We are enamored with strength, fame, and money. We have given these things nearly messianic attributes. It appears we think that they will save us, or so, that is how it looks this voting season. But, I believe our votes have the potential to betray us.
The Strengths Movement looks back to Peter Drucker’s books on leadership from the late 60’s, and Don Clifton’s 1992 book, Soar With Your Strengths: A Simple Yet Revolutionary Philosophy of Business and Management as key markers for the beginning of its theories on leadership and economic development. The Strengths Movement was described by the incoming president of the American Psychological Association 1999, when he said that psychology had been, “half-baked”. By this, he meant that psychology had focused only upon the weaknesses and sicknesses of individuals. There was a whole other side to the human being, which demanded focus, and that was our abilities and strengths. Naturally, this movement took off like a shot in the world of corporate leadership development.
This was certainly nothing new. History has had leaders who have intrinsically known their strengths and relied upon them for their success. Dale Carnegie, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford are examples in the American business world. Yet history is not always favorable to our strengths. Alexander the Great and Adolf Hitler are examples of strength mixed with a lack of morality or overstretching one’s strengths. Christianity has been focusing upon this for decades as well. We tell people, they need to learn who they are in Christ in order to experience power and victorious living. Though focusing on our strengths has its moments of necessity, we have isolated positive thinking into the only thing we believe we need to hear. Identifying our weaknesses, or learning to curb our strengths has not been a focus of our attention.
Each Presidential election season, America focuses upon its weaknesses as a nation, but each person running for office focuses the voter’s attention upon their strengths to fix the problem. Each election cycle we fall for the sales approach eliciting our affirmation and getting our vote by someone focusing on the strengths they offer us. What we miss in the process is the fact that some of the strongest leaders are the least capable of standing in the office of the President, because they are among the kind of leaders whose strengths become obscene weaknesses in the face of pressure.
Our quick-tongued leaders tell lies to cover their tracks in the face of astute questioning. Our well-connected leaders put their teams of yes men, smear-artists and thugs into action to quell the rising tide of challenges against them. Win at all costs, no matter who pays cost, becomes the order of the day. This occurs even in the face of evidence that an idea is a bad idea, or a policy is failing. Moving forward like berserkers is still viewed as better than retreat into sanity. And, here the strength of a nation becomes its weakness. Military prowess is relied upon, and innocent suffer to protect our way of life. Economic strength is relied upon, and the rich get richer making the power brokers of the nation look good, and all the while the distance between the haves and the have-nots expands into unreachable distances.
We will probably vote for the uncontrolled strengths of a leader once again, and we will probably be duped by that leader’s inability to restrain his/her own strengths once those strengths become detrimental to the common good. Our vote will betray us, and we will be abused by the leaders we pick, because we do not vote for the integrity of our leaders, we vote for their strengths.
It does matter that they would sleep with our wives behind our backs, we somehow believe they will be faithful to their promises. It does not matter that they have changed their positions repeatedly through a short history, they can still be expected to stand firm in their convictions. It does not matter that they have broken laws, cheated people, or exhibited cruelty; as long as they get things done we are happy.
Michel Foucault outlined the distinction in Plato’s thoughts about leadership. It was expected for the good leader to be able to control his own passions first, and only then could he be trusted to rule the people justly.
The much maligned Moral Majority of the 1980’s had its own struggle with strength becoming weakness, but this one well-balanced strength it did have: The Moral Majority movement reminded us that the character of a leader matters. Today we have not only forgotten this truth, we are rejecting it wholesale. History will repeat itself unless we heed the warnings going all the way back to Plato, Solomon, and Moses. Sooner or later, we will be betrayed by our leaders if we choose people whose ethics are questionable. Many of us feel that this has already happened, but we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Once we reject integrity, and vote for a person because they speak the language of our fears, our hopes, our dreams, and show strength to get things done; it will return to bite us, because our vote works like a sword. He who lives by the violent vote, dies by the violent vote.
Perhaps it’s time we read another book about our strengths: Fear Your Strengths: what you are best at could be your biggest problem.
This political season appears to be further from integrity that any in my lifetime. While it is possible to envision a woman as President of the US, and we may be able to place the first woman in that position, the integrity and honesty of the candidate has more questions than Plato would be comfortable with. The left is roiling beneath the waters with this tension. On the right, it is possible that in desiring to strengthen our economy and protect our nation, we will vote for a man, who has built his kingdom on the backs of other people. He has bought our politicians. He has hired undocumented labor paying sub-standard wages, and he would sleep with your wife and brag about it. He has no history of serving others, but only of getting done what he desires to get done, and we somehow expect he would become the highest public servant in the land.
Do not be deceived. Your vote will betray you someday, and someday may be this November.
See the first part of this post Our Vote Betrays Us (Part 1)
You can learn more about critically thinking through the struggles both religion and politics in Burning Religion: navigating the impossible space between religion and secular society
 Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 2 The Use of Pleasure, pg. 64