Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders & George Armstrong Custer

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People need heroes. If a person does a simple act to help others in danger, we make that person into a hero. We do that even if the risk involved is low. Believing that heroes walk among us makes us feel stronger and safer. Rewarding heroes encourages imitation and strengthens society. Designating heroes is good for us all.

But when it comes to politics, people want superheroes. We want larger-than-life champions who will ride forth and slay dragons. Donald Trump is the superhero of the alt-right. He was elected to drive back immigrants and the liberal elite. Bernie Sanders is becoming the superhero of progressives. Sander will rally moderates to the progressive cause and overthrow the Vulgarians of the right. He talks of extending social programs, including free college tuition and Medicare for all. Had he only been nominated, it is said, he would have handily defeated the demon Trump. The reality is that the U.S. has swung to the right and Trump is just an opportunist grafted onto that movement. Defeating Trump will not win back the Senate or House.

Personally, I feel uneasy with superheroes. Obama was elected to his first term as something of a superhero. He was one of the few Congressmen opposing the stupidity of G. W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, and so voters thought he could get us out of war in the Middle East. Of course, he could not. Obama as president shrank from superhero to pretty-good-Joe. When we embrace superheros, we are buying into delusion. Superheros either disappoint like Obama or they deliver, like Hitler. Germans embraced Hitler out of the desperation caused by war reparations and depression following WWI. Hitler promised to make Germany strong again. And he did. For a while.

George Armstrong Custer was another superhero. He was rightly famous for his bravery and daring during the Civil War.  He saw himself and his 7th Cavalry as larger than life. He believed he really was a superhero. But he led all who followed him to their death. In political life, superheroes can inspire millions for a year or two. For the long haul, it is wiser to follow a down-to-earth, practical problem solver, if you can find one. Obama, after he shrank, was OK. The only lasting superheroes in politics are the ones who died before reality set in. If you need to follow a force that is larger than life, go to your church, temple, synagogue, or mosque.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Michael B. Smetzer

Mike Smetzer in Colorado - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

Mike Smetzer in Colorado – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

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