It’s Twilight in America … Or Is It?

The most important principle of leadership is convincing people that they can do what they believe they cannot. American history is full of such leaders. George Washington convinced his troops that they could win against virtually impossible military odds. Thomas Jefferson convinced people that a nation founded on liberty and individual rights was in the realm of the possible. James Madison convinced his fellow leaders that a Constitution grounded in limited government could stand the test of time. Lincoln convinced skeptics that the Union could be preserved, and that slavery could actually be abolished.

Today, it’s different. We face challenges that, in their own way, are just as grave as those prior ones. As politicians and glorified bureaucrats tinker with our financial system, our government and our economic life are at stake. As Iran builds nuclear bombs and prepares to use them, Western civilization as we’ve known it is at stake. Many are in denial regarding the particulars, but I believe most people sense that we’re in a very bad place. Doomsday preppers are springing up across the country, and superstitious types focus on the coming economic collapse which will spell the end of the world as we know it.

Pessimism and gloom are not new. They have existed before and, particularly in the United States, they have been overcome before. Today, however, it’s different. Obama was supposed to bring “hope and change.” He’s probably going to win reelection, not because of any success on his part, but simply because his opposition is more inept than could ever have been imagined, even by a pessimist. But people I talk to, most of whom voted for Obama before and plan to do so again, are not inspired by anything in his leadership. One Obama supporter even told me, “America is in its final stages. Everyone knows that.”

Why has Obama failed to inspire any real leadership, even among his own supporters? It’s because he does not measure up to the true idea of leadership. As I said, a leader convinces you you’re capable of doing what you cannot. Obama speaks words to this effect, but he’s not inspiring anyone. The reason is that he’s telling people, “This is what I can do for you. This is how I’ll take care of you.” This is not leadership. This is parenting, even coddling. It’s appropriate for a helpless child, but not a society of grown adults. A leader is supposed to inspire adult behavior. A leader of grown ups does not inspire those grown ups by implying that they cannot take care of themselves.

Think of an unhealthy or controlling family figure. Think of the family figure who has some money and who constantly rescues and bails out his forty-year-old children who use perpetually bad judgment. Then he complains, “My children are depending on me.” Obama is like that family figure, only with one difference: He wants the dependence. He wants Americans to be dependent, not just on him personally, but on government. He lectures Americans who are doing better that they must take care of those who are not doing as well. Absent from these lectures is any acknowledgement that maybe at least some of the people who aren’t doing well are in this condition because of their own bad judgment. As a therapist, in fact, I encounter people like this every day. They say things like, “My finances are a mess and I know I did this to myself.” Sometimes people are too hard on themselves, but often they’re right on target by taking responsibility for their mistakes. Obama, as a leader, does not encourage this at all. He’s like an indulgent neurotic mother, or a bad psychotherapist, who says, ‘There, there. None of this is your fault. It’s those evil other people. I’ll take care of them for you!’¬† He wants and needs people to blame others. He wants them to feel like they have been metaphysically “ripped off” or “screwed over” by … some unnamed force, a force from which the government (only liberal socialist Democrats, of course) will rescue them.

This is not leadership.

The destructive nature of Obama’s anti-leadership isn’t so much his policies themselves, although those policies are very bad. It’s what he implies in implementing them. He keeps telling people that banks, oil companies and other people from whom they willingly buy goods and services are somehow screwing them over. “None of this is your fault,” he relentlessly implies, and sometimes says so outright.

Can’t you read between the lines here? Obama’s implying, “You can’t do it. But that’s OK. I’m here to rescue you.”

I’m very critical of the American people for squandering what could and should have been a continuing land of plenty, both materially and psychologically. At the same time, I do believe there’s a lot of goodness — defined as rationality and self-responsibility — left in most people. But they have nobody to lead them into accepting the best part of themselves. In a democracy, you have to blame that on the people themselves, in the end. But in all fairness — what alternative have they been given? John McCain would not have been a leader, any more than George W. Bush was, and no more than Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney ever will be. Nobody running for office, nor anyone on the national stage in any significant way, is leading people to trust their minds, utilize their reasoning and be the best they can be.

Clearly, in such an era, it’s best to look beyond or outside politics for a leader. But religion doesn’t lead, either. Religion tells you to place your trust in an afterlife, or in a God you cannot see, hear or talk to, and whose judgment you have to trust even when it makes no rational sense whatsoever.

Americans — and all human beings — need a leader who will tell them, “You’re free to think. You can do this. Your greatest days lie ahead, if you’ll only appeal to the best within yourselves.” This needs to be said a thousand different ways, over and over again, and applied to actual policies. Instead, precisely the opposite has been happening, most of all under Obama.

It’s not a bright time in America. Arguably, especially under the dark and depressing reign of Obama, it’s twilight in America.

But morning, whether in America or elsewhere, always awaits. All people have to do is think, take charge of their lives and stop expecting things to go a certain way, as if they’re entitled to it. That’s Obama’s attitude, but it’s not the way reality works. Life is a challenge, and it’s supposed to be. When people learn to once again embrace challenge, they’ll become their own leaders.

Americans don’t need a nursemaid, a lecturing school teacher, or a codpendent and¬†pseudo-benevolent, controlling father figure. They need a leader who instead will tell them, “What’s wrong with you people? You could be the greatest thing on the planet right now. Get to it and stop complaining!” And then get the government out of our affairs, instead of becoming even more involved in them every day.

Leaders tell you the truth. That’s what today’s leaders are simply refusing to do.