Mark Twain is Running for Governor

Mark Twain is Running for Governor. But that’s fake news. Or just plain fiction, to use a more accurate term. For among other things, Mark Twain wrote political satire. Our latest story celebrates this brand of Twain humor during our 2020 election season.

Twain wrote Running for Governor for his monthly column in The Galaxy, a literary magazine. He portrayed his fictional candidacy for Governor to be hopeless, just as if he had actually campaigned for the position. He knew that both major party candidates were generating newspaper propaganda in the New York election of 1870. And he knew those lies would doom any honest, independent candidate to defeat.

Fake News Redux

150 years later, the foundation for Twain’s story—inaccurate news reporting—is a hot topic of discussion. Although disinformation has been around forever, the term ‘fake news’ was not in general usage until 2014. That’s when a BuzzFeed News editor began using it to label propaganda that social media sites promoted as real news. These widely circulated, ongoing lies are akin to the ones Twain hilariously describes in Mark Twain’s Running for Governor.

But then came an abrupt, disturbing twist. A 2016 presidential candidate co-opted the term ‘fake news’ when he repeatedly used it to disparage mainstream news reports. Usually the reports he labeled fake were entirely accurate. But accuracy wasn’t his real concern. He called any news story fake if it contradicted his statements or if it honestly examined his actions and ideas. Since this particular candidate got himself elected, the term ’fake news’ has been heard countless times throughout his presidency.

It’s easy to guess what Twain might say about the twisted meaning of ‘fake news’ if he were still around to comment. Or about many other types of corruption that remain an unfortunate part of democracy. There are so many political characters and systems nowadays that would inspire Twain’s satire. Does anybody seriously doubt he would frequently direct his pointed wit at our scoundrels and the systems in which they operate?


Until our presidential election is decided, we are posting a free download of Running for Governor on our home page. Go ahead. You can use a few laughs during this bizarre and frightening election season. Transport yourself back to 1870 with master illustrator Marc Johnson-Pencook. He shows Mark Twain struggling blow by blow while trying to get through his campaign for Governor of New York. You will be amused.

Mark Twain is Running for Governor
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