Wise leaders are known for their measured tone, their demonstrated ability to think things through, and their penchant for clarity in the presentation of complex issues. They present themselves, and their philosophical offerings, with an evenness of temperament that commands the attention of the most critical audience. Their depth of perspective makes those willing to work for progress in their societies, and toward a better world, want to emulate them. Such persons have mastered the art of subjecting their egos to the discipline necessary for the lifting up of their stated purpose above the pettiness and dysfunctions of their personalities. Wise leaders understand that the greater good lies above and beyond the afflictions of selfishness.
Consider the experiences of a Nelson Mandela. The wit and wisdom of this revered patriot of the new South Africa were molded in the harsh flames of a process of dehumanization that many of us can identify with. Many among us can connect with Mandela's struggles because we were subjected to that same process of dehumanization as a function of our common history. We still bear the existential scars of a history of domination through colonization. The vile injustices of the system of apartheid birthed by greed, and nurtured through white racist cultural praxis, snuffed out the hopes and potentials of many generations of dominated peoples of color. It thwarted the aspirations and shared dreams of one generation of black South Africans after another.
Nelson Mandela had every reason to lash out at this system of injustice with all the energies of his humanity. One could well understand if he and others like himself let loose that hostility borne on the shoulders of a systemic process of disenfranchisement and dehumanization. They had every reason to be hateful. Yet, what we got from Nelson Mandela as a leader was the kind of determination and focus that was inspirational not just to the oppressed masses, but to their oppressors. A true leader understands that we cannot save ourselves, nor will we prosper, by pursuing the denigration and destruction of those we perceive as "others". Wise leaders understand the sacred responsibility that we all have to water the seeds of our common humanity, and to see to their growth and prosperity. That is how we build great nations. That is how we will become great... again.
As a society that aspires to greatness we have come to expect a certain maturity in the moral and intellectual disposition of those who would occupy the highest office in the land. By "maturity" we do not mean perfection. The fact is we have seen our share of moral and intellectual infants among those who have aspired to the Presidency. Indeed we have endured the coming and going of those who lacked both character and charisma. Imbecilic tendencies run rampant in those who desire greatness but have not cultivated a value system that would inform and validate their ambitions. It is in consideration of this reality... of this history... that many now ask: Is Donald Trump the worst candidate for President we have ever seen?
After his primary victory in Indiana Trump is quoted as saying: "We're not gonna lose. We're gonna starting winning again, and we're gonna win bigly". This is the exotic rhetorical formulation that came out of the philosophical treasure chest of a presidential candidate who "went to the best schools". They are the declarations of someone we can now justly call Mr Bombastic. This is a man who tends to make up for the deficiencies in his ideas with a kind of novel grandiloquence. He compensates for his lack of charisma with an unsettling pomposity, parading his affluence with a grossness unbecoming of one who would lead a nation where the top one percent own more wealth that the bottom ninety percent. His "trophies", from Mara Lago to Trump Tower, all declare: If you are not me, you are a loser! Look at how bigly I have succeeded... and how miserably the rest of you have failed!
Trump's pseudo-verbosity is devoid of meaningfulness. In terms of what we should expect of a presidential candidate and a world leader, he is the proverbial "empty suit". He insists that he is not a politician... of that we are sure. If by politician we mean: a person experienced in the science of government, or one engaged in conducting the business of government; then we are most certainly not speaking of Mr Donald Trump. He has demonstrated no real grasp of what is entailed in the position for which he lusts. Everything we have seen so far tells us that he possesses neither the temperament nor the character to be Commander In Chief.
What Trump lacks in substance he makes up for in bluster. He has demonstrated no fluency in any of the issues that demand the attention of an occupant of the Oval Office. What Mr Bombastic is very fluent in are the gross insults and indecent aspersions that he carelessly discharges at anyone who dares to require him to speak intelligently and cogently to any issue. In place of any effort to be a meaningfully articulate candidate, what we have in Trump is a carnival barker. Given his current negatives among every polled demographic, his chances of being elected to the Presidency are close to zero. Trump is perceived as being such a liability to the GOP that many of their most prominent officials have vowed never to vote for him. Many Republicans are shaking in their political boots at the down-ticket implications of an election that has him at the head of the ticket.
All considered, Trump's ascendance to the the top of the Republican ticket is in fact the ultimate expression of poetic justice. This is the chicken that the GOP has hatched after seven years of roosting with the TeaParty. They now find themselves in the awkward position of desperately wanting to defeather their own hatchling. This is without doubt a painful existential moment for the Grand Ole Party. When they look at the face of this bombastic offspring of their own reactionary overindulgence they see themselves... And it is not a pretty sight. They would love to snuff out his political breath, or put a cork in his outrageous mouth... but it is too late. Short of breaking his proverbial wings with the blunt force of some kind of obstructive maneuver, they are helpless. They are at the mercy of his bombast and bluster. The GOP is now left to tend to its own self-inflicted wounds. One look at Reince Priebus' face during recent interviews reveals the extent of their pain.
For Donald Trump's part, the true nature and potential of his ascendancy is about to be revealed. The prospect of having his wings clipped by the Grand Ole Party that regards him with unbridled disgust is one thing. Finding out that his rise has largely been a function of the superficial nature of the whole process will be quite another. He seems genuinely surprised that he rose to the top of what was quite a heap. His closeness to the luster of the nation's highest office is apparently quite thrilling to him. Like the son of Daedalus, he is all fired up about his ability to rise to unexpected heights. Hell, he had no problem negotiating the GOP's political labyrinth. Daedalus is to Icarus what the Republican Party is to Donald Trump... His daddy.
But, like Icarus flying too close to the sun with wings created by his father, when Donald discovers that the feathers enabling his political rise are fixed by wax... his will be quite a dilemma. The fate of our Greek protagonist is not to be wished on anyone. If Mr Bombastic is lucky he may land on another one of those TV reality dramas... much diminished of course, but with the ability to rehabilitate his unwieldy ego much like the banks have repeatedly rehabilitated his financial life. Icarus was not so lucky... he fell into the sea and drowned, leaving his father to bitterly lament his own craft... Much like the GOP will lament theirs.
Monday, May 9, 2016
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