THE DANGEROUS IDIOCY of global leadership:
The brewing popular rebellions against incumbent leaders throughout the Western world—from the United States to Germany to Great Britain to Italy—are, despite their different forms and circumstances, a rejection of post-national leadership so in vogue over the past decades. What increasingly larger swaths of Western electorates are indicating is that they do not want global leaders who seek global solutions to purportedly global problems, are critical of national borders, and are disdainful if not outright fearful of expressions of patriotism. They want national leaders—leaders, that is, who put them, their own nations, above other nations and other concerns.
The difference between global and national leaders does not reside in specific policies, such as free trade or a country’s international role and its military presence abroad. Those are issues over which wise individuals can have reasonable disputes, and often agreement is found across political aisles. It would be simplistic therefore to insist that national leaders, by virtue of elevating their own nations’ interests above all else, espouse commercial protectionism, withdrawal from the world, or an abdication of the use of force. Some do, but not all, the same way that some leaders who seem more concerned about global challenges (usually defined by nouns, rather than actors: climate change, poverty, population growth, and so on) do not in unison support free trade or military intervention and support for allies.
Rather, the difference lies in whom a leader considers his community—the group he seeks to protect and whose welfare he wants to promote.
Political leadership requires discrimination. A leader in charge of a state has to determine whom he will defend and whose welfare he will seek to promote. This is what sustains his legitimacy and appeal, and it is the primary task of a political leader. Much of the current leadership at the helm in the West has, as Peggy Noonan observed, detached itself “from the bottom, feeling little loyalty to it or affiliation with it.”
And the plebs are returning the favor.