Contemporary political cynicism is nothing new under the sun. Here are some of the juicy bits from George Washington Plunkitt’s caustic and hilarious political rhetoric in The Curse of Civil Service Reform in 1903:
This civil service law is the biggest fraud of the age. It is the curse of the nation. There can’t be no real patriotism while it lasts. How are you goin’ to interest our young men in their country if you have no offices to give them when they work for their party? . . .
This ain’t no exaggeration. I have good reason for sayin’ that most of the Anarchists in this city today are men who ran up against civil service examinations. Isn’t it enough to make a man sour on his country when he wants to serve it and won’t be allowed unless he answers a lot of fool questions about the number of cubic inches of water in the Atlantic and the quality of sand in the Sahara desert? There was once a bright young man in my district who tackled one of these examinations. The next I heard of him he had settled won in Herr Most’s saloon smokin’ and drinkin’ beer and talkin’ socialism all day. Before that time he had never drank anything but whisky. I knew what was comin’ when a young Irishman drops whisky and takes to beer and long pipes in a German saloon. That young man is today one of the wildest Anarchists in town. And just to think! He might be a patriot but for that cussed civil service.
. . . .
Let me tell you that patriotism has been dying out fast for the last twenty years. Before then when a party won, its workers got everything in sight. That was somethin’ to make a man patriotic. Now, when a party wins and its men come forward and ask for their rewards, the reply is, "Nothin’ doin’, unless you can answer a list of questions about Egyptian mummies and how many years it will take for a bird to wear out a mass of iron as big as the earth by steppin’ on it once in a century?"