By Robert A. Vella
One of the biggest problems plaguing humankind and its ability to adapt in a rapidly changing world is the susceptibility or desire of people to place blind trust in powerful leaders and other figures of authority. It stems partially from the need to free oneself of the responsibility to administer and govern society so that the daily activities of life may be pursued unencumbered. It also results from the insecurities and dislikes of such responsibility by the general populace. It is convenient for most people to buy into the appeals of power so that they don’t have to worry about issues deemed to be beyond their control.
This human psychology, magnified within the larger populations of modern civilization, is fertile ground for the growth and excesses of political, economic, and religious institutions as well as providing exploitative opportunities for individual megalomania and the abuse of power.
If you’ve wondered why sociopathic/psychopathic dictators could ever rise to such prominence that they could realize their perverse dreams, or wondered why business executives could allow their enterprises to inflict grievous damage upon society, or wondered why terrible atrocities are routinely committed in the name of religion, you should seriously consider this psychology which is inherent in each one of us.
The problem of hero worship and political loyalty was brilliantly addressed last week by
My column last week—“How Rahm’s demise would signal the defeat of Clinton-era centrism”—ignited a bit of a firestorm. In the piece, I linked Rahm Emanuel back to Bill Clinton’s White House and argued that his ouster as Chicago’s mayor would signal the surrender of Clinton-era centrism to a resurgent progressive movement no longer willing to be sold out by Democratic politicians.
Clinton supporters were convinced that it was a Hillary “hit piece,” as one DK commenter put it, plain and simple. Another person tweeted at me: “Admit it Eleveld, you’ve just endorsed Sanders.”
After months of being called a “Hillary shill” on numerous occasions, perhaps after writing a Democratic polling piece or outlining a Clinton policy position, I was a bit shocked to learn that I had orchestrated a Clinton takedown.
It’s unfortunate. I think so many valid points get lost in the subterfuge of political races and people’s affinity for or rejection of a particular candidate. What’s more important to me, both as a journalist and an activist, is doing my best to be intellectually honest.
See, I don’t want to be a “Hillary person” or a “Bernie person.” I want to be an independent-minded progressive—an equal opportunity defender and promoter of progressive ideals. Sometimes that means criticizing someone you admire, and other times that means praising someone you’re not all that fond of.
My piece on Rahm, while not perfect by any means, was never intended as a Hillary hit job—though I can see how some people took it that way. Rather, it was a piece celebrating the bold new power of progressive movements that no longer let Democratic politicians take them for granted. Hillary Clinton was mentioned once, toward the end, in hopes that Rahm’s current predicament in Chicago could sound a warning signal to all Democrats, including Hillary, to heed the desires and concerns of their base. In essence, it was a call for Democrats to be better Democrats.
I respect people who have chosen a candidate and have decided to defend them to the end. Certainly, that is their right. However, I wish they would respect the idea that others of us prefer to remain both agnostic on the question of candidacies and unabashedly committed to pushing progressive ideals.