What Bush's New Cabinet Reflects About Him
As Steve has shown, Bush's second term cabinet will be remarkable in the fact that the new cabinet members should prove to be even more loyal to Bush than the first set. Long time observers of Bush have noted that he prizes loyalty above all other virtues in his colleagues and that loyalty is mostly a one way affair. Ron Suskind also noted in his article about Bush's Faith-Based Presidency, that Bush does not want to have people second-guessing him. Loyalty is the end-all and be-all for those who are tapped to serve in his government.
After reading Ron Suskind's article about how thoroughly Bush was divorced from reality and then finding a reference to Eric Hoffer's influential book about Mass Movements, The True Believer when looking for other examples of this denial of reality, I decided that I needed to learn what Hoffer had to say about mass movements. Making it even more urgent to understand what was going on were the stories about the fundamentalists who threw their wholehearted support behind Bush in the past election. It is clear that the Christian Right is the hot core of a incipient mass movement in our country, and as we have seen, they have blind faith in Bush leading them to the new world they strive to create.
Hoffer's thesis is that the true believers (the shock troops for the movement) are impotent until they find the right type of leader to lead them to their promised future. He also asserts that it is impossible for an inspired leader to create the conditions that lead to a mass movement, since this leader cannot create out of a void the feeling of intense dissatisfaction and frustration that attracts those who make up the true believer ranks. Nevertheless, the true believers who wish to lose themselves in their crusade are ready to follow someone who speaks to their passions.
"Once the stage is set, the presence of an outstanding leader is indispensable. Without him there will be no movement."
Hoffer describes the characteristics that are most necessary for a leader of the true believers.
It needs the iron will, daring and vision of an exceptional leader to concert and mobilize existing attitudes and impulses into the collective drive of a mass movement. The leader personifies the certitude of the creed and the defiance and grandeur of power. He articulates and justifies the resentment dammed up in the souls of the frustrated. ...
What are the talents requisite for such a performance?
Exceptional intelligence, noble character and originality seem neither indispensable nor perhaps desirable. The main requirements seem to be: audacity and a joy in defiance; an iron will; a fanatical conviction that he is in possession of the one and only truth; faith in his destiny and luck; a capacity for passionate hatred; contempt for the present; a cunning estimate of human nature; a delight in symbols (spectacles and ceremonials); unbounded brazenness which finds expression in a disregard of consistency and fairness; a recognition that the innermost craving of a following is for communion and there can never be too much of it; a capacity for winning and holding the utmost loyalty of a group of able lieutenants. This last faculty is one of the most essential and elusive. The uncanny powers of a leader manifest themselves not so much in the hold he has on the masses as in his ability to dominate and almost bewitch a small group of able men. These men must be fearless, proud, intelligent and capable of organizing and running large-scale undertakings, and yet they must submit wholly to the will of the leader, draw their inspiration and driving force from him, and glory in this submission.
Not all the qualities enumerated above are equally essential. The most decisive for the effectiveness of a mass movement leader seem to be audacity, fanatical faith in a holy cause, an awareness of the importance of a close-knit collectivity, and, above all, the ability to evoke fervent devotion in a group of able lieutenants.
Remember the picture of Rove stretched out on the tarmac? According to mystified observers, this was the result of a private joke between Rove and the President. Doesn't it seem more likely it was the visible expression of loyalty to Bush that was demanded of Rove? And as we've seen, the newest advisors that Bush is tapping are ones who put his interests above all other interests including the national interests. According to our Dear Leader, our national interests are inseparable from his interests.
Are we watching the start of a mass movement led by Bush? If the answer is yes, then we will have a very bumpy ride ahead. The other thing that Hoffer says about mass movements, is that the momentum is on the side of the true believers and it is much harder to hold on to what you have than it is to sweep it away for people willing to sacrifice all as they create their new world. It will be a long, yet necessary fight as we find ways to forestall this happening.