For those who care enough to learn the lessons of history, the echoes of the ancient past can be heard clearly amidst the discord of the chaotic present. If we want to understand the crisis of political leadership that plagues our country and our world, we have only to look back to earliest records of national governance, nearly 3000 years ago.
It was the 9th Century Before the Common Era. 391 years had passed since the Children of Israel first entered their land. For nearly four centuries, Jewish society had been plagued by divisiveness, political instability, and spiritual ambivalence. But at last, after the prophet Samuel spent his entire career teaching the Jews to more deeply respect the law and inspiring them to more profoundly appreciate their national mission, the people united in response to his invocations and dispatched emissaries to ask:
“Appoint a king to rule over us like all the other nations” (1 Samuel 8:5).
Seemingly, the Jews had finally come to their collective senses, recognizing that all their political and social strife stemmed from a pervasive national attitude in which “every man did what seemed right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Without a strong executive office to pilot the ship of state, without a single voice of authority to bind many into one, the tribes of Israel remained a disconnected confederation of individuals who joined forces only when necessary and turned against one another whenever self-interest clashed with national purpose and identity.
240 years ago, another attempt was made to create a new nation, conceived in liberty, and built upon guiding principles of equality and justice.
Today, that same nation, blessed with more power, prosperity, freedom, and opportunity than any in the history of the modern world, confronts a political system crippled by bloat, inefficiency, and corruption. At a moment in time when we desperately need inspired leadership, we face a contest between a socialist and a sociopath in one party, a narcissist and a curmudgeon in the other. And while the frontrunners serenade us with siren-songs of high-sounding dreams and visions — all deeply divorced from reality — the few aspirants who attempt to set forth concrete policy proposals and plans of action wallow in low single digits.
Why is the electorate so eager to embrace the illusion of leadership and so unwilling to recognize the real hope of positive change?