Fortuitous Happenstance

Wednesday, November 16, 2005
For several months now I've been somewhat perplexed about the whole Pajamas Media thing. I'd periodically check their website to see what it was all about and each time find nothing useful to me.

For several days now I've spent time each day making a cursory search of the web for information about what the heck is going on with the riots in France (or across parts of Europe) and find little or nothing useful to me.

Today I went looking for riot info and, lo and behold, the first thing I found and which is interesting and useful to me (although in a way I didn't expect) was from Open Source Media (the Big Web Band Formerly Known As Pajamas Media).

While the article doesn't tell me much about events on the ground in France it does (in addition to providing some analysis of the political situation in Europe) highlight something about democracies and their citizens that has been a small burr under my saddle for a while. To try and get at the point, here are some excerpts from the OSM article:
"The whole Western world lacks leadership at the moment," said Guillaume Parmentier, director of the French Center on the United States. "I cannot see any leader who can seize the mantle of the EU and move it in this or that direction."
While this assessment of "western leadership" may be more or less true it is the indicators that are siezed upon to make the case which "bother" me. The following are presented as evidence of lack of "strong leadership" among western democracies:
Chirac, 72, was politically humiliated in May when French voters rejected the proposed European constitution...

In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair suffered a severe political blow last week when lawmakers rejected a detention-without-charge proposal in his anti-terrorism legislation _ the first major defeat of his premiership...
Add to these the current US assessment, discussed here at YARGB, that US President Bush suffered a "defeat" or "vote of no confidence" when the Senate "ordered" him to provide some form of quarterly report about Iraq.

Granted this is a "media" analysis but I believe it is consistent with "masses" analysis. When some form of congress or parliament doesn't go along with something the "leader" requests or supports, it is seen as a "defeat" for the leader and an indicator of "weak leadership".

Isn't the whole point of representative democracy to keep the "leader" from always getting what he wants? Are items like this evidence of weak leadership or evidence of the strength of representative democracy?

If the "leader" doesn't always have things his way the media, and the citizenry, are very quick to declare his leadership "weak". Yet at the same time, if the leader isn't given a strong majority in the congress or parliament, or govern according to the latest "opinion polls", he's (or she) is declared "weak".
In Germany, a potentially fragile coalition government is taking power...

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi faces an election in April; his government's popularity has plummeted due in part to a sluggish economy...
To some degree we have both these issues here in the US; a "fragile coalition" within the Congress and "plummeted popularity" of the "leader".

It seems to me that we, the citizens, want the impossible. We want leaders who pander to our ever changing whims, opinions, and anxieties yet at the same time we want "strong" leaders who are never denied anything by the representatives we elect. We behave like children. We want Daddy to never deny us anything yet provide the strong guidance we need to grow up safely and well.

Yes, I'm just pissing and moaning. None of this is surprising. I just wish it weren't so danged relentless and ever present. We expect and demand way too much and we're ticked off when we get it and when we don't.


ex-democrat said...

knuck - further evidence of the need for a nationwide Wayne Simmons reality check.

Pastorius said...

You make a good point, but Germany and France are lacking in strong leaders. Their people have good reason to complain. And, by the way, Bush and Blair are in slumps.

The only leader in America who has shown consistentcy and success lately is Condi. You know, our next President.

Knucklehead said...


Be that as it may (and I certainly agree with you) I don't see how any leader can measure up to the expectations of the citizenry (and especially the punditry) in democracies. Leadership in a democracy is a thankless job. One of the things leaders in other areas of life are prone to point out early and often is "this ain't a democracy". All the dictator needs to do to have the undying devotion of his citizenry is to not choose to kill them today.

I just wish my fellow citizens would be a bit more astute when it comes to recognizing they can't always get what everything they want. Or perhaps more importantly they shouldn't get what they want because what they want really is a dictator - just one who happens to be really nice to them.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

I agree with you Knucklehead. Germany had a strong leader once. Italy too. And Japan. We know how that ended.

The fact is that we don't all agree on the proper policies, nor even on the real reality. Some see salvation in stronger government, others in weaker. Some want physicians to have more control, others less. There has to be a mechanism to sort all this out. It is the job of the politician to try to bring together these disparate and conflicting desires into a system we can all work with and live with.

There are fundamentally two types of politicians, ideologues and compromisers. This has nothing to do with any particular party or political belief system. The Clinton family contains one of each. Ideologues believe their system is RIGHT and must be instituted over the wishes of everyone else if need be because it will FIX THE WORLD. Compromisers want to listen to everybody and create something in the middle. Most of us are a bit ideological and a bit compromising, to various degrees.

The ideological component within us wants our way to triumph over everyone else's, regardless. That's childish, as you say, but we're a country of spoiled children who have never faced real hardship. Adults know you have to compromise and your leaders have to compromise, like it or not, if you want to get anywhere.

terrye said...


I believe most pundits have a bit of the ideologue in them. That is why they are pundits.

Bush and Blair are both in slumps, hopefully they can pull out of it.

But every since we have had approval ratings and polls, leaders have gone through slumps like this.

Sometimes I wonder if we would be better off without the polls. They just create more pressure.

And I agree with knucklehead too.

vnjagvet said...

For an insight into the reasons for these valid and acutely accurate observations, see Jamie's post above for an analogy on the medical/psychological front.

Like do it yourself doctors, do it yourself pundit politicians create many possibilities for disasterous results.

terrye said...


Maybe some of these guys should run for office and show us how it is done.

Talk is cheap.

vnjagvet said...


Of course, they never do. Carping is much easier than leading or even voting.