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Too good to rule

Posted By Obadiah Shoher On November 9, 2010 @ 10:01 am In morality | 2 Comments

Some time ago, a good person from a foreign country asked me to manage his election campaign. I refused the offer because he could not win. Then I started thinking: why do I have a clear impression that he has no chance? My conclusion was that he was too good.
For some reason whose exploration is better left to psychologists, voters do not support spotlessly good candidates. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, for example, wisely did not set his foot in Israel because he sensed that despite all brouhaha the population wouldn’t support him. The reason might be twofold. On one hand, a spotless, truly moral leader is a constant reproach to his flock. Those who unreservedly submit to his authority find satisfaction in that act of self-negation and gladly attach themselves to what they see as higher values. The majority cannot view their leader in such a light because, in the end, they appointed him, and they feel in that sense superior to him. Democracy allows them a false sense of superiority, which precludes submission to a high moral authority, and consequently prevents the election of a highly moral person.
This brings us to the second reason: a successful politician must have a streak of evil. The evil can take many forms: from Stalin’s monstrosity to Bill Clinton’s subtle moral rot. Voters sense a candidate’s wickedness very well. Possibly evolution has taught them that good leaders are—or may be, if necessary—cruel and cynical, and lack moral restraints on their efficiency. Voters do not like being confronted with truth or hard choices, and mostly prefer lying demagogues who promise the best.
Whatever the reason, truly good people rarely come to the helm in democracies.

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