Why People Don’t Want Real Leaders

June 10, 2011

Barack Obama should not be President for a second term…

What I mean to say is, more often than not, a President’s second term is just awful, even if the first term was great.  By the time eight years are over, most of the country is sick to death of him.

Even the great Presidents, we grow to hate, no matter how much we loved them on election day.

I’ve been reading the biography of one of our great Presidents, Teddy freaking Roosevelt.  Here he is, depicted in one of his life’s great accomplishments: defending America from Bigfoot with a machine gun in the middle of a raging forest fire.  Also, little known fact: his face on Mount Rushmore is life-size.  He was actually a golem.

And my conclusion from reading about a man like this is how much our culture has changed in the last century.  We’d probably never elect Teddy, or anyone like him, President today.  We’d hate his guts.

Here’s four reasons why we’d hate one of our greatest Presidents if he were alive today…

Today’s Show is Brought to You By the Letters “R” and “D”

Those are the two most important letters in the alphabet in America.

Most people don’t have actual principles that they act on.  We act on emotions or brand loyalty.  We boil politics down to two letters.  You don’t even have to be literate to mark an “R” or “D” on a ballot.

If you doubt me, I ask you where have all the war protesters gone?  They were out in full force for six years when there was an “R” in the White House.  Haven’t seen them since, though the war in Afghanistan rages on while Libya spins out of control and the rest of the Mid-East burns.  Surely, the protesters didn’t get jobs, with 9.1% unemployment.  Conclusion: most “anti-war” people don’t actually give two craps about war.  They were protesting the letter “R.”

A guy like T.R. wasn’t loyal to a letter.  He did what was right for the country.  If you stood in his way, prepare your chops for some serious busting.  But we don’t want leaders like that.  We’d rather elect wieners to office than leaders who have the balls to do the right thing.

Speaking of which…

Femininity is the New Masculinity

Teddy’s idea of masculinity would not go over well in the land of American eunuchs.  His idea of a good time was jumping off his horse into a pack of wolves to knife a cougar to death.  I kid you not.  Kind of makes the idea of field dressing a moose sound feminine.

Let Me Tell You What I Think

Ol’ Teddy wasn’t short on opinions, and there was no question about what they were.

That’s why he wouldn’t make it past a Presidential primary today.  Politicians today have to carefully parse every word they say, until no one knows what they’re saying.  We’ve trained them to do that.  Americans are such sensitive, thin-skinned, crybaby wimps, we think that someone merely having an opinion is wrong and “divisive.”

We think everyone’s opinion is a personal offense to our opinions.  We think everyone’s religion is an attack on ours.  We think everyone’s race is racist against us.  We think everyone’s sexuality is an affront to our own.  If something doesn’t affirm what we already believe and stroke our egos, it must be stopped.

America the Flippin’ Sweet

Even more than Teddy believed in his own total sweetness, he believed in the total sweetness of America.  He believed America was a good place that had a divine destiny to reach and a role in the world to fulfill, and that belief inspired people.  What was his evidence of divine purpose?  Americans themselves, the toughest, gutsiest, grittiest SOBs the world had ever seen.

Not so much anymore.  If people believe in “divine” anything, it’s that America is being divinely punished.  We believe America is on it’s last legs.  We believe the church is endangered too.  Our evidence is ourselves.  We look at ourselves and we don’t believe we can accomplish anything great anymore, and we don’t want leaders who would tell us we can.

Of course Americans have a divine destiny.  So do Australians, Europeans, Asians, even Canadians have some destiny. We exist on this planet for a purpose.  We just have to find it again.

What do you think?  Do we have any leaders today, or just political game-players?  Is there still hope for our culture, the way there was in decades past, or was that all misguided imperial thinking?  I’ve left out lots more reasons why a guy like T.R. would be burned at the stake today, so chime in and tell us why.

52 responses to Why People Don’t Want Real Leaders

  1. Hi Matt,

    Last week I read a biographical sketch of President Grover Cleveland: I’ll stick the bibliographic information at the end of my comment.

    The thing that struck me most about the times of Cleveland was the greed and corruption of American business–a greed and corruption I see in today’s world also.

    The most horrific thing in the Cleveland era was the contempt well-off people had for the poor–another thing I see in today’s world.

    Then a financial crash came and almost everyone except the most greedy, most corrupt, most dishonest, became poor themselves–a thing I think we may be seeing the beginning of today.

    It doesn’t pay to screw with God’s poor. Somebody or another said the the way we treat the poor, destitute and least in our society is something He takes personally.

    Different subject: last night Ginny and I watched a dvd movie of West Wing; this morning I woke up to find myself praying for president Bartlet and his staff by name!


    Here I am praying for a fictional president and not the real one. For C.J.and Leo and Josh, and Toby, and Kate Harper and Admiral Fitzwalace– and I can’t even name President Obama’s Chief of Staff, National Security Adviser, etc.

    Maybe that’s just me.

    Anyhow, Don’t you wish that Teddy Roosevelt had launch codes for nuclear bombs in his day? He could have fiend dressed his moose from the air.


    Algeo, Matthew. The President Is A Sick Man: Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Grover Cleveland Survives a Secret Surgery At Sea and Vilifies The Courageous Newspaperman Who Dared Expose The Truth. Chicago. Chicago Review Press. ©2011. 255 pages. Indexed. Bibliography.

    • John, I just saw that book at Barnes and Noble! The title caught my eye, because who has ever said, “I think Grover Cleaveland would be an interesting person to learn about.”? No one! Thanks for sharing. I love Presidential history, because all the men who’ve ever occupied the office are something like tragic heroes.

      I’m not sure T.R. should’ve had launch codes. Maybe in some ways it is best to leave our predecessors in the past. :)

  2. “Most people don’t have actual principles that they act on. We act on emotions or brand loyalty. We boil politics down to two letters. You don’t even have to be literate to mark an ‘R’ or ‘D’ on a ballot.”

    That is why I have a hard time discussing politics with anyone, ever. I vote based on principals, which makes it harder than hell to choose either party. Neither seem concerned with doing what’s right, which makes me wish moderates had more say. Not being bound by the capital R or D may give more boldness to just do what’s right. Then again, it is politics, so maybe not.

  3. Wow!…Nicely put Mr. Matt!

    “We look at ourselves and we don’t believe we can accomplish anything great anymore, and we don’t want leaders who would tell us we can.”

    You can apply this to the history of the church too matt, we don’t very many leaders in the church that tell us we can do greater things then Jesus did….like Jesus said we could….I’ve been studing the great leaders of our faith….and we would freaking burn them at the stake too!
    Arny recently posted..The Last Supper with Bread and Wine

    • Amen! And it most cases – we did burn them at the stake!

    • Jacquelyn Kilgore June 11, 2011 at 10:36 am

      I agree with some of what you said. But do you not realize that God himself is the one has put these leaders in their positions? He sovereign over it all. The economy, Obama, Osama, etc…. Just a fact I wanted to point out…

      • If God puts all leaders in positions than why do we even vote? Just let God do all the work? I’m pretty sure that Hitler and Osama weren’t divinely appointed. We live in a fallen world, and God has granted us all free will, sometimes evil people are CEO’s and are rich, sometimes they are dictators. This does not come about by the hand of God. He allows it, but He doesn’t plan it. You might be taking a verse from Romans a bit out of context here.
        Carla recently posted..I am a Rock I am a Christian Island

        • is it out of context to say that God allowed certain kings (or “dictators”) from other nations take over Israel at various points in history? Jesus did pay His taxes willingly. and unfortunately, He told us to do the same…XD
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        • Jacquelyn Kilgore June 22, 2011 at 10:44 am

          they absolutely were Carla. God hold the leaders of our nation and others in his hands. All to bring about his glory. God is in control of it all. I can tell this discussion will head into election and etc… that I do not care to get into right this second. But yes, your vote is divinely swayed. 😉

        • Jacquelyn Kilgore June 22, 2011 at 10:56 am

          Our God is sovereign over all nature,” “The wind blows at His bidding. The sun radiates with heat from His hands. Every single night, our God brings out the stars one by one and He calls them each by name.
          In addition to being sovereign over nature, God is sovereign over nations and holds the rulers of the world in His hands. The good news, is not just that God is King but that the King has come in the person of Jesus Christ — and all who believe in Him and trust in His name will be both children of God and heirs of God’s Kingdom forever.

  4. I think we have a bunch of game players which is why I want to vote for Trump. Say what you want, but I think he is more of a man then anyone we have had in the last 10 years.
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  5. “Even more than Teddy believed in his own total sweetness, he believed in the total sweetness of America. He believed America was a good place that had a divine destiny to reach and a role in the world to fulfill, and that belief inspired people. What was his evidence of divine purpose? Americans themselves, the toughest, gutsiest, grittiest SOBs the world had ever seen.”

    Somewhat true, but he also supported eugenics, the ugly philosophical parent of our taxpayer funded baby-killing machine Planned Parenthood. “Society has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce,” Roosevelt is quoted by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes as he announced the decision to uphold the decision to sterilize one of our toughest, gutsiest & grittiest.

    I wouldn’t have voted for him.
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  6. I love reading your blog posts. You are not afraid. 😀

    As an Aussie drowning in a sea of Australian political correctness that leads nowhere except the politician’s own backsides, I thank you for your insight.

    We had a PM called John Curtin who was one such man. He did what was right for the country regardless of the spin even to the detriment of his own health. He was our WW2 PM and he died in office in 1945. Where are all the leaders with integrity? It is not surprise that the word integrity and integral are part of the same word family. Integrity should be integral in our very being and in every decision we make.

  7. I definitely agree with the first point. The same could also be said about politicians. Breaking ranks and disagreeing with your party is political suicide. The most vivid example to me was the difficulty last year with the 9/11 healthcare bill. I just wish people would focus more on doing what is right, rather than what will get them re-elected.

  8. Great post Matt. Question for you: if someone takes Roosevelt’s approach, one you say wouldn’t be accepted today (and I totally agree with that), and is therefore not chosen to lead, are they being a “real” leader? Isn’t part of being a “real” leader being savvy enough to get people to let you lead them? How can you be a real leader if no one is following?

    Totally playing the devil’s advocate here because I agree with everything you’ve said in the post. Just wondering.
    Shawn Smucker recently posted..Living 1000 Words a Day

    • Great point, Shawn. But in a way, our politicians are very savvy at getting people to follow them. Our political system creates endless “victims,” and then keeps them looking toward government to solve their problems. Not the right kind of leadership, but it works to keep people in power. :)

  9. Matt, you make a lot of great points. The political process in the U.S. is controlled by the ideological extremes. It’s the people on the far left and far right who control which candidates get money, it’s people on the political extremes who get all the attention on radio shows, as TV guests, and columnists. Most politicians seem to spend most of their time in calculated, vague efforts to appeal to independents and keep their base happy at the same time.

    But in my opinion the reason we don’t have many real leaders today in government is because we the people have become so self-centered and impatient. We have a $14,000,000,000,000 debt ($45,000 for every man, woman & child in the country) that’s growing by more than $1,500,000,000,000 a year. We have an energy crisis. Medicare and Social Security are on paths towards collapse. And yet any elected official that proposes a long-term solution that involve any short term pain gets compared to Hitler.

    If we don’t start supporting courageous leaders now we’re going to be bowing at the feet of King Abdullah and President Hu Jintao (publicly I mean, since we’re already doing it behind closed doors).
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  10. I was preparing to make a witty and clever comment, and then I was affronted by your comment,

    even Canadians have some destiny.

    I take offense to that, and I know our country’s recent rise to equality (and some critics might say, above)of the US is a thorn in the side for many Americans.

    It could be like the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3. If you notice, Daniel isn’t even mentioned (although the book bears his name). With the ‘leader’ aside, the underdogs were allowed to show their strength, which really was there all along.

    So that’s where I disagree with your post, but on the other side, Canadians have made a national identity about being politically correct. There isn’t a politician around that will actually stick their neck out and declare an opinion, lest it offend someone.
    Andrea York recently posted..Are Christians like sports fans

    • Andrea, I don’t think Matt REALLY meant to belittle Canada as much as how siblings kid one another.
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    • Sorry about that. I meant it to be a jab at Americans’ playful derision of Canada (calling it America’s hat, or America Jr.), but also in seriousness, a nation that people don’t think of as a world power does have a very important destiny. Do you know who the first soldiers were in WWI to have mustard gas deployed on them by the Germans, and still won the fight? It was the Canadians.

      • I should clarify, I didn’t really take offense, I was smiling as I was writing my response. Oops, what was supposed to be a playful response, was too serious.

        Canadians also feel like America’s little brother, so we put on a false bravado to compensate. It’s all good.
        Andrea York recently posted..Are Christians like sports fans

        • I’m going off topic regarding the discussion on real leaders, but hey, nothing like a good parry followed by a return jab, am i right?

          @Andrea, I think we should be quite happy that not only did Matt mention us, but we were italicized! Makes me feel extra special :-)

          Just recently, my Australian (weeeee Commonwealth) cousins told me they visited Seattle last year during the 4th of July and they loved it, because they said they felt like they were American for the day, due to the friendly and festive atmosphere a midst the joyous celebrations.

          …they also thoroughly enjoyed the passionate chants of “U-S-A” up and down the street, followed by sporadic chants of “WE RULE!” I personally thought that was hilarious, because…well….America, you do rule!
          I wonder if that “we rule” chant is localized to the Pacific northwest states? or does it happen in Kansas too? :-p
          tim recently posted..The Canucks are simply Bieksallent

  11. Thank you for bringing up that Roosevelt defended America against Bigfoot. The liberal media wants to whitewash history and pretend this never happened.
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  12. Politicians who don’t want to let us know what they think. Above their pay grade, I guess. Here I am rarely offered a penny for my thought….
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  13. Matt, this is so totally true about how we view or leaders today. I am currently a compilation book of John Adams’ correspondence and although this guy was absolutely integral to the foundation of our nation and also one of the hardest workers of his era, there is no way that this guy would have been elected to office today. He was long winded, arrogant and very impatient. (definitely not a baby kisser)
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  14. I think you are pretty much right on. We seem to want coddling, double-minded politicians that say one thing, and do an other. I have to say I applaud the governors that have taken on the ingrained unions in an effort to balance budgets. It’s a tough decision, but look what happened to the unions in Detroit, they negotiated themselves out of work. There are no bailouts for the government.

    I think Donald Trump is a little bit like Teddy. He certainly would have shaken things up in Washington. I just want someone that can make a difference, but the field of opponents to Obama looks pretty dismal.

    And as long as we let wieners stay in office for characterless behavior, it isn’t going to change soon. The pendulum will continue to swing from left to right until someone actually does something of value.
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  15. I think you bring up some interesting points. With our soundbite culture, it is difficult to let people just say what they think. We also don’t want to do the hard work of having to understand nuance and opinion.

    People just want to hear certain key-words and then they know who to vote for. It is really interesting if you analyze political speeches to see what words they use.

    That picture was hilarious!

  16. Matt, I think you’re wrong about anti-war protestors. See http://www.codepink4peace.org/
    They just don’t get much press because it’s old news, and the big protests took place when we thought we could prevent occupation from happening in the first place.

    I’d also be careful about essentializing gender and lionizing masculinity. A heroism that is about killing things doesn’t strike me as a sustainable position.

    Those quibbles aside, it’s true that our politics are polarized and more about tribalism than issues and making good choices. I’m not sure things were as ideal 100 years ago as you’d like to think though.

    • Bethany, thanks for pointing out those dedicated few protesters. All I know from my experience is that there were a few places in my city that used to be full of peaceniks, that are now deserted.

      Not sure what you mean by “essentializing” femininity. My point is that although it is not essential to kill things to be masculine, our culture seems to frown upon masculine behavior. If Sarah Palin can be made fun of to the degree she is for the kinds of “masculine” activities she participates in, a guy like Teddy would be decried as a caveman.

  17. Matt, you really make some excellent points – especially about the double-standard regarding the war protesters.

    Additionally, animal rights activists would have been outraged that Teddy whacked a truly endangered species in the form of Sasquatch.
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  18. Amazing post. I really enjoyed it, agreed with everything you said, and then I laughed out loud when you italicized Canadians, like they may or may not exist. I never saw that coming.
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    • Much like Bigfoot, I have a hard time believing that Canadians do actually exist, but there have been too many sightings of them in the wild for me to dismiss them altogether. Like aliens, their existence isn’t completely implausible.

  19. And another reason TR would never get elected today:
    “I have always said I would not have been President had it not been for my experience in North Dakota.”

    That would seriously tick off residents of both coasts to give credit to anything in “flyover country.”

  20. All we have are political game players and America is in a decline. I don’t think we’ll pull out of it either. The reason? People are too dedicated to a party than a position; more dedicated to a media source than objectivity; more dedicated to ideology than truth.

    The war protesters are a perfect example. There’s a major lack of integrity in the political process both in leaders and in the people who are “active” in politics.
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  21. Sheesh, I hate to have to agree with you all the time; but you nailed this one for sure.

    So to the question, Are there any leaders left in America?
    There are probably some with leadership qualities and potential, but whether or not the likes of the rest of us are any longer capable of following a true leader becomes the question.
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  22. ” We’d rather elect wieners to office than leaders who have the balls to do the right thing.”

    Interesting that you use the word “wieners” with the current political sideshow :-). Was that intentional? My kids think it very funny that someone would elect someone whose last name involves a hot dog.

    I basically agree that most of the people we elect, we elect because they tell us what our itching ears want to hear or because they have the right letter after their name. On the other hand, President Obama, Henry Reid and Nancy Pelosi did stand up for their ideals that Americans all need guaranteed healthcare so that they can live safe, worry-free, happy lives devoid of the joy of effort that Theodore Roosevelt expressed in this quote: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

    On a separate note, if the Tea Partiers ever make themselves an official political party running for office, will we use just “T” or “TP” after their name?
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  23. Couple of things–

    1) “We think everyone’s opinion is a personal offense to our opinions. We think everyone’s religion is an attack on ours.”

    I found it kind of ironic that you make that assertion after your “5 Celebrities That Need To Shut Their Holes” post a few months back, particularly your comments about Hawking. I posted a reply to it back there, but it was a while after the fact.

    2) “American eunuchs”? Seriously? With all due respect, parsing out behaviours as “masculine” and “feminine” (with “feminine” being something that must be avoided at all costs) is ridiculously simplistic.

    It’s still a heck of a lot easier out there in our society for tomboyish girls than it is for “feminine” boys (and honestly, since when did displaying a little bit of gentleness and maybe NOT mowing down every animal you see become a bad thing for a guy?)

    Your comment hit a bit close to home because I’m the mother of a 5-year-old boy. My husband is soft-spoken, was never athletically inclined, and mostly hung out with girls in high school and for his troubles he got hazed for being a “fag” by his more “manly” classmates.

    I am desperately hoping that the same thing is not going to happen to my boy, but alternatively I’m not going to teach him that swallowing his emotions and acting like some testerone-addled lout is going to earn him respect.

    • Abby, you make a great point concerning the possibility that I may have contradicted myself in an earlier post.

      First, I am not above correction, and I admit the seeming contradiction. In my defense, I generally believe that I am tolerant toward people of differing viewpoints…to a point. The people I featured on that post have in one way or another compromised their credibility (or never had any) to the point that I think they would be better off not sharing their opinions. Maybe that defense works, maybe it doesn’t.

      And I’m totally with you on “manliness.” I was never the picture of masculinity in high school. An animal doesn’t have to die to make a man be manly. But we tend to frown on certain kinds of men in our culture as being unenlightened cavemen. Sounds like your husband and I would get along great!

      • Hey, thanks for replying. I reread my post and started thinking “Woa, girl, you need to dial down the snark”, which kind of happens a lot when me and the internets get together.

        Anywho, I completely understand being annoyed with celebrities that spout off about stuff that they know nothing about (you do NOT want to get me started on Jenny McCarthy), but I felt that your criticism of Hawking was unfair because his comments were taken out of context (in that, his remarks were a response given in an interview about HIS OWN beliefs about religion and the afterlife–he’s never mounted any kind of campaign to speak against religion, written books about it, or gone on any kind of anti-religious crusade.)

        And about the “manliness” thing, I guess I’m just not seeing a ton of evidence that “masculine” behavior is overly discouraged in our society. Maybe it’s because of where I live. Maybe it’s because I’m female. Maybe I’m assuming I know what your definition of “masculine” is, but I really don’t.

        Personally, I’ve been feeling like the exact opposite is happening. Here’s an example–have you ever seen any of Gene Kelly’s movies? I’m pretty sure that if anyone suggested to him that dancing was a “sissy” activity he could probably snap them in half like a twig (check out the size of his biceps in “Singing in the Rain” if you doubt me.) And yet, at every dance recital I’ve ever been to (my sisters all took ballet, so I’ve been to a few) there are NO BOYS. There might be one or two at the preschool level (when their mothers can still force them to go to class), but after elementary school, nothing. Shoot, one year the ballet class had to weedle somebody’s older brother into being in the recital just to lift the girls. Boys pretty much quit dance class because it’s “too girly”. Yet, if you watch those old MGM musicals from the 40’s and 50’s they were chock-full of guys–and hardly “sissy” guys either (Gene Kelly always got the girl!) What happened? When did dancing become something that “real guys” just don’t do?

  24. I’ve had a Presidential man crush on John Adams (2nd Prez) every since I read (and re-read and re-read) David McCullough’s phenomenal book about him. I’m sure David Mc wrote books about both JA and TR because they both were cut from the same no-BS, I’m going to do what I think and feel is right no matter the shiz-storm that rains down on me or the political backlash, clothe.

    Matt, you might be a distant relative of one of these men…
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  25. Republican Senator Roy MacDonald from New York doesn’t care what your letter is.


    I’d vote Republican for president again if he ran.
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  26. I am liking Perry, so far. The rest seem to be players.

  27. You might be taking a verse from Romans a bit out of context here. I reread my post and started thinking “Woa, girl, you need to dial down the snark”, which kind of happens a lot when me and the internets get together. Wow!…Nicely put Mr. I loved the “John Adams” miniseries.