US President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union Address had the same pageantry as yesteryears while the Press continued to pretend it was a top priority, yet the Address offered little insight as usual. If the President’s goal was to impart optimism onto the American People, he needed to be honest about the state of the union by saying the US faces major issues, but these problems can be solved only if Americans work toward consensus solutions.
Reactions to the State of the Union Address, however, reveal ways to cope with the threat of self-serving leadership and special interest-driven politics seen around the world. Where Nikki Haley responded to Obama’s speech with respectful, constructive criticism, hardliner conservatives lashed out at Haley for not being “conservative” enough as they reintegrated their relentless bashing of everything Obama does and says.
This abusive bullying is what undermines true democracy and prevents quality leadership from ascending to power.
Abusive, authoritarian leaders and other power seekers strive to legitimize, consolidate, and solidify their power. Where true public servants have supporters, these dictators have followers that they use to establish and maintain their authority. They manipulate the perceptions of others to instill a belief that they actually support and defend the beliefs and interests of their followers.
In reality, they are using their followers to crush internal and external dissent in order to serve their own interests and agendas. By unifying followers against a common enemy, whether it is an opposing political party, political figure, revival, nation, or People, the goal is to make followers feel as though they have no alternatives to their leadership.
Followers are “trained” to never question the views and policies of their leaders to avoid undermining the authority of their leaders.
Abusive, authoritarian leaders are difficult to identify and weed out, but their lack of tolerance for open and widespread dissent reveals their true nature. What makes domineering people abusive is their self-serving nature and their unwillingness to address the interests of others. What makes domineering people into authoritarian leaders is a lack of limits on their influence and power
This is exactly what happens when constructive criticism is muted or drowned out by relentless, unquestionable condemnation of opposing views.
Domineering people can take criticism from certain people, especially when they lack the ability to control or “punish” those people, but they are hypersensitive to any dissent from those viewed as followers. The more influence they enjoy over others and the more that influence is threatened by criticism, the harsher and stronger their reactions are to dissent.
Where violent crackdowns on dissent are surefire signs of abusive dictators, the same kind of authoritarian behavior is manifested through the use of political, economic, and legal influence in the developed world where violence is too unacceptable to be used on a regular basis.
In places like Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan, Eritrea, Syria, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan where violence is a more commonplace tool of governance, it can be equally as difficult for those under the iron fist of an authoritarian regime to recognize their leaders are abusive.
Furthermore, established dictators consolidate and solidify their power in order to disempower their own Peoples, so they tend not to have an actual choice in leadership. When authoritarian regimes are ousted, new dictators tend to claim power, because the people cannot identify and weed out the abusive, domineering power-seekers.
Democratic selection of leadership works by periodic changes in leadership through elections. When people are able to identify and weed out self-serving leadership, elections serve as a constructive process. Consequently, the ability to identify and weed out abusive, domineering leaders is a necessity helped by recognizing their true nature.
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