptical of human nature and the pretensions of government, and who distrust the flimflammery of self-proclaimed experts. Call them Mark Twain conservatives, after the man who proudly claimed that he was not just “an” American. Like all true conservatives today, he was THE American: Mark Twain.


Marvin Folkertsma

Dr. Marvin Folkertsma is a professor of political science and fellow for American studies with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. The author of several books, his latest release is a high-energy novel titled "The Thirteenth Commandment."