In the old days we put up with political leaders we thought were performing poorly, even very poorly. Or with whom we disagreed, even strongly disagreed. We waited for them to be replaced by usual means, such as retiring or losing an election.
That was then.
Now our disposition is different – our fuse is shorter. Now, if we don’t much like a leader, or we take issue with a leader, we want nothing so much as to give him or maybe her the old heave-ho.
Our patience with political leaders is exceedingly low. If they don’t mirror our ideologies, or suit our personalities, or reflect our policy preferences we want to oust them. Like toddlers we stamp our feet kicking and screaming until we are mollified. Like toddlers we want immediately, instantly, to be gratified by getting rid of a leader we dislike. Now.
The gubernatorial recall vote in California is a striking example of this unhappy trend. Has the incumbent governor, Gavin Newsom, been perfect? Not hardly. He’s made mistakes, at least one of which was so painfully idiotic it cost him dearly. (His idiotic misstep? Having a very fancy and expensive dinner at a very fancy and expensive restaurant smack in the middle of the Covid crisis – while at the same time urging his constituents to stay home and never venture out without wearing a mask, at least not inside. Oh, did I mention that at the dinner he was photographed having a high old time – sitting at his table not wearing a mask?! )
But has he been reasonably competent and responsible? Absolutely. The attempt by a right-wing coalition to force California’s Democratic governor from his post would be ridiculous were it not also serious. And … were it not also in danger of succeeding. (California makes it far too easy to call for a recall vote. Since 1960 every governor has faced at least one. But none except Newsom have faced five!)
A similar indicator is the Republicans’ recent response to President Joe Biden’s decision to end America’s military presence in Afghanistan. So outraged were they that mere dissent, even vigorous dissent, did not suffice. For his sin Republicans wanted – they want still – to push the nation’s the chief executive out of the Oval Office. Maybe push him to resign. Maybe impeach him. Maybe by invoking the 25th amendment which, under certain remote circumstances, can remove a president from office.
Senator Lindsay Graham’s response to what his longtime senatorial colleague Joe Biden had done was typical of the times in which we live. Tweeted Graham, “If we leave any American’s behind or if we leave thousands of Afghans who fought bravely alongside us behind, President Joe Biden deserves to be impeached for a High Crime and Misdemeanor or Dereliction of Duty.”
Really? When is a strong difference of opinion – on even the most fraught of foreign policy issues – grounds for impeachment? Grow up, folks!