Everything is wrong…so elect me

Everything is going wrong. The economy is poor, the military is weak, the government is corrupt, elections are rigged, we’re being invaded, crime is rampant…a litany of doom and disaster has been pushed by those who would like us to react in fear.

It doesn’t have to reflect reality. In the U.S., crime is down, the economy is recovering from COVID and the years prior, our international alliances are recovering, but to aspiring autocrats, it doesn’t matter. Why? If we fear enough we may be willing to cast our vote for someone who appears strong and confident to save us. It is the historic tactic of the would-be autocrat. “Only I can save you.” Vladimir Putin, the Russian autocrat, has used this successfully comparing his autocratic order in contrast to the economic chaos of the Yeltsin post-Soviet years. Everything is awful. I am an outsider who can ride in on my white horse and save the day. I am an outsider.


Why is it that billionaires and millionaires are the main so-called leaders who claim this? They are the ultimate insiders in a society that worships wealth. They say that they will not be subject to “special interests,” without saying that they themselves, represent the special interests of the wealthy class. We consistently vote for the wealthy one-percenters. Not because of their political ideas, but because of the mistaken perception that because if they are good at corralling money and property, they will be good at legislation for the rest of us. They run as outsiders because they realize that the only authority that can regulate them is a democratically elected government and an independent civil service. If they are wealthy enough to self fund their campaign, they say they will be beholden to no one. That means you and me as well. To people running as an “outsider,” government must be seen as evil, and civil servants as agents of an ominous “deep state.” If they can get voters to distrust the institutions that made America great, then they will sell their votes to the wealthy, self-serving onepercenters, who wish for an oligarchy to rule in the U.S.


What drives individuals to aspire to be autocrats? Aspiring autocrats have a narcissistic drive for wealth, power, and historic glory. None of these qualities bode well for their countries. They model an illusion of efficiency, singleness of purpose, and willingness to use violence. Violence is important to an autocrat because it emphasizes the reduction of national issues to a false dichotomy of either/or. On the other hand, democratic governments are efficient in allowing the voices of competing visions of society to compete in the town square. Democracies move slowly because they explore a wide range of alternatives before making decisions. They are, however, inefficient in the speed with which they implement change.

What is a political strong man? It is not an individual who is insecure in his ideas. A real man enters into the debate of ideas with enough confidence that he can learn as well talk. He is a man willing to compromise with others, recognizing that politics is the art of the possible. That means the strongman has the ability to work with others and form relationships with people who have significant differences with him.


Extremism is isolating. “Only I am right,” hardly builds relationships. A confident man is capable of listening, learning, and modifying positions. Some people think they like a person who means what they say, but if they are incapable of learning and changing, they are limited to the confines of their limited experience and learning. Can one be a dictator for a day? That is simply not possible. If leaders wish to be a dictator for a day, that means they desire to use their individual power to institute their personal wishes, whether for revenge, or to establish their autocratic power. Either way, if that leader were to step back and allow the constitutional rule of law to return on the second day, they would be liable for the illegalities they practiced on their day of dictatorial power.


The only way dictators can maintain their power is through their control of the organized use of state violence (the military and police), and physical repression of political opponents (who they strive to convert into enemies). After all, in a dictatorship, to oppose the leader is to oppose the nation! In a functioning democracy, a robust but legal opposition is necessary to keep autocracy at bay.