04 July 2020

The New York Review of Books: “The Most Ignorant and Unfit: What Made America’s Worst Ever Leader?”

Being president, former First Lady Michelle Obama has said, doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are. In this moment, we may also need to acknowledge that presidents also reveal much about who we are.

Acknowledging that Donald Trump is very likely the worst president American democracy has ever produced and that we, as citizens in that democracy, must accept a general responsibility for choosing such a man, is only the first, and perhaps easiest, step we can take in remedying the situation. If the worst presidents are produced by their historical moment, enabled by their parties, and reflective of deep divides and flaws in American life, simply voting them out is insufficient. We must address the root causes that enabled a man as profoundly flawed and corrupt as Trump to win high office.

Trump is a sign that we as a nation have lost our way. Just as Hamilton warned, a confusion of celebrity for leadership, fame for accomplishment, and popularity for genius has given us “a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune”. Seizing the opportunity, unscrupulous “insolent men” have pandered to the lowest common denominators of fear and greed to win power and exploit it for a small elite. November’s election is a judgment day for this nation’s form of republican government. Or else, only “civil commotion” awaits us.

David Rothkopf

In my ever growing reading list I saved an article, by now almost two months old, that sought to blame Donald Trump and his failures as President for the massive – and growing – coronavirus crisis in the United States. It is, unfortunately, quite easy to blame this on a single person while ignoring the contribution of the Republican party to the election of Donald Trump and to the polarization inside the United States, the weak opposition from the Democratic party, and the structural issues left unaddressed for decades.

President Donald Trump attending a D-Day commemoration, Portsmouth, England
President Donald Trump attending a D-Day commemoration against a backdrop featuring America’s wartime president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Portsmouth, England, June 5, 2019 Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The article above from David Rothkopf does a very good job of outlining these factors that contributed to America’s Worst Leader – and the obvious remedy: that American people have to, first and foremost, take responsibility for his election, in order to reform and not repeat the same mistake. Sadly, the presence of Donald Trump in the highest office in the country is exacerbating the divisions in American society and I fear few people have the lucidity and strength to see past the daily turmoil towards a better society.

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