Cults of Personality
Everything one needs to know about perception and politics can be had for the cost of a dvd. The Ides of March shows how a Democrat can capture the popular vote almost entirely on the basis of the audio-visual continuum. If it sounds good, if it looks good, it can be president. It gets hard after a certain point to contain one's cynicism. Unfortunately, without an attachment to the sad fact of human characteristics, no leadership ever materializes. And when that happens, it is a far worse matter than when the party one hates the most wins. Not everyone looks back with favor on Reagonomics, but the strong leadership of this cross-over presidency led to uncommon economic results. And then came the idea of a gentler, kinder form of conservatism, and even that worked, despite plenty of disbelief. As long as there is somebody whose image or carriage or quirkiness can carry the day, all kinds of policies and strategies can actually do the job. But again, if the battle descends toward language and abstract ideology, then trouble brews, and it does so because both sides are right and wrong in equal measure, at least in the undifferentiated minds of their supporters and detractors. There are, for instance, those who think the welfare state is the greatest part of today's democracy; and others claim the exact opposite. But the welfare state as well as the anti-welfare state are not running against one another.
The fact of the matter is, America survives every single administration, one right after the other. The big fear that someone might be elected who will gum up the works for good has never materialized. There are those checks and balances that we learned about in grade school, the federalist papers later on, and apparently things function. But government can never completely relax and turn to auto-pilot. Someone has to be at the main switch, and it is never easy to know who the best man or woman is, given the fact that there are so many powerful interests involved. But that is where the personality factor is best employed. The Commander-in-Chief's inclinations and predilections can be enough to put down both plutocrats and demogogues, and such forces do exist. His or her likes and dislikes can act as effectively as laws or customs. Tyranny can gather strength on either side of the political spectrum, by the way, though it seems, speaking objectively, with some bias, that the greater threat in 2012 is on the right and will call itself conservative.
And, chances are, it will build upon the personalities that it might not be able itself to produce. Conservatives who quote Reagan or liberals who quote Kennedy are both suspect at the starting gate. We cherish the sacred memories of leaders who seem to have been chosen not just by election but by a starry decree. It is a lucky thing, too, that both sides fight for the middle. The extremes are much more worrisome, but ideally, leadership should be able to go either way, against its own label, if necessary. The current contest should get interesting as it nears November. A lot is at stake, though the forward momentum so earnestly sought will not all originate in the oval office.
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