CNN commentator David Gergen is also the director of Harvard University's Center for Public Leadership which conducts research in the American people's confidence in its "nation's leadership". In "A Deepening Leadership Crisis", Gergen reports on the authority scarcity in American society. In the Fall of 2005, 65% of Americans believed there was a leadership crisis. That number went up to 69% in 2006 and to 77% last fall. One can only assume that, in the wake of the financial meltdown, it's well over 80% now. As Gergen says, this is much deeper than just a crisis over the leadership qualities of Bush-Cheney. Media, finance, Congress, the Presidency -- they are all failing to provide leadership:
Please note that this survey did not reflect just an unhappiness withPresident George W. Bush. It was widespread across 12 different institutions and leadership groupings. Only the military and the medical profession were given relatively high marks this past fall. Strikingly for purposes of understanding these past few days, the institutions and groups with the lowest levels of confidence were smack in the middle of this financial meltdown. Four of the five lowest rated groups in the index were business, Congress, the executive branch, and the press. No wonder the “leaders” of these institutions had so much trouble persuading the general public about the seriousness of our financial mess.
So nobody believes in any American leaders anymore except that old symbiosis of soldiers and doctors. I wonder what would happen if the American people were asked if they had confidence in the leadership qualities of the American public. My guess is that they might have lost confidence in themselves. So what happens when the general public stops believing in the general public?
In the wake of the uprising by the East German people in 1953, Bertold Brecht wrote a satirical poem called The Solution:
After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back onlyBy redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
The Berlin Wall has come down now and the uprising of the 17th June is history. But here in America we still don't seem to have a solution to the crisis. What happens in a democracy when the people forfeit the confidence of themselves? Is it possible for the people to dissolve the people and elect another?