The End of Leadership – Redux

Of the five strongest and ostensibly most stable Western democracies only one has a leader who can claim confidence in good conscience – France.

  • Under the leadership of President Donald Trump, the US has become numb to its norms, insulted its institutions, toyed with the truth, relaxed on Russia, cozied up to corruption, coopted Congress, enabled the richest to get richer, and created a level of collective craziness as escalated as relentless.
  • Under the leadership of Prime Minister Theresa May, Britain is experiencing a “national nervous breakdown.” “Britain,” writes Philip Stephens in the Financial Times, was “once a sturdy, stable democracy.” Now though “anger and acrimony are the new normal.” Britain is “upending the economic and foreign policies that have set its national course for half a century.”
  • Under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany is experiencing its first governmental crisis in decades. During most of her tenure as chancellor. Merkel’s leadership was skillful. But she miscalculated the political impact of admitting into Germany over a million refugees. And, arguably, she overstayed her welcome in the chancellery. Last year’s elections were inconclusive, which is why Merkel has struggled for months just form a new government.  Whatever the coalition that’s ultimately created, the constraints on her in the future will be much more formidable  than they were in the past.
  • Under the leadership of Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Italy is biding its time until the March election. Italy has never been a model of political stability. However, the last few years have underscored again how brittle its democracy. Which explains the remarkable resurrection of one of the most disgraced Western politicians of modern times, Silvio Berlusconi. His political comeback is the starkest possible evidence that Italy still struggles to develop anything remotely resembling a respectable leadership cadre.
  • Under the leadership of President Emmanuel Macron, France is the only one among the leading Western democracies to boast a head of state who is expert and experienced, confident and competent, intelligent and intuitive – and who remains still unsullied by the passage of time. It is not at all clear that his followers will give Macron the running room he needs to create change. As I write, Corsican nationalists are assembling in droves to protest his imminent visit to their island. What is clear is that Macron is the only sitting leader of a leading liberal democracy to have a snowball’s chance in hell of, during this calendar year, exceeding expectations.

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