There’s always been a glimpse of the glory of Rome in American politics. We like our heroes, and we like our Presidents to match the outsized responsibilities given them by the Constitution–we like them larger than life. Unlike European nations, our Presidents are lionized through storms like Horatius Cocles holding the bridge at the Tiber.
This is why when a President is damaged, like Nixon was, America is damaged. Since 1974, the nation has spent its time regaining, losing, and regaining, that idealized Presidency, to the point that now the Plebians (the electorate and parties) have become a mob seeking its hero. Politicians are no longer representatives of the varied and conflicting wants of states in a pluralistic society–they are national demagogues, heroes and mages upon a stage where solutions are valued beneath brand and image.
When Barack Obama claimed his anointing upon a recreation of a Greek temple mount, we were witness to the beginning of the Age of Heroes. Why, Obama even got the Nobel Peace Prize for accomplishing nothing at all other than being Barack Obama, Hero of the Republic.
Hillary Clinton once tried to run on her provenance as First Lady behind the battered throne of Bill the Philanderer, and lost to the Hope and Change Hero, Obama. Then she ran again against the Plebian Hero Donald Trump, his unstoppable brand being everything in opposition to Obama. Back then, I believed others in the GOP could have won against Hillary. I still think that, but in fact, Publius Decius Mus (Michael Anton) was right–the electorate wanted a Flight 93 election. They wanted a hero, not a political compromiser.
Democrats are now lining up their slate of potential heroes and heroines to take on Trump in 2020, and I believe this view of the Plebian Hero, Cultural Conqueror, High Priest(ess) of the Holy Faith, has irreversibly overtaken the race, as the one deciding factor of who will win.
I believe we will see candidates like Joe Biden fade, and those like Pete Buttigieg and Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke rise. Brand and imaging is what will drive momentum. Bernie Sanders still has quite a bit of influence, but he’s likely in the spoiler role, like Ross Perot in 1992, except not as a third party, but within the Democrats.
Some candidates have a good presentation, but not the Hero image, such as Stacey Abrams. She’ll be a race-baiting pot-stirrer and conspiracy-hucking fundraiser, holding out until she find the horse to best hitch to her wagon. Others will quickly fade, looking for the magic Bread & Circuses formula to pacify the Plebians.
Just like Caesar Augustus, both Democrats and Republicans are pandering. Whether it’s the Border Wall (which is something both parties have agreed for decades was needed), or cutting unlimited debt spending, candidates have resorted to magic, Bread & Circuses instead of solutions.
A Border Wall will not magically solve our drug, gang, and violence problems–though it will help. And free college for all, or free healthcare for all, or free anything, is hardly free for anyone. You can only tax the rich so much until there are no rich left to tax, since money is fungible and wealth can flee across borders. As Winston Churchill famously said, “I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.” What government gives away is given by the hands of its own citizens.
But the Plebians don’t want to think that way. So they go to the Flight 93 analogy, discarding decades of think-tank output as elitist carping and crying that “the Republic is dying.” Only a magician can save it, by a magic incantation over the Plebian mob, that reinstates its most sacred myths of whatever “conservatism” means at that moment.
Unfortunately, the Hero worship has defined conservatism as profligate spending, reckless shredding of Constitutional principles, using lies and blatant self-interest as unrighteous means to a righteous end (which is absurd), and other peccadilloes too numerous to list.
As bad as Republicans have tarnished American presidential politics, Democrats have made their cause into nothing less than a golpe de estado. They want a revolution, an overthrow of the Electoral College, of capitalism, and of the Constitution itself. While conservatives feel that it took a hero to preserve the Republic from a slow death by progressivism, now that Trump is in office, Democrats believe that only their own hero can work a dark magic in breaking Trump’s mob.
Many disagree, saying that the average Joe and Jane don’t want to overthrow anything, that they want a Joe Biden, or a (God rest his soul) John McCain, who at least have been willing to put their own demagoguery behind actual policies, when it suited their political aims.
But recent history proves this is false. Americans want a demagogue. They want a full-fledged Hero, straight from central casting. Obama fell, so long live Trump. Now it’s either Trump, or another challenger. I don’t think Biden has the brand power to last. It will be Beto or Buttigieg, or possibly, whoever wins over Bernie’s crowd.
If I had to bet on it today (it’s really early), Buttigieg has the slight edge, being perceived as a man of faith by those who don’t care for the actual Biblical words written in red and would rather worship an ecumenical porridge of progressive ideals and Deism. Buttigieg also has his military experience, which makes Beto seem like an up-married slacker millionaire gamer. (That’s because Beto is, in fact, an up-married slacker who never risked a dollar in his life.)
But maybe Democrats want exactly that: a Hero Gamer to face the Hero Golfer.
I believe policy is indeed dead for 2020. This will be a battle for branding. In that regard, America is harmed. It will only change when the Plebians stop being Plebians and start once again being citizens. Sadly, not this year, so we will wait and keep the fires burning for another day when the Age of Heroes is over.