In the middle of a collective trauma it can be hard sometimes to take a step back and figure out what’s happening. The “fog of war” sets in, not only on battlefields, but also in stressful upheavals of many kinds. America is in the fog of war now. The election of 2020 is a catastrophe in the fullest sense of the word—a massive, collective misfortune, like the kinds depicted in all-star 1970s disaster movies: The Towering Inferno, Earthquake, Airplane, The Poseidon Adventure, and countless other films whose titles deserve exclamation points.
This year I’ve been more attuned than usual to the importance of US politics to people around the world. I worked with Latin Americans on symposia about the US election and also worked with Francophone conservatives who watched the elections closely. More than in earlier election cycles, this year people around the world felt they had a stake in it. When he wasn’t demonized, Trump symbolized for many people abroad the last hope for a politics of sovereignty. They saw in Trump’s rise the hope for a trend that would involve leaders caring for their citizens with the passion and favoritism of a father caring for his children.
The election night and aftermath have caused anxiety not only in US citizens, who feel now that their political system cannot be trusted; but also in the America-watchers abroad who feel a loss of hope. If America’s government is so dysfunctional that even Trump cannot overcome its corruption, they wonder, “how much more unlikely is it that our nation will find a Trump figure of our own?” As people from countless nations have pointed out, the most basic duty of a republic is to be able to count votes and guarantee citizens their sovereignty. Tampering with election results is the highest form of treason. While plenty of countries have had phony or corrupt elections, the Biden-Trump race stands out as particularly disgraceful, especially given the United States’ reputation as the democratic gold standard.
Having grown up in a country that cherished its Constitution and prided itself in its political tradition, many of us feel a mix of panic and malaise. Unless we see signs that the system can—and will—be fixed, we fear that our time as a great nation has indeed passed. The republic of John Adams and Abraham Lincoln is over, and we may never have our country back. Sadly, in speaking to people from other countries, they feel almost as much of a sense of less as we do, because they have the keen sense that when America falls, there will be nowhere else to go in search of freedom.
While bad news abounds, I see a few points of good news in all of this. Namely, the current disaster and the Democrats’ atrocious behavior have vindicated Trump unwittingly. Here are a few of the points Trump made, which are now proved by the events we are living through:
Servant leadership matters
The “greatness” of America is something that we can only value once it’s taken away from us. We take for granted that we live in a country that’s stable and where citizens and government understand their mutual obligations to each other. As a Christian, I thank God that we do not live in a nation ruled by judges (as in the hellish Book of Judges) or by kings (as in the not-much-better Books of Kings and Chronicles). We live in a nation led by servants, a concept that played an important role in the ministry of Jesus Christ. Christ said that to become the greatest, we should be willing to be the least among us. For all his riches and fame, Trump came to the presidency with the attitude of a servant leader. His rallies swelled to enormous sizes because people who weren’t blinded by hatred saw the heart he had for the country he governed. He listened to people whom leaders had ignored.
Servant leadership can go wrong when the government acts as though citizens are underlings rather than the leaders’ masters. But servant leadership can also go wrong when citizens mistreat their leaders—and this is what we’ve seen happen during the Trump presidency. If you employ a secretary and she loses a file, you don’t drag her out to a public square and shoot her in retaliation. You hold your employees accountable but with grace, patience, and proportion. At least half of America has lost sight of that and has treated Donald Trump (as well as his followers) the way an obnoxious boss treats a secretary. One slip of the tongue, and Trump is demonized and slandered about it for weeks. A tweet with questionable judgment leads to him being compared to Hitler. People have lost all sense of proportionality.
That’s why Trump was accused of being a Russian spy, impeached, and unfairly blamed for COVID. Rude citizens are treating Trump the way they probably treat people who work for them: pushing their servant around, mocking him, and seeking to harm him with the arrogant sense that any flaw, real or imagined, warrants self-righteous abuse. Here is one of the dangers of abusing the political model of servant-leadership: the citizenry are the masters, but if they abuse their servant leaders, then they end up destroying the whole system. Once they kill off leaders who take their role as public servants solemnly, they will fall under the power of leaders who reject servant leadership. In a predictable slide into tyranny, the next leaders see the people, truly, as those who are there to serve leaders’ agendas rather than the other way around. This is the tricky part of the social contract. If you break it on your end, as a citizen, you nullify the duties leaders had to you.
Trump made the case throughout 2020 that he wanted a second term because he wanted to serve the people and he loved Americans with an undeniable warmth. Nobody could accuse Trump of being obnoxiously ideological. If anything he came under fire for showing too little ideology. His approach, however, has reflected the heart of a servant leader; someone who lets the people’s agendas come before his own, because the people are his boss.
The Democrats’ shameless moves to pin down electoral votes at all cost have brought unwitting glory to Donald Trump’s vision. Unlike Joe Biden, Trump went on a tireless tour of rallies, placing himself so much at the public’s disposal that he even caught COVID. He acted like he wanted to earn the people’s votes, a sure sign that he saw the people as his boss. Biden’s camp kept a cool distance from the public and he avoided answering questions that deserved a respectful response. On election night, the Democrats’ obvious opportunism showed through. At every turn, they fought for electoral policies that would allow them to commit voter fraud, from the push for mail-in ballots to their opposition to voter IDs to their eagerness to delay vote tallies. Nobody can seriously deny that the refusal to count votes and announce a tally by election night serves any purpose other than to give them time to figure out how many votes they need to defeat their opponent and then to manufacture the right number. The basic minimum of competency in a republic would be for public servants to count votes and announce results by a deadline. Otherwise, they deprive citizens of sovereignty because their votes hold no weight.
Therein lies the rub: both the Democratic and Republican establishments believe that the people are there to serve their political agendas. Trump came from outside that mindset. With his arrival on the scene, the Republicans have improved somewhat on this arrogant attitude. But Biden and the Democrats are stuck in their own arrogance, believing that the political goals they set as leaders are tasks assigned to the people to carry out. They believe the people work for them rather than the other way around. No event has revealed their horrible mentality more than has the way they dealt with election night. The Democrats will change rules at the drop of a hot, regardless of whether they are preserving the integrity of people’s votes, if it means they can get into power and carry out their goals. Whether the people’s interests are served by the Democrats’ agenda hardly matters, because the Democrats see the people as their subordinates rather than as their supervisors.
This article was originally published at bobbylopez.me and is reposted with permission from the author, Bobby Lopez.
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