As we approach another election featuring two repulsive candidates it’s more important than ever to question what makes an acceptable leader?
It’s become obvious that those who rise to the top are those who are the most talented examples of those who are blind or submissive to power and those who can think most cleverly without thinking critically. Meanwhile, our economic system (neoliberalism) is set up in a way that rewards sociopathy with wealth and power, which means high-functioning sociopaths tend to rise to the top in business, government, and media.
The term for this cadre is a technocrat, but the few who rise to the very top are the ones who can put a happy face on the ruthlessness of our neoliberal economic policies. Think Bill Clinton, or Barak Obama.
In reality, Clinton completed the conservative counter-attack that Ronald Reagan began – much as Barack Obama would do to further the national security state after the horrors of the Iraq invasion. Neither Clinton nor Obama changed the substance of our economic and foreign policies, but they did make them look deceptively attractive by tinkering with social policy.
Were the neoliberal ideology made apparent and articulated by these erstwhile progressives, no one except the billionaires and their lackey’s would vote for such a system. However, neoliberalism is nothing if not adaptable, constantly altering its shape and appearance to deceive us. Powers goal is to keep looking like it has become something new, something innovative. Because the power-structure does not want change, it has to find front-men and women who can personify a transformation that is, in truth, entirely hollow. “Hope and Change”, anyone?
In the upcoming election we will be endlessly told how it will be the most important contest ever with the fate of our country hanging in the balance, but that will be a lie. When you look behind the facade there’s really not much difference between Biden and Trump.
Our liberal gatekeepers have been shrieking about Trump since forever but he’s turned out to be not much different from Obama who turned out to be not that much different than Bush. The angst over Trump, I believe, is largely due to the fact that he isn’t a high-functioning sociopath of the caliber of Obama. He’s so obvious that he gives the game away. Hence the concern from elite political and media talking heads. Also, unlike an Obama or a Clinton, he too clearly illuminates what is really at stake for power–wealth maximisation at any cost–and thereby risks unmasking the deception. Obama, crucially, could keep the sociopathy on the down low, while Trump tweets it from the rooftops.
Going further, the #Resistance to Trump has been largely spearheaded by wealthy members of the professional-managerial-class (PMC), who were Obama’s biggest supporters. I believe that their opposition to Trump is magnified by the secret guilt they feel to be the largest beneficiaries of the neoliberal, globalized economic system that Trump purportedly ran against. These PMC’s have benefitted mightily as American middle-class jobs have been exported to China, resulting in a flood of cheap electronics and consumer products.
They’ve also benefitted from the immigration of Third-World workers to the US. Highly educated woman have achieved great gains in the professional sector (particularly in urban areas), because other women–typically women of color, often immigrants–are fulfilling the traditional care-taking roles within the household, such as childcare, preparing and serving meals and cleaning the house. Thus PMC families have typically been able to profit from the wife working, despite hiring people to perform domestic labor, by paying these workers often non-livable wages for their services.
Trump, as you might recall from the way back-machine, campaigned against all of these things, especially how they affected America’s white-working-class. Of course, he’s turned out to be a typical Republican president with his concern for tax cuts, resource extraction and slashing environmental regulations. Paradoxically, he’s been the right figure head for the populist moment. If neoliberalism has to choose, it typically prefers an insurgent on the right to the left. A right-wing populist figure, like Trump, can usefully serve power too, because he dons the clothes of an insurgent while doing little to actually change the underlying structure.
By the time someone runs for president they’ve more than demonstrated those skills I mentioned at the beginning. That they are blind or submissive to power, can think cleverly without thinking critically, and can reliably deploy their skills where they are directed to do so. Ultimately, these candidates have made Faustian pacts as a condition for being granted access to power.
The election of 2020 will be, once again, a protest election, with the American people desperate for a change of policy trajectory. However, our feral elite have made it clear, once again, that they have no interest in changing a throughly corrupt system that provides them enormous rewards. Indeed, it’s like they’re giving us the finger. Team Red is running a rapist for president. Team Blue is running a rapist for president.