There are plenty of leaders in Washington, D.C., but can any of them actually lead? That’s the question posed in a recent column written by POLITICO’s Todd Purdum.
With Congressional dysfunction at an all-time high and approval on a perpetual downward slide, leadership seems to be a rare commodity in Washington. But Purdum argues that there are pockets of true leadership inside the Beltway.
It’s not that Washington lacks leaders. It has any number of diligent, dedicated ones, who are lethally effective in their way. Cruz may have alienated his own Republican colleagues in the Senate with his faux filibuster and support for the government shutdown last year, but he got just what he wanted out of the effort: a bigger national profile, rock-solid support in his home state of Texas, interest from grass-roots and deep-pocketed conservative activists from coast to coast — in short, tens of thousands of new “followers,” and not just on Twitter.
If that doesn’t make him a leader, what does?
Rand Paul’s libertarian jeremiads may cause eye rolling among conventional politicians. But his stinging challenge to the Obama administration’s use of predator drones to take out terrorists — not to mention his candid, post-Ferguson commentary on the plight of too many black Americans at the hands of white policemen — endeared him to untold numbers of ordinary voters.
That makes him a leader, too.
Obama seized his moment on the national stage seven years ago (against the advice of more cautious leaders); made history with his election; then jammed through Congress a health insurance overhaul that had eluded Democratic presidents for more than three generations. He remains an inspiring figure to millions of people around the world.
Surely that makes him a leader, even if most of the rest of his second-term agenda seems stalled, if not dead.
Still, leadership in all three examples requires an additional step that has proven quite unachievable in today’s political world: rallying support from both sides of the aisle to get done what needs to be done.
Some of Cruz’s recent positions so visibly pivot back in the direction of the GOP establishment that he’s lost the trust of many libertarian-leaning Republicans. His ability to reach out to Democrats, voters and politicians, is limited by how he made his name politically and the direction he’s headed.
President Obama has since his initial days in the Oval Office embraced a leadership style that hinges on the politics of division. Therefore, rabble-rouser is the more appropriate term for the president who forced through the long-held Democratic dream of healthcare reform.
Of Purdum’s three examples, Paul probably represents the best potential true leader. He’s routinely taken positions that are unpopular with his own party and made efforts to reach out to traditionally non-GOP voters.
Looking ahead to 2016, leadership is going to become a major topic as candidates for the presidential nomination in both parties go through the vetting process.
Read Purdum’s full column here.