I Want a President who is a 'Strong Leader'. Not!

Last week, as I was practicing my French with DuoLingo, I heard Rush Limbaugh making a penetrating point about the 2016 election. It's like 2008, he said, only this time it is conservatives that are investing all their hopes in an untried candidate and assuming he agrees with them.

Back in 2008 the details didn't matter to Barack Obama's supporters; they just wanted an end to the horrors of the Bush administration, and they had faith that Obama the Lightworker would make all their dreams come true. Same with 2016 and Donald Trump. Don't confuse me with the facts, say his supporters, he's a “strong leader” and that's what we need.

Actually, the Trump supporters have a point, as Joseph Schumpeter wrote back in the 1940s.

[D]emocracy does not mean that the people actually rule in any obvious sense of the terms “people” and “rule.” Democracy means only that the people have the opportunity of accepting or refusing the men who are to rule them.

So yeah. The man we elect president is the man we have elected to be our ruler. As in leader.

But then I remembered the German word for “strong leader.” It is “Der Führer.”

Oh yeah.

Back in late 1920s Germany it seemed that the Weimar government just couldn't get its act together after the economic dislocations of the Great Inflation of 1923. Various political actors started direct street action with their organized protesters, and the justice system winked at their shows of force. In this apparent chaos people started to think that Germany needed a “strong leader” to sort out the mess. Then Wall Street crashed and exported its economic malaise to Europe.

Here in mid-2010s America, it seems that the Obama administration just can't figure out how to get the economy back on track after the implosion of the Crash of 2008 and the Great Recession. And it seems almost to encourage organized street action by Occupy Wall Street and now Black Lives Matter. In this apparent chaos people are starting to think that the U.S. needs a “strong leader” to sort out the mess. Then China crashed and...

Of course, nobody is saying that political leadership is useless. Arguably, conservatives and Republicans do need a really good leader, more than Democrats, because a Republican president has a much harder job than a Democratic president.

Arguably, President Obama is the worst leader this nation has ever elected president. But that doesn't matter if you are a Democrat because from single-payer to green energy to dense cities to disparate impact the liberal activists are beavering away night and day advancing the progressive agenda whether or not the president is a good leader. So what if the president is a lousy leader! The mainstream media will ignore any disaster or illegality or embarrassing statements, and no opposition to the liberal activist agenda ever gets any legs. Hey, who cares about bat-chomping wind turbines and Planned Parenthood's big-box baby parts store!

It won't matter much until a significant minority of Americans start to sense that nobody in the whole ruling class has a clue and that things are spinning out of control, and that only an outsider “strong leader” will be able to set things right. Like right now.

The trouble is that simple “strong leadership” isn't going to get the job done. Here's why. Almost everything we want the next president to do will fly in the face of liberal conventional wisdom and the liberal activist world, so everything he and his administration and Congress want to do will face determined opposition that will fill the airwaves and the public square.

The next president needs to be someone like Ronald Reagan and prep himself for the presidency by broadcasting issue-a-week radio spots for years before he ran for president. He'd need to be a charmer who could push a Tip O'Neill around without seeming to apply any pressure. He might even need to develop a meme that he was a lightweight who didn't attend to details.

He would need to be a candidate who had really worked up a conservative reform agenda and a strategy for taking the liberal citadel by cunning rather than brute force or bluff and bluster. A magic bullet like the secret passage -- known only to Badger! -- by which the Mole, the Water Rat, and the Badger retook Toad Hall from the stoats and weasels ain't gonna work. No, the next president would really have to think deeply about what he could do and where; otherwise there is no chance for successful reform that meets and beats the liberal stoats and weasels.

Sorry, chaps. “Strong leader” isn't going to work for Republicans any more than “Lightworker” worked for the Democrats. Ask the Germans.

Christopher Chantrill @chrischantrill runs the go-to site on US government finances, usgovernmentspending.com. Also see his American Manifesto and get his Road to the Middle Class.