“As I Understand It” (E25)

  • Originally printed: DAC News, October 1932
  • First reprinted in: The Athletic Benchley
  • Original Byline: Robert Benchley


Benchley concluded a very profitable twelve year run in the pages of the Detroit Athletic Club News with this disinterested observer’s guide to the 1932 Presidential election. The only trouble with “As I Understand It” is that, unlike the 1924 iteration of the rite (see E5), the Hoover/Roosevelt face-off actually promised to have consequences. RB is having none of that in this article, which, it must be said, was never intended to influence anyone to do or think anything. What does come across, however, is the author’s very real mistrust of representative democracy, at least insofar as it had been practiced up until his time, and his scorn for bureaucratic “expertise” (always synonymous in the Benchleyan imagination with abject incompetence traveling under the cover of incomprehensible bar charts).

Benchley correctly identifies the two main points of contention between the Democrats and the Republicans that political season – 1. The Depression, and 2. Prohibition. He goes a little over the line into smugness in his discussion of taxes and the inadvisability of pushing “soak the rich” programs in a nation newly shorn of plutocrats (ha ha). But perhaps this was inevitable, given the upscale readership of the DAC News. He shows more investment in the grand task of freeing the country’s parched throats from ol’ Volstead’s killjoy grip, but here too, he sees little evidence that America’s deliberately obstructionist institutions will be able to crank out an anti-amendment any time during the remaining years allotted to him.

Favourite Moment:
“If I have diagnosed Currency Inflation correctly, the same thing if practiced by a little group of individuals is called ‘counterfeiting’…”