The danger of leaders who are “out of their depth”

The danger of leaders who are “out of their depth”
The danger of leaders who are “out of their depth”

While Donald Trump heads for a possible second term, the American press debates how to stand up to his excesses and what his role should be before a man who incited his fans to take over the Capitol, a symbol of democracy, after losing the previous election. .

Today 06:24

By Héctor M. Guyot, in La Nación newspaper
To make matters worse, the tycoon returns recharged: he has said that he will embody “revenge”, that illegal immigrants “poison the blood of the country” (in a figure that refers to Nazism) and he has even played with the idea that he will be a “dictator.” ”. Paradoxically, as his speech becomes unhinged, the newspapers pay less attention to his words.

Gail Scriven tells all this in a sharp analysis published yesterday in this newspaper, focusing on the warning made by a professor of Political Science at University College London: “Trump’s scandals have become predictably banal. The press, which in 2017 reported on each of his tweets, now ignores even the most dangerous proposals of an authoritarian who is about to once again become the most powerful man in the world. The alert was launched by Brian Klaas, in an essay titled “The arguments to amplify Trump’s madness.”

The debate touches us closely. In Cristina Kirchner’s time, journalists had to deal with the dilemma of how to respond to attacks on the republican system, and more specifically on the press, without at the same time fueling the polarization that populism applies as its main strategy. The investigations into acts of corruption, the denunciation of a columnist about the colonization of Justice, were for Kirchnerism reactions of the “concentrated powers”, always conspiring against the people that Cristina came to redeem. The rhetoric of resentment bore fruit, and thus the most flagrant fraud became, for the fanaticized militants, a lie concocted by the merciless “elite”, responsible for all the evils that had occurred and to have occurred.

The polarization, fueled daily by the populist leader since her speech, then produced two effects in the press. On the one hand, a fatigue that led to the normalization of verbal violence that descended from power, a numbness similar to what Klaas observes in the United States. On the other hand, a fall in the mud fight, in which Kirchnerism played at home. There, in his field, with each criticism, no matter how consistent, the journalist had the feeling that he was adding another log to the cauldron of division, a gain for the enemies of dialogue.

So, what to do? Not amplify “the madness” of the populists, or count and denounce them, as the press has always done, even at the risk of the leader converting these denunciations into fodder for his unconditional followers?

Here we continue to be challenged by this dilemma. As phenomena that pass more through psychology than political science, all populisms, whether left or right, are similar. There is something that Cristina Kirchner, Donald Trump and Javier Milei share, above their ideologies: they are people who are “out of their depth.” They are moved, to a greater extent than the average, by drives and emotions that they do not control. Hence they feel constrained by the limits imposed by the reasoned and reasonable system of balances and balances of the republican system.

In Trump and Cristina this is a proven fact. Both were against the division of powers. Trump refused to leave office after being defeated in the elections (the same as Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil) and Cristina wanted to be “eternal.” The Argentine president has not demonstrated, at least for now, a lifelong vocation. But he has shown many signs of intolerance. He attributes bad faith to all criticism, distributes wholesale disqualifications and grievances and has been cruel to the press. The paradox in his case is that the fact of being moved by an idea that takes him completely, that being “out of oneself”, those “craziness” that are known to him, have been interpreted by a large part of the electorate as a guarantee of that this outsider “possessed” by a religious conviction is the only one capable of attacking the old order: the corporate and prebendary homeland that this week, with the scandal of the social plans, has given another example of its deep corruption.

Economically, the President has achieved encouraging achievements. In light of his attitudes and his elective affinities (Trump, Bolsonaro, Vox and the global extreme right), what worries Milei is his poor notion of democratic coexistence and pluralism. What to do, then, with his populist gestures? I said it in a column last month: “That needs to be talked about.” In a republic, it is the duty of the press to flag, through information and opinion (separating both levels) any authoritarian deviation of power. Our country and many others are not so much torn between left and right – as the extremes would have us believe – but rather between those who defend today’s weakened democracies and those who pierce them from within.

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