This is a good picture of what means being a political leader; not knowing with certainty if it is the shadow or the real that it´s on stage. What represents that shadow?, the shadow of what he/she is?, what he/she wants to be?, what he/she wants to show? Or a lonely leader with an overwhelming power within weak institutions, partisan pressures and a devastating media impact around?
A political leadership means be submerged in a truly vicious circle in which partisan interests, ideological goals, citizens concerns, media, votes, donors and the defence of the own survival of the leader becomes a difficult mix to give direction on an equal basis.
Partisan interests dominate the stage at first place in all agendas. Either in order to keep their voters, to gain more or just to assure the continuity of personal and institutional positions of party members. Affiliates to the party comes in a second stage and voters goes below. This is the sad reality of current political stage at worldwide level however, a realistic view of selfish interests that even through a legal framework represents the decadence of the political class.
In many cases, ideological goals seems to be the best excuse that party representatives advocates nonetheless, opportunistic political moments are the best reason for their carefully studied positions and do not necessary match with a solid ideological pillar. Part of this “political game” supposes the skilful capacity to “play” by putting apart ideological values undermining citizen’s goals. Those are the actors that must lead the decision-making process and not living with the sense of elitism in politics, shaping a cold system in which there are struggling against the State and not being part of it. The most terrible aspect of this failure is that makes a democratic system vulnerable and less reliable from a citizenship perspective. That is precisely what happened with Brexit. The own call for a referendum was not an exercise of democracy, but the initiative of other interests different from the population and manipulated by the political class. Statistically British people were concern about poverty and unemployment and by no means EU membership represented a threat for them. The political class created an artificial concern by starting a debate and transforms it in what become the fear and worry of 52% of the population. With the big support of the best ally for this shunting: Media. Another pillar that a political leader needs to struggle with. This powerful resource could transform a weak in a strong leader or a tyrant in a well-intentioned candidate. A careful staging that in the end manipulates voters will. We have seen this phenomenon with Donald Trump and this “entertainment news” with no precedent that U.S. elections have become, instead of a serious political debate. A dangerous framework that undermine individual rights for choosing a candidate freely of any external influence.
Theoretically, the votes are the best expression of citizens sovereignty however most of the voters are not fully aware of the content of the political proposals and do not participate actively on the follow up of political “epics”. Mostly of the voters are dazzled by the media and that dangerous “first impression” of politician’s personal lives rather than an in-depth knowledge of their political goals.
Unfortunately, the political machinery could not function if is not under funding by donors. Even Donald Trump that during months has sustained that he is enough rich and self-funding has to accept that his campaign is being financing by powerful businessman, some of them from Wall Street. Indeed in U.S.A a political campaign could cost around U$1 billion and the Trump´s fortune is estimated on around U$ 4.5 billion. Definitely he needs donors and of course those donors influence his political agenda. Around the world donors influence is marked by biased private interests, having as a result: inconsistency leadership and political goals unable to face current challenges effectively.
Finally and in a more subjective aspect, one of the most important challenges that a politician face is: himself. Yes, his own personal ambition and how it matches with public interest and his own survival in the political partisan arena. Seeing it objectively it sounds paradoxically that the defence of this own political party may represents his own threat. Leaders like Donald Trump are showing that one of the way-out is to give your back to the party and print with a personal focus the entire campaign´s strategy. Questionable but with no doubt an option that imposes a strong line of action. Personal ambitions, values, partisan goals, ideological values and political momentum make the leader a key catalyst for managing internal contradictions. Is it here where a candidate becomes a truly leader.
Is it really their power that agglutinates partisan members or just the opportunism and external interests that condition their success?
With his fall in the polls, Trump exposure the ineffectiveness of his show and the negative impact of having turned his back to the Republican Party and his own statements from the past. Trump is the model not to follow when this hyper individualism on political leadership leads them to break with their own group and distortion an ideological focus. A crucial point as it´s part of a political leader´s mission: lead to specific ideological goals adapted to a global framework in a specific local context and political momentum.
As a difference from other kind of leadership, the political heavily depends on external and changeable factors. That´s the reason why a political leader needs to hold a solid capacity of flexibility and adaptation to be able to lead a political party the closer to their ideological principles without loosing power of negotiation, even if its means resignation.
A political leader is always running a race not in a horizontal view but on a vicious circle, even if the feeling is that is always facing new challenges. Which is partially true, however the race is always built under the same obstacles and framework. Is it so that we emphasize the word: “political game”, the rules never change and even the fact that a global world is facing new crises and more complex boundaries is it clear that a political leader is always encircle by the some limitations that not even strong personal skills could overcome. A vicious circle based in pressures from Media, donors, internal partisan parcels of power, mistaken political culture and personal bias. Therefore political leaders do not tend to negotiate but to impose positions and win the “battle” of that artificial “political war” transforming the political stage to fulfill their need for a “show off”.
In the end -and paradoxically- to be a real, solid and reliable leader it has to be less popular, less politically correct and above all 100% ethical.
A politician free of pressures and commitments that leads within a holistic approach in harmony with partisan and citizens needs. Guided by passion and rational criteria. A political leadership with local roots and global vision in which transparency, accountability and ethics become the only vicious circle to endure under an attitude towards a permanent negotiation process.
A utopia that however could be felt in tangible terms. A “shadow leader” transforming into an “enlightened leader” that could cast off from heavy burdens that prevent him from sailing in a sea of visionary ideas; boosting a new international order that go beyond anti-globalist views, unethical behavior, racism, xenophobia, violent conflicts, corruption, global crises…
A utopia that maybe one day becomes true…
* “Shadow man”