My Daily Kos Essay

This is what I posted on Daily Kos last week. Thought I’d share it here too:

Ever since the system of representative government (a.k.a. “democracy”) became the government system of choice in most the Western World, we have come to assume that it is “a government for the people by the people,” as was eloquently expressed by Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address.

We need more leaders and less politicians! If I were the type to go out and picket or brandish placards at some demonstration or other, this is the one that I would carry.

The United States is a republican democracy, where the citizens choose the leaders of their country. The word “republic” is derived from the Latin phrase res publica, which can be translated as “a public affair.” A republic in the modern understanding is a nation or state where the people are sovereign. (Wikipedia). A representative democracy that emphasizes individual liberty is called a liberal democracy. This also is a characteristic of the U.S. democracy. One would think, by looking at these two characteristics of our form of government, that Republicans as well as Democrats (or “liberals” as they are being characterized nowadays—in a somewhat derogatory way), ought to be on the same page as far as principles and ideas (and ideals) of governance are concerned.

Ideally, this would be the case. However, over time these original concepts have evolved into partisanships, and the two have become irreconcilably polarized. One of the main characteristics of a democracy is that of “the majority rule.” Paradoxically, this is what also causes large segments of the population to NOT be represented by the leadership that happens to be in power thus finding itself oppressed by a “tyranny of the majority,” (except during the 2004 U.S. presidential elections when it was clear that the majority was NOT in favor of re-electing Bush).

What does this have to do with the quality of leadership, one may ask? Well, since we are—for better or worse—saddled (or blessed—you decide which) with this form of government, it would behoove us to do our utmost to choose leaders who would be models of such qualities:

  • Integrity: honesty, soundness of moral character, acting according to one’s inner values;
  • Dedication: commitment to an ideal or a cause;
  • Magnanimity: give credit to those who merit it and take responsibility for one’s own failures;
  • Humility: recognize that one is no better or worse than others in one’s team; understand that one’s status does not make one intrinsically superior;
  • Openness: ability to listen to new ideas; accept new ways of doing things;
  • Creativity: ability to think differently, to lead in new directions;
  • Fairness: evaluate all sides before passing judgment, not leaping to conclusions;
  • Assertiveness: ability to state what is expected with clarity without leaving room for misunderstanding;
  • Sense of humor: ability to relieve tension and defuse hostility;

When I chose to vote for President Obama, I did so because I recognized in him the qualities of a good leader, not a politician. I haven’t been disappointed yet.

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible these days to find these characteristics in most of our members of Congress, the consummate politicians. Partisanship continues to cloud decision-making, continues to impede the progress of ideas that would prove beneficial for the country; it is the single most cause of discord among elected officials and their followers. Today we are being held hostage by “professional politicians,” committed to push their party’s agendas regardless of merit. They are unable to recognize any merit in the other party’s ideas, and thus their scale of values becomes completely skewed. No longer can we trust those who have been chosen to represent us, therefore they no longer represent us.

This is why I feel so despondent and discouraged about the upcoming November elections; I’m afraid that the two elements of a perfect storm will present themselves at that time: (a) complete apathy on the part of the voting populace who will choose not to even bother to cast their vote—whichever side of the fence they may be on—or will just follow along with the loudest, flashiest slogan that happens to catch their attention, not bothering to verify facts before casting their vote (and we all know who is doing the most screeching these days, right?); and (b) due to the unprecedented Supreme Court ruling about campaign financing a few months ago—another wonderful legacy from our fine-feathered ex-prez Bush—a whole lot of money will be poured into political campaigns that will boost the positions of those who will obviously favor corporate interests and moneyed clans; this will complete the vicious circle (back to [a]). So there you go. What are the chances of getting some real leadership in Congress this time around? None or next to nil.

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