"The tendency of democracies is, in all things, to mediocrity."
James Fenimore Cooper
(1789-1851) American Novelist
The American Democrat, XIV, 1838
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Reader comments about this quote:
That's giving democracies way to much credit.
 -- Mike, Norwalk     
  • 5
    The quote is very cynical. I think democracy at times may lead to mediocrity but not in all cases. Hillary Clinton graduated Magna Cum Laude from both Wellesley College and Yale Law, she could potentially very good work as President(not that I am voting for her,,,) Again, Barack Obama graduated Magna Cum Laude from Columbia University and Harvard Law School. He was the first African American to head the Harvard Law Review. He's a really bright guy, hence he could do a very good job. Again John McCain graduated from the US Naval Academy and survived being tortured in Vietnam, They are all fantastic candidates.
     -- Mark Abell, Northfield,MN     
  • 1 7
    The quote is a good one. True but the alternatives are hideous. We probably have done the best we could by modifying it to be a democratic republic. Unfortunately with the three worst candidates for president in history, mediocrity is looking pretty good.
     -- warren, olathe     
  • 3
    Much truth here. One man one vote means illiterates get to vote also. We must look beyond public life if we wish to escape mediocrity. Hitler was really big on elitism and distained mediocrity or at least what he called mediocrity.
     -- Waffler, Smith, Arkansas     
    Magna Cum Laude at an Ivy League School is completely mediocre if you ask me -- nothing but obedient drones memorizing what the ruling class feeds them to support the ruling class. If people would only understand that we do not live in a democracy and do not have to give in to the will of the majority (the bulk of which are common, marginally educated, and debtors) we might better attain high levels of excellence. Being tethered to underachievers who want to be taken care of more than they want the responsibility of their own freedom is what has fueled this steady march to American socialism adoringly called 'Democracy.' Ptooey!
     -- E Archer, NYC     
  • 8
    Archer, thank you for stating issues at the heart of the matter.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
  • 3
    Mark misses the point. Where Hillary or Obama went to school has nothing to do with the quote.
     -- kilpeg@austin.rr.com, austin, tx     
  • 4
    My idea of democracy is about human rights. Just because folks are illeterate or not college does not mean that they are less human or have less that anyone else's rights. I'll take mediocrity and universal brotherhood in the political arena (the big tent idea) over elitism every time.
     -- Waffler, Smith, Arkansas     
  • 2
    Cooper is right. Which is one of many reasons why the U.S. was founded as a republic.
     -- Al, Smithtown     
  • 5
    The Founders established a meritocratic
    Republic, not a democracy.

    The original American ethos, at its most virtuous, was essentially meritocratic in character, accommodating, as it did, an acknowledgement of the dignity of the individuality of the individual.

    The development of democracy has in practice been demonstrated to be demeaning to the status of the Sovereign Individual, as its characteristic consequence
    is a levelling of people.
     -- Patrick Henry, Red Hill     
  • 4
     -- Ronw13, Oregon      

    Y'all not getting his point. It's not a dis. It's a reality. It's like saying the pathway to the middle is always an average. Mediocre once you remove the negative connotations that one's own ego implies, only means middle, average, the mean. Isn't that ALWAYS the point of democracy? That the wealthy, highly intelligent, focused and actionable by obligation moral and/or ethical cannot simply run off and leave the lesser behind.. and those less by extension be forced to push themselves harder, faster and at an increase in order to keep pace, less they be left behind or impede progress all together? Isn't this what democracy is?

    By definition. Not what it can be ideally, no but what it always is in actuality regardless of attaining that ideal or not. Subsequently, freedom is literally one's ability to exist within such characteristics and not be, for outlandishly persecuted for such inequities regarding others and your potential impediment of their goals, focuses and/or beliefs. "Freedom" as we describe it today (in modern times) has always been for the lowest common denominator of individual. As what's "freedom" to an individual with nearly limitless access to resource but what they already have and know.

     -- Architecht, USA     
  • 2
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