The Virus Gordon Brown Shares With Hillary Clinton

Both are lifetime seconds-in-command doing, or planning to do, the jobs of leaders. Brown is the latest of a long line of unfortunates proving the impossibility of this transition, and Dems should avoid following the Brit Labour party over this precipice.

Here’s a professor of history:

…during the past four months or so a profound change has come over British politics, with Gordon Brown and the Labour Party falling suddenly, remarkably, and apparently catastrophically behind in the polls, and the Conservative Party, led by David Cameron, forging ahead…

In common with everyone else, I have been extremely surprised by this turn of events, which has come more or less out of the blue. When in mid-2007, Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, he entered with an enormous amount of goodwill and appeared to many to be just the ticket Britain needed after ten years of Tony Blair.

This collapse against a very weak opponent has a strong precedent:

Historically, in Britain when a strong Prime Minister who has been in power for a long time is followed by an obvious heir apparent who has been waiting to take over in a secondary but important post, that successor has generally proven to be an unfortunate choice: Balfour after Salisbury in 1902; Neville Chamberlain after Baldwin; Eden after Churchill; Callaghan after Wilson in 1976.

In effect, the successor has rusted in a secondary but important position which he performed competently – Chamberlain at the Treasury, Eden at the Foreign Office, for instance – but then found himself way over his head in the central limelight.

The cause isn’t “rust”, but the need for subordinates to have characters and skills completely inappropriate to the leadership role – here’s Karl Popper (paperback p143):

The authoritarian will in general select those who obey, who believe, who respond to his influence. Never can an authority admit that the intellectually courageous, i.e. those who dare to defy his authority, may be the most valuable type

People prepared to tolerate subordinate roles prosper under strong leaders, and those that won’t either leave or are fired. That explains why it’s much better to elect leaders than appoint them.

Incidentally, this effect explains why peacetime generals are usually useless in war – they’ve all advanced by obedience, whereas good generals are mavericks who prefer battle. Thus it took real adversity to allow General Petraeus to get to the top.

So poor Brown is doomed because he can’t lead.

In the the US, Hillary Clinton is another second in command. She’s been in her husband’s shadow for her entire adult life, in the process enduring a level of humiliation that no free spirit would accept.

In consequence she’s adept at indirect control, but incompetent as a leader, and I suspect people sense this when giving her such high negative ratings.

If she becomes president, she won’t be able to select, motivate and lead a top-rate management team, and will struggle to deal with life and death issues without support. Her experience is to have someone else do these nasty jobs, but there’ll be nobody there.

So, if she is elected, look for her popularity (and the fortunes of the US) to crash as quickly as Brown’s.


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