This why Americans considered Whitman to be a great poet. He made them feel good about themselves.
He was nothing much himself, but he thought he was everything!
He celebrated Power in all its forms. But mostly in the ignorance of its people – and their eagerness to be deceived.
This was the paradox he successfully covered up – to be powerful as a nation, you have to be powerless as individuals! And sacrifice yourself to the Greater Good. As Americans were soon to do in their Civil War.
He wrote for the Mass of the People – one hundred years before Ortega y Gasset discovered them in the 1930s. They never read him, but the people who did (the Intelligentsia of the Period) liked to think that they did.
The background of the religion of my family – Mormonism – gives me an unique insight here. Whitman was subject to severe mob violence – because he was thought to be homosexual. During the same time period, Joseph Smith was dragged over the frozen ground by his heels. Later, he would be murdered. Also by a angry mob.
Americans were violent – and would remain so. And Whitman would carefully overlook this.