The essence of leadership is formulation, clarification, maintenance and communication of a vision. The rest is mechanics. To use a mechanical metaphor: an auto engine must be made with all the parts in the right places and with the tolerances and pressures within allowable levels, and even then it will not do anything unless it is correctly timed; without synchronicity it will not run. Once all this is done it still needs a place to go. But ultimately politics is unlike this metaphor in that how the political machine is constructed allows or denies its destinations, its goals: if medical insurance corporations are putting in the gas and adjusting the timing, lowest possible cost universal healthcare cannot be the destination. If corporations that design, manufacture for and service military functions do the routine maintenance, then the government engine will selectively drive to war. Unless:
Unless actual leadership has a vision driven by the natural representatives of the people and the people themselves. Labor leaders, academics, writers, community leaders of all sorts are the natural nodes of interest and concern, not political “leaders.” Science and engineering clarify options and possibility. Specialized academics and super-community leaders summarize and suggest. Un-tampered with, such a system will produce, with differing degrees of quality, direction for societies and visions for leaders to lead with. It needs to be noted that these “natural” nodes for the articulation of the pubic interest are exactly those demonized by authoritarian conservatives.
But there are other sources of vision, especially in a Mad world. There is no limit to the designs of Madness and so visions derived from Madness are not bounded. When visions arise in this way part of the maintenance of the vision is the corruption of the process by which a society would discover and actuate its own social and political direction. But even a mad vision well serviced is powerful.
The Bush administration is a powerful example and warning. It is not certain, but strongly suggested by events, that Cheney was the nexus of this administration’s vision. This does not mean that he alone held its principles, but that he and the people in his office maintained it, adapted events to it and gave it the energy to push information flow as counter current to the natural and desirable movement of feedback.
When there are actors operating from well thought through vision they will always be ahead of those who oppose on an ad hoc basis either the whole vision or some of its elements. When the vision is both well formed and deeply Mad the struggle will be titanic as was the case with Hitler’s Germany. It this quality that is similar between the Bush administration and the Nazis – well formed Madness.