I was reorganizing some bookshelves this evening, and discovered in the wrong spot an old favorite, F.S. Oliver's The Endless Adventure: Personalities and Practicalities in Eighteenth Century England. I took the book down, meaning only to shift it. Then I saw a bookmark I'd inserted years ago. I opened the volume and read this:
Politics unfortunately abounds in shams that must be treated reverentially for every politician who would succeed. If you are the sort of man whose stomach revolts against treating shams reverentially, you will be well advised to stay out of politics altogether and set up as a prophet; your prophecies may perhaps sow good seed for some future harvest. But as a politician you would be impotent. For at any given time the bulk of your countrymen believe firmly and devoutly, not only in various things that are worthy of belief, but also in illusions of one kind and another; and they will never submit to have their affairs managed for them by one who appears not to share in their credulity. … A wise politician will never grudge a genuflexion or a rapture if it is expected of him by the prevalent opinion.
Almost 100 years later, those words remain a prudent caution.