Leadership and the Polarisation of America

America is divided. That is the clear message from the 2020 presidential election where Joe Biden has already received 75 million votes with  Donald Trump receiving almost 71 million votes. Both men have vastly different leadership styles and display different leadership traits. We know much about Mr.Trump’s leadership style, and over the next four years we will become well-versed in the leadership style of Mr. Biden.

It is easier to identify Biden and not Trump with such leadership traits as integrity, empathy, humility, empowerment, resilience, and accountability. Both men promote different visions of the future and both work hard at communicating directly to the American people. But it is this latter trait where Trump excels and is the main reason why he has garnered such strong support.

Trump’s personality flaws are well known and yet he has had significant impact on the American political infrastructure and the integrity of the democratic system. He has the power to influence, he has passion and he can also display confidence and resilience. He is a one-man self-publicist powerhouse and this is a significant reason why he has increased his voter numbers, if not widened his voter base. His simple messaging, whether complaining or otherwise, resonates with millions of followers.

It could be argued that Trump is the reason why voter turnout was the biggest in American history as voters either love or hate Trump. The 2020 election was an endorsement of Trump’s leadership for some, and for many others it was an opportunity to reflect their disapproval of his four year presidential term.

Trump is the master of direct communication with his use of social media and his daily “tweet bombing.” His use of Twitter for political communications is unprecedented; he tweets relentlessly with simple and direct messaging.  His followers know what he stands for and his Make America Great Again mantra harks back to a previous era which seeks to protect the status quo for most of his followers.

Many are concerned with Trump’s  brand of nationalism, with connotations of racism and xenophobia. Yet his messaging has resonated with millions of Americans and his ability to self-promote to his voter base is his key strength. His promotion of gun rights, border controls and his disregard for some political figures of colour has attracted many followers and dismayed others. Truth can often be lost in a cacophony of populist, reactionary  tweets and press conferences.

Trump generates a digital storm  through his direct social media messaging which has had undoubted political impact. Biden’s reflection of traditional values may have become a safe haven for those who fear what Trump’s America was becoming. It is no wonder, therefore, that both Joe Biden and Donald Trump have each amassed the highest number of political votes in the history of American presidential elections. In voting for their preferred presidential candidate, the American people were selecting the leader who best reflected their values or prejudices. They were voting for the future they wanted on the basis of how they see the present. Each person’s unique perspective informed their voting decision.

Joe Biden also harks back to a previous era. His age, demeanour and old-style vintage traits and social conservatism resonates with many who want stability with respect and who want unity with equality. His constant calls for unity, in a deeply polarised country,  is an indication of the challenge he faces as he seeks to rebuild a deeply divided nation. He is regarded as the ” Steady Eddie” of American politics who is the antidote to the Trump “rocky horror show.” If he does not succeed in his objective to restore significant universal belief in the norms of constitutional government, the integrity of democracy could be threatened in a country which has been known as the beacon of democracy.

In this era of fear and uncertainty, with the universal threat from Covid-19 and the imperiling of democratic principles, the world needs leaders with empathy and compassion. Leaders are role models and their actions create a  legacy; they need to be the torch of truth who guide people to a better future. Great leaders are not those who care about themselves but who genuinely serve others and are a positive example to others. They are self-aware and remain focused on the common good.

The worldwide interest in the outcome of the American presidential elections is because the leadership of the most powerful country in the world has a significant bearing on international affairs. Very often a country is viewed through the personality, views and traits of its leader. Because of its size and influence America can generate a paradigm shift in the world order. Research indicates that the global standing of the United States has plummeted under the leadership of Trump and one policy objective of his successor will be to restore the nation’s global reputation as a leader of the free world.

Leadership must be based on integrity and honesty and the best leaders are those who inspire trust, who stand up for what is right and who are seen to act in the common good. While leaders may have strong character and courage they also need to have a sincere conscience and take responsibility for their actions. In democracies we trust the democratic process to select the leader who best represents our values and beliefs.

The 3rd  US President, Thomas Jefferson, is quoted as saying:  The government you elect is the government you deserve while George Bernard Shaw once famously stated;  Democracy is a device that ensures that we will be governed no better than we deserve. In a deeply divided United States the outcome of the 2020 presidential election has delivered the 46th president-elect who is vastly different from the 45th president.  Which president will be remembered as best for the United States and the world? Time will tell.

(Photo by Element5 on Unsplash)



















































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