This has certainly been an unusual election season! I am sure almost all Americans would agree. It has brought out every faction, interest group, and ideological stance in America. There have been the free traders, neoliberals, socialists, nationalists and globalists, isolationists and interventionists, evangelicals, small and big government supporters, those against the 1%, environmentalists, feminists, libertarians, Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter and the list goes on. The old right and left divides seem to be shaken. Is this really a change election?
The call is for change, and the status quo is something to ridicule by many. But when asked for details beyond, “well, things have just got to change,” most are unsure – on the right and left – what that change entails. I do think this is a change election, but not the kind of change that most people hope for.
We are down to two major contenders: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who have emerged victorious from bruising primary battles. Since there has been mountains written about this election, I wondered what I may contribute that has not already been repeatedly talked about. I came up with an idea after reading George Lakoff’s recent article, watching parts of the Republican National Convention, and watching the Democratic National Convention, especially a segment featuring Mothers Against Gun Violence. What has clearly emerged is that the two nominees have significant styles of leadership and governing. The big question is, “Which one do you think is best for the country?”
I see the two sides as 1.) community/mother as portrayed by Hillary Clinton and 2.) authoritarian/father, represented by Donald Trump. Two starkly different styles of leadership with very different results for America.
Donald Trump exemplifies every characteristic of a strong, authoritarian leader – bullying, caustic language, threatening charges, belittling opponents, and the list goes on. It is a style of leadership that we have seen before in strong-men from Joseph Stalin, Juan Peron, Benito Mussolini to Adolph Hitler; our history books are full of these leaders as they sweep to power and control those they rule. I think it is a reach to compare Trump to these historical dictators, but I think it is fair to point out the authoritarian streak that runs through Trump’s campaign. It is tempting for people who feel they have been marginalized by society to turn to a strong-man ruler who offers reassurances that he will solve all problems, and return the country to a place of security and respect as it was in an imaginary past. They see a direct link to their problems with solutions the strong-man promises, such as blame the immigrants, get rid of trade deals, or numerous other easy solutions to complex problems. Strongman rule has always resulted in disaster. You can’t solve complex problems with easy solutions, violence, and coercion.
Let’s spend some time on the style of leadership that Hillary Clinton shows flashes of governing by: communitarian/mother. In fact, her campaign slogan is “Stronger Together.” Many people see problems with direct causes and solutions; issues as primarily black and white with understandable solutions – inequality is caused by the concentration of wealth among the 1%, then tax the 1% more or trade deals have caused the loss of manufacturing jobs, then get rid of all trade deals. Instead, most problems are complex and part of a system in which multiple factors cause inequality and simple solutions will not solve them. It is easy to say A causes B and all we have to do is do is C, and all will be solved. It is more difficult to look at A,B,C,D, and E as causes with indefinite solutions.
I thought the Mothers Against Gun Violence provided an excellent model for a different way of solving problems. Adults who are sharing a common problem join together to address solving that problem by looking at and exploring all the factors that went into creating the problem. In this case, the proliferation of guns, police biases, social and family breakdown, violence in society, lack of community services, and gang warfare are some of the factors contributing to the death of their son or daughter. In giving their comments at the DNC, some mothers drew on their deep faith in God, others said it wasn’t all police that caused harm, and others spoke of how their dead child was giving voice through them to make a difference in the world. Hillary Clinton is closely aligned with this group of women and seems to embrace their particular approach to the problem. The DNC showcased a similar group supporting slain police. The two groups sure have a lot in common.
I am very drawn to this style of collective/community/mother leadership. If implemented at the national level it would be a revolution. Commentators chastise the Clinton campaign for not having big ideas, such as Trump’s building a wall or Sander’s campaign for free college education, but community/collective problem solving IS a big idea, it has never been done before on a large scale. It would be the political revolution that Sanders called for but at a grassroots level and not causing big headlines. The results of community-based actions are promising and hopefully a national champion supporting this effort, such as the president, would help it grow.
We often want quick and simple answers to our complex problems, but to have long-lasting solutions often takes a long time and more than federal legislation. Community based solutions bypass the gridlock in the government. To me breaking the final glass ceiling that Hillary Clinton hopes to do in November, will not only be celebrating the first woman to govern in the White House but also breaking the glass ceiling of the authoritarian/hierarchical type of leadership that is paralyzing our nation and creating havoc around the world. A community-based leadership style and collective solutions would indeed be the BIG idea or the political revolution that many Americans so desperately crave.
- What is community-based organizing?
- Do you think it would work?