I scoured the library reading list the other day, as I often do, and found myself cluing up on the 1992 US election campaign in which Bill Clinton scored a thumping win in the Electoral College for the Democrats. This is the kind of thing I do when I feel intellectually out of depth and detached from world events, as happened last Wednesday (thanks Donald). I came across the following paragraph when reading a chapter on the psychology and rhetoric of the 1992 election:
“Charisma is not the property of individuals. It is a system, a lock-and-key-fit between leaders with particular personality qualities and ideal-hungry followers that occurs at moments of historical crisis. Sometimes the political followers are so wounded, their yearning for a leader who will provide strong and confident leadership and rescue them so palpable, that they create a leader in their desired image. In these charismatic leader-follower relationships, the followers perceive the leader as superhuman, blindly believe the leader’s statements, unconditionally comply with his or her directives for action, and give that leader unqualified emotional commitment”1.
“A leader in their desired image”. I’m probably guilty of that. I voted Jeremy Corbyn twice for Labour leader because he seems to have the compassion I want to see in a political leader. Does his compassion make him right to lead the Labour party? I’m not sure. Perhaps I molded him within my imagination into a savior of British politics, as if our country needs saving in the first place (I’m not sure things are that bad). So here’s a guy who seems to get stuck in to important world issues, such as the Israeli-Palestinian discourse and climate change. But was I kidding myself? I read the stories before the second leadership election about Labour MPs complaining of inefficiency and an inability to do their jobs in the shadow government well. That was worrying, but perhaps I see the Labour party as a conglomeration of ideas, with Jeremy representing some of the best bits of its legacy and possibly its future. Hopefully inefficiency and malpractice can be ironed out and improved upon.
I could be completely wrong of course. Are the tens of millions who voted for Trump flawed too? Were they utterly wrong to vote for him? “Yearning for a leader in their desired image”? I’m not sure Donald is a leader. I think he has a vague vision for his Presidency based on growing the size of the U.S. economy and hoping good stuff happens from there. He wants to be show some kind of strength, that’s fine, but does he have “unqualified emotional commitment” from his followers? He’s said and allegedly done things that would destroy most political campaigns, at least in the civilized world. The wall for example. Or attitudes to women. He’s a change; a big ball of loud emotion that shouts vague things like “build a wall” and “make America great again”. He speaks with such slow passion, emphasizing every key word of his rhetoric, that it becomes hard not to be pulled in at least a little bit. I’ve thought to myself: “What if this guy is talking enough sense to warrant four years? What if he’s the next step? Is Hilary strong enough to be seen as better?” I think it all comes down to how you see progress being achieved in the world. Inhumane and mentally dysfunctional people taking the lives of human beings and targeting certain countries is a truth, but is Donald’s brutally emotive campaign the answer? I think you need to understand how people who want to do harm such as terrorists think, and then focus on creating effective policies that work in reality and actually ease or remove problems.
Problems such as stress-inducing working hours. I’m not sure Donald can improve the real lives of most Americans. Cutting taxes doesn’t necessarily result in the betterment of people’s homes, families and lives does it? It feels like Americans have opted for a another political fight. Their lawmakers and custodians of society are so split. How will the government affect hundreds of millions of lives for the better?
1.”The Clinton Presidency: Campaigning, Governing, and the Psychology of Leadership”. Westview Press (Oxford: 1995). pg 39.