Seton Motley has put his finger on something in recent American politics that has been bugging me for some time now. It is the cult of personality of our leaders.
Third world countries with less sophisticated understandings of government and its limits routinely fall for the blandishments of "great" men or women.
During the warm-up to the 2012 presidential race, it was apparent that even Republicans wanted somebody to fall in love with in a way that our Founders would have found appalling (I hope you will forgive me for quoting my own blog from that era):
Your inner Democrat is what is lurking behind your oft-stated unhappiness over the current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls. You recognize that Mitt will never make you swoon. Voters seemed frustrated that no one ever needed to pack smelling salts for a Tim Pawlenty rally, a major reason his campaign couldn't last through the summer. You are waiting for somebody to sweep you off your feet and dance you around the ballroom until dawn. You want—in short—to love like a Democrat. But you’re better than that.
We are Americans and we not supposed to fall in love with our politicians. This isn’t the way our flinty Founders, steeped in the classics of Greece and Rome, designed the republic.
Mr. Motley goes beyond tmy observation and points out that we now want "great" leaders. The Founders knew that people are inclined to want "great" and set up a system designed to thwart such men and women. It was built on our Constitution. Mr. Motley writes:
We don’t need as leaders great men and women. We need ordinary men and women – who get out of the Constitution’s way and allow America and Americans to be great.
Washington, D.C. is overflowing with oft ridiculous people – trying to use government to augment their opinions of themselves. Government-policy-as-therapy may make you feel better – and appear better inside the Beltway. But it’s awful for the rest of us.
In just about every way possible, the federal government is careening out of control – and light years beyond its Constitutional bounds. And only gets worse and worse as more and more people pile in and pile on – looking for their own slice of “great.”
The Founders saw this coming – and established as a backstop the Separation and Balance of Powers. The Executive, Judicial and Legislative Branches were established to work both symbiotically – and adversarially. But all three Branches are populated by mere men and women – too many of whom are seeking to be “great.”
The Judicial Branch far too often – instead of going for Constitutional – goes for ever-bigger-government “landmark.” Or “historic.” In search of their share of “great.”
Congress was designed make our laws and to rein in the executive. If Congress won't do the president's bidding nowadays, however, he will "go it alone." There is no "go it alone clause" in the Constitution, but that doesn't stop him.
Federal agencies routinely promulgate rules and regulations that are in effect laws unauthorized by Congress and yet Congress doesn't confront them. Of course, they know that President Obama will find a way to win in the end (see: Iran nuclear deal).
We were not supposed to be a nation where people fell in love with their leaders and wished them to be great at the expense of the laws.
God forbid that the United States do this.
Thanks, Mr. Motley for stating this so clearly.