Any number of political figures are feeling pressure from unexpected directions
As we advance into America’s political season, and watch dramas overseas, an old lesson is inflicting itself on would-be leaders: Trouble comes from unexpected directions.
Let’s start with overseas. Prime Minister May has been slugging away for what seems like years to find a workable Brexit formula. If it feels like years to us, imagine what it must feel like to her. The struggles were proceeding along when suddenly, Parliament took control of the agenda. The Prime Minister was given a time out. That does not happen.
I don’t know that many people saw that coming. I did not. May was knocked off course by back benchers, front benchers, other parties, and by the Speaker. It was a complex ambush. This was a major blow, and it came from outside normal directions of risk. One of the outcomes is that she has now said if they can settle this up, she will resign. By this point, I expect she is doing so almost gladly.
There certainly have been times in recent months when I have despaired of our political situation. I would imagine that it could not be worse. Then I look at the whole Brexit thing as it has presented itself. I find myself thinking, “OK, that looks even worse.” I still cannot believe what we are watching. Just days ago, the UK was mere days – days- away from running out of time. It would exit the European Union with no plan, no process, nothing of substance on any front.
Now they have a short delay, but to what end? It looks like a Monty Python skit. Once they do leave, no matter under what terms, the UK will be forever diminished. This also must be doing irreparable harm to the confidence of the citizenry in government.
Back in the US of A, the Democratic presidential candidate list grows briskly. More names are being added still. This list needs to thin out soon, and it will. In the meantime, we are seeing interesting people running. They are bringing interesting ideas and visions of what this country can and should be.
The attack from the unanticipated side that I note this week wasn’t actually an attack. It was the startlingly fast growth of a minor candidate into someone of note.
Not long ago, the two-term mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, announced he was running for president. I said “Yeah, right.” As did pretty much everyone else, if they even knew he was running. An admirable young guy (combat veteran, Rhodes Scholar, fluent in several languages, etc.). He is an effective, popular mayor. That he is gay seems to matter not a whit to his constituents, in a pretty conservative part of the country. The man is articulate and does good work. But come on, running for president?
Over the past few days Buttigieg got a couple of media breaks. He had a town meeting on CNN and airtime on some national TV programs. He hit home runs every time, on every topic. The man sounds grounded, knowledgeable, and articulate. Now he is everywhere in the media and is growing an impressive fan base. Too soon to tell if this has legs, but it looks as though it may.
Beto O’Rourke had pretty well staked out the young, articulate candidate turf. Now he looks over his shoulder, and this guy is coming up fast. He comes with a lot of the same traits, more political experience, and arguably a better resume. Where did this guy come from, Beto must be asking?
The media has had a bit of fun in contrasting one line from each of these two. Beto made, in my view, the truly unfortunate statement on his first full campaign day. He said that he was “born to do this.” He could likely explain that and make a better case on a second pass. As it stands, it is painfully close to Trump’s “Only I can fix this.” So, a reporter asked Mayor Pete if he thought he was “born to do this.” His reply? “I was born to make myself useful.” Ouch!
It’s going to be an interesting year+. Something or someone may come from out of nowhere at any time. They may change the landscape dramatically. Pay attention.
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