You would think our current democratic process - leadership through character assassination - is an improvement over our previous approach: leadership through actual assassination. To a certain extent you would be right. However, you have to admit that a process hopelessly addicted to any form of assassination is not exactly a meaningful improvement. It is more a vicious cycle of mass denial.
Our politics dwell in that twilight zone, somewhere between our yearn for truth and our fear of the unknown. It is a dimension where every major election year we relieve ourselves as sole guardians of our convictions. At that juncture we full-throttle towards the moral high ground, grass-rooting vicariously through something we call a politician. We then entrust said politician with our convictions in the form of a vote. With every major electoral cycle, we experience an added level of anxiety, anger, and disdain for those who are not betting on the same facts we are. This is our life-or-death directive we are holding up, like a biblical reenactment of Abraham offering his son to a god's sacrificial whims. This is also the politics of fear, fueled by our human addiction to drama.
Enter center stage our modern day demigods: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, David Cameron, Boris Johnson, and many others. In the dark shadows of the stage, a supporting cast of senators, congressmen, members of parliament, humming "Don't Cry for Me...". As we witness this opera ad nauseam, it eventually becomes soberingly clear that our political perceptions were more blindsided than we knew.
I'm not sure I know how to put this, other than these are not the leaders you're looking for. Nor have they ever been. That's not to say the past has not offered decent leaders, whatever you conceive that to be. It's just that our passion for someone or something to change the world, or to bring our world back "again", may not be as enlightened as we think it is.
For the record, I'm not advocating dismantling our well-intentioned democratic system. Even if I was preaching such a heresy, I couldn't possibly come close to the damage our common leaders have already done. Politicians have been eroding the constitutional rules of engagement with or without your consent. To be sure, some of the erosion makes sense: change must take place for evolution to do its thing, whether we like it or not. A country that reveres the word "freedom" couldn't continue to engage, with any remnant of a conscience, in slavery, or native genocide, or misogyny, or segregation (apartheid).
Yet in spite of the painful progress, every year a freshman class of politicians is always eager and ready to expand the dark side of democracy. This perpetual dark side has a perceived impact of turning democracy into a zero-sum game. "Gridlock" I believe is the term du jour. When millions of citizens are easily spooked away from the hard-earned fundamentals of democracy, we have a problem. When a handful of wise words such as "well regulated militia", "unreasonable search and seizure", or "no laws respecting the establishment of religion" are distorted from self-evident truths into political agendas, our mission to form a more perfect union has failed.
Be that as it may, come November, by all means vote. But for the love of humanity give the drama a rest. The change you're looking for will never in a million years come from politicians. The closest that humanity has come to great leadership is when a very limited number of human beings told their followers exactly the opposite of what 99% of politicians do: go lead yourselves. A man in a tunic over two thousand years ago asked his followers to stop casting stones. Seventy years ago, another man in a tunic told his followers to stop demanding change, and to be the change. And perhaps the last time this great country was graced by an inspired agent of change, sixty-six years ago a man had the audacity to tell his followers to stop demanding someone make the country great again. Instead, he challenged them to start asking themselves: what can they do for their country?
All three of these wise men were assassinated. Actually assassinated. Because democracy, like the truth, is relentlessly inconvenient. It was not designed to vindicate our convictions. With its deepest regrets, and much to the heartache of democracy, the truth will not be making an appearance at our upcoming political party conventions. It has a real universe to run. So turn off your TV sets over the next couple of weeks, and go find leadership in its right place… where it’s always been.