Unfortunately, We Don’t want Competance in our Leaders, We want Relatability
The Trump presidency is what happens when a regular guy becomes president. I’m serious. A person that we all know, maybe have beers with or see on the bus everyday or slices our cold-cuts. This is currently who our President is and it is largely why.
Everyone has that boyfriend of your girlfriends friend whose just a little racist, but doesn’t think they are, shrouded in “I’m just telling it like it is” or the dreaded “I’m not a racist but….”; everyone has those friends or friends of friends who can’t process more then one perspective at a time about any issue, they find an angle they can use, that they think is unassailable, and despite any evidence to the contrary, absolutely will-not-change.
Everyone has that family member whose view of the world is hardened like granite and the only option is we don’t talk about certain things at holidays or graduations.
Everyone has had that significant other who after being together for a while we’re surprised to learn was a little bit of a bigot, or classist or homophobe. Everyone knows that person at the bar who flouts incorrect facts, a flawed narrow perspective or fallacious logic and gets angry to the point of blows when you challenge them with real logic and actual facts or will not accept how they insist on constructing their argument with ‘YOU’ as the base of their hypothetical foundational thesis rather then the actual topic with an objective perspective; because it was either a direct challenge to the personal philosophy they have been clinging to for years or a refusal to admit flawed logic, caught in this trap, rather then change, the reaction is fight.
Unfortunately, we are all Trump it seems, and to be honest, this is why he won; it certainly wasn’t because of his philosophy or grasp of the issues or his polish and poise; it was his relatability.
Relatability is often the reason for success in art, it is not usually the standard for leadership. Historically, we have asked more of our leaders then we do of ourselves, but this erosion of expectation and gravitation to relatability is a circumstance which began, I believe, with the folksy Carter, then became a fundamental factor with Reagan, then Clinton over the clunky elder Bush (although Clinton was the best of both worlds, albeit as a genius every-man with all the flaws that come with that). The bar was terrifyingly lowered with W; Bush was us, both controlled and directed by the experienced statesman that was his father, his ordinariness not allowed to run to-to far, too amuck, although before the present, his, by most accounts, was one of the worst examples of a presidency. He did at least have an experienced father, being his saving grace, to temper his worst tendencies coupled with his “down-home-ness” or relatability, and it was his election more then any other single thing which made Trump possible. When competence is no longer an important consideration, these are the results.
With Obama, again we were blessed with the brilliance and competence combined with that precious relatability. It could be argued that it was essential to JFK, but again, that was still an era where we had tremendous expectations of those in positions of power. Why we stopped demanding exceptionalism from our leaders is anyone’s guess, maybe its our own arrogance and self importance and inability to admit mistakes or flaws which created this environment.
The Trump presidency is what happens when a regular guy becomes president; under-informed, slightly under-educated, too busy and consumed with his own importance to have more then a cursory understanding of any one issue.
There is “that guy” at almost every party who gets drunk and says mean and rude or ignorant racist things, but normally is such a great guy everyone just accepts it with eye rolls or nervous laughter and says “oh that’s just Simon” or “Frank” or “Donald”, we all know these people. These people are us. We can either expect more from ourselves, more from our leaders again, or both, because Trump is our creation. Maybe that is why there has been such a violent, visceral reaction to the Trump presidency, we can’t believe what we have become, we can not accept that this is the America that we thought we knew, the people that we were so sure we are. I always thought that if there were to be any good that could come out of a Trump presidency it would be to expose us for who we are, make us admit to that which we don’t want to believe.
We cannot separate ourselves from those who voted for Trump, its almost half of the electorate, the arrogant dismissal of this population is at least partially responsible for the populist wave which swept him into office. To deny what occurred, to categorically reject the circumstances that made it possible is to reinforce the perspective of those who angrily voted for him. Rejecting him, is rejecting them, anyone who works in mediation knows that approaching compromise from the perceptive of superiority is a nonstarter.
Sorry, sometimes the truth hurts and none more then this, because whether we like it or not, Trump is us.