Hillary’s weakness: traditional & charismatic leaders attack her bureaucratic authority

Summary: Hillary is the establishment’s nominee for the Democratic ticket by virtue of seniority, dynastic succession, loyalty to the 1%, and service in the State machinery. An elderly statesman, Sanders, challenges the power of these institutions’ bureaucratic authority by a call to follow traditional authority (unlike in the GOP, where Trump’s appeals with charismatic authority) . We can only guess at what lies ahead. This is a follow-up to Max Weber explains Campaign 2016: we want a charismatic leader to restore America. Charisma in the deep sense, meaning a source of authority.

“With Hillary sometimes you get this feeling that all of her sentences are owned by someone.”
— Olivia Sauer, 18, a college freshman from Ames, Iowa quoted in the Feb 5 NYT.

Hillary Clinton - official Secretary of State portrait -300


The planned 2016 contest between Hillary and Jeb would have marked the descent of US politics into the last of Max Weber’s three forms of authority, from traditional to bureaucratic.

Republican voters appear to have successfully rebelled, with Bush polling at 4%. The Democrats still remain loyal to who they’ve been given — albeit with a strong insurgency from Sanders’ attempts to roll back the Democrat’s clock, asserting traditional authority and values.

Too see the bureaucratic nature of Hillary’s candidacy, see Jackson Lears’ review of the second volume of her autobiography, Hard Choices. It’s well-worth reading in full: it is more informative than her speeches and more revealing of how she’ll govern than any or all of her campaign’s white papers.

“The intellectual bankruptcy of the Democratic Party is nowhere more evident than in the looming presidential candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Assumptions of the inevitability of her candidacy tend to ignore policy matters, focusing instead on her gender and her twenty years as a Washington insider. Many usually thoughtful people can find nothing more substantial to say in her favour than ‘it’s her turn.’

“…In slogging through it, one is reminded of why the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency is so dreary. … Nothing could more clearly illustrate the merger of economic and political power in the oligarchy that dominates American public life. Were Clinton to win, her victory would ensure the continuation of business as usual in Washington. The only change would be the return to power of the Clinton machine, an army of loyalists who have been milling about the capital for two decades but whose command has now shifted from Bill to Hillary. Despite their differing styles, the intent is the same: rewarding friends and punishing enemies, the latter with such precision that one of her staffers fears Hillary will come to seem little different from ‘Nixon in a pantsuit’.

“The sense of continuity is reinforced by the blizzard of worn buzzwords and market-researched phrases regurgitated by Clinton as she races round the globe…”

For those who can stand it, Joseph Lelyveld’s review at the London Review of Books provides even more evidence that Hillary is the ideal candidate for a bureaucratic President serving the 1%, equaled on the stage only by Jeb Bush.

"Hard Choices" by Hillary CLinton
Available at Amazon.

“The book landed with a thud. It’s a stiff-jointed, careful performance, assembled by a “book team” of former and present aides from briefing papers, old speeches, town hall transcripts, and interviews.

“What we get are the highly edited reflections of a prospective candidate: part résumé, designed to reveal the depth of her immersion in global affairs and the extent of her familiarity with the world’s great and near great, scores of them (from the Empress of Japan to His All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, to Bono); part rampart, designed not to reveal too much.

“… may have difficulty getting past clunky, cursory accounts of how she pulled off a thaw in relations with New Zealand or spoke up for democracy in Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and Kosovo. The book has few revelations, let alone pleasures. Its gazetteer notes compete with one another for lameness. (The Sinai is “famous for its role in the Bible.” Lahore is “full of fantastic Mogul architecture.” Copenhagen is “a picturesque city, full of cobblestoned streets.”)”

Bust of Hillary Clinton by Daniel Edwards
Bust of Hillary Clinton by Daniel Edwards. Photo by Igor Khodzinskiy, AFP/Getty Image.

Alex Pareene at Gawker highlights Hillary’s role as the apparatchiks’ nominee, distant not only from the American people but also from the Democratic Party’s base. This incident also shows her lack of political skill.

“At last night’s Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton invoked an unexpected figure: Henry Kissinger. “I was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better than anybody had run it in a long time,” she said, in an off-hand aside. It wasn’t an endorsement of Kissinger, or really much of anything. It was just a little brag that would have played well in a different room.

“The sort of room it would have played well in, really, is the sort of room in which the worst people in the country congregate. The fact that Clinton lapsed into speaking as if she were in that room is more or less why she’s having trouble, once again, convincing the Democratic electorate to nominate her for the presidency.

“Henry Kissinger, for the record, is a bad man, who waged a terrible and illegal war in Cambodia, supported a horrific right-wing strongman in Chile, and generally ran America’s foreign policy apparatus in the most amoral way possible, as a point of pride. However, in the bubble of elite American society, the bipartisan consensus, shared by politicians and members of the media alike, is that he’s simply a respected elder statesman.

“…Hillary Clinton exists in a world where “Henry Kissinger is a war criminal” is a silly opinion held by unserious people. Her problem? Lots of those silly and unserious people want to wrest control of the Democratic Party away from its current leadership, which is exemplified by people like Hillary Clinton.”

Hillary’s poor fit with the Democratic Party’s loyalties shows another common weakness of bureaucratic power. Not just her fondness for foreign wars, but also her lavish support from the 1% — an investment from which they probably expect larger returns.

Update: Another consequence of running a candidate relying on bureaucratic authority: low voter turnout, as the NYT describes: “Beneath Hillary Clinton’s Super Tuesday Wins, Signs of Turnout Trouble“. People just don’t care.

But Clinton holds the high cards of institutional approval. Sanders’ insurgency has made a strong start, but faces long odds against success as the Party’s traditional sources of authority (which he represents) are even weaker than its bureaucratic ones. He’s an elderly challenger with equally tired nostrums. But no matter what outcome, this clash will create an opportunity for new forms of authority eventually to assert themselves on the Left.


“In the Chinese language, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters,
one representing danger and the other, opportunity.”
Speech by John Kennedy on 12 April 1959 at the Convocation of the United Negro College Fund. It’s wrong about Chinese, but right about the nature of crises.

The shift from buracratic political leaders to charismatic ones naturally accompanies the other new trend: the rise of populism.

Election 2016 offers us an opportunity to take a first small step to reforming America.  This might be the beginning of a historical moment when previously fixed aspects of society come into play — open to change.

Such moments of crisis offer danger and opportunity. Each of us gets to help choose the outcome. You cannot make a difference. I cannot make a difference. Organized together we can change America. Act soon. Events are in motion, as people realize that we can select a President from outside of the establishment’s offerings.

The face of Tacitus

“Although Nero’s death had at first been welcomed with outbursts of joy, it roused varying emotions, not only in the city among the senators and people and the city soldiery, but also among all the legions and generals; for the secret of empire was now revealed, that an emperor could be made elsewhere than at Rome.”

— From The Histories by Tacitus (~56 – 117 A.D.).

Other posts about Trump and the new populism

See all posts about Trump and the New Populism, especially these…

  1. In August I wrote The Donald Trump revolution, dismissed as all revolts are in the beginning.
  2. Background: Scary lessons for America from pre-revolutionary France.
  3. Trump’s hope: a recession might put him in the White House.
  4. The four keys to a possible Trump victory.
  5. Trump, not Sanders, is the revolutionary.
  6. Important: Max Weber explains how charismatic leaders replace bureaucratic ones.
  7. Hillary Clinton, the establishment’s nomination for leader of the US bureaucracy

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For ideas about what you can do see Reforming America: steps to new politics.

12 thoughts on “Hillary’s weakness: traditional & charismatic leaders attack her bureaucratic authority”

  1. Like it or not, there is one thing left out of this thought: “Summary: Hillary is the establishment’s nominee for the Democratic ticket by virtue of seniority, dynastic succession, loyalty to the 1%, and service in the State machinery.” and that is resume`.
    Notwithstanding one’s political orientation, H. Clinton’s resume` (as far as statesmen{people} goes) has checked off more of the prerequisites than any alternative candidate. Of course, doing so, is no assurance of being able to perform the requirements of the job well. But this is a glaring omission.

  2. We have a general lack of qualified candidates. The best people have more skeletons than a graveyard in their past. Stalemate politics steeped in party unity has derailed any movement. Even the most revolutionary candidate can’t get past the constipated congress. We elect idiots promising not to do things! You get what you ask for. Or just cue the Who…

  3. Pingback: Reblog – Hillary’s weakness: her decaying bureaucratic authority is attacked by traditional & charismatic leaders | Coloring Outside the Lines

  4. What is your opinion on this – does the current method of selecting individuals to run for the office of President reflect the political choice of American voters if they were able to select the candidates directly?

    It seems strange to an outsider that the political will as expressed by the elected officials in Congress and the Senate is, these days, im apparent opposition to that of the President. If the American democratic principle is a rule by the people, why aren’t the numbers of Congressmean and Senators more important than the one of the President?

    The current political system in America looks more to this outsider as an elected (weak) dictatorship or monarchy than popular democracy. The equivalent of the British House of Lords selecting a landholder peer to mitigate the power of the “mob” and rule as the powerful elite think in the best, conflating the best for the economic top with the best for the masses.

    1. Douglas,

      “does the current method of selecting individuals to run for the office of President reflect the political choice of American voters if they were able to select the candidates directly?”

      Good question, but the answer is unknowable. American voters are disengaged. Some surveys show that people put on average five minutes of thought into choosing a candidate to support. What does “select directly” mean? Everybody write a name on the ballot, with no intermediary steps to get on the ballot?

      “The current political system in America looks more to this outsider as an elected (weak) dictatorship or monarchy than popular democracy.”

      I can’t imagine why anyone would think that. That’s as implausible as saying that the highly controlled European systems, such as the UK’s Parliament with its unlimited power — are elected dictatorships.

    2. Douglas,

      I omitted a response to this…

      “If the American democratic principle is a rule by the people, why aren’t the numbers of Congressmean and Senators more important than the one of the President?”

      Why should one set of elections have priority over the other? Also, both the House nor Senate are unrepresentative geographically — the Senate wildly so, with small States the equivalent of the UK’s 19th C “rotten boroughs” (i.e., having representation grossly larger than their population).

  5. Pingback: Hillary’s weakness: traditional & charismatic leaders attack her bureaucratic authority | Fabius Maximus website – sanandamelchizedek

  6. I say “weak” dictatorship because Obama pushes programs that apparently Congress and the Senate doesn’t like. Rather than have Congress/the Senate push programs that the President approves or disapproves based on Constitutional precepts or grand principles (the idea behind a constitutional monarch or governor-general), it seems that everyone looks to the President to have the Grand Idea. That is what the Roman elected dictatorship system was about, going on the idea that the Senate was too self-interested and fractious to look after the Nation. Thinking of Senators as a bunch of cats that can’t be herded.

    On another point: If what you are saying about Congress and the Senate not representing the will or interests of the people in general, but the President does more, then a directly elected President by ballot would be a solution to the non-representative nature of Congress and the Senate. But I don’t believe that. Even if there is non-proportional representation, it is still representation. And the solution to non-representation is not to have the Colleges select a political but a non-political arbiter to better reflect the will of the people. If that is what you need to make progress, because the “cats” refuse to walk the same way, let alone be herded.

    The (weak) dictatorship comment – looking back at your astonishment – is directly about the Presidential power to bulldoze Congress and the Senate with the EPA ruling, Obamacare, etc. The dictator or Monarch dictates or directs because he says he knows better than the group. Is that not what Obama and Hillary and Sanders and Trump are saying? From Climate Change to walls along the Mexican border, Congressmen and Senators aren’t creating bills for these purposes. None of them are standing up and shouting what their Democratic or Republican group will accomplish those things, or even that that is what their piece of the population WANTS. It’s the President or the aspirants to his position who say what great things “he” will accomplish. Congress and the Senate appear to be the controlling forces AGAINST the President. The power, therefore is with with President, not them. Thus, an elected dictator (weak) or Monarch, is the actual power structure style.

    On another point: In the European governments, the Presidents serve at the head of their parties and can be deposed by their parties. I agree that they are powerful, and set the tone, but they are accountable to the party MPs. There is a mitigation outside of a new election. Look to the Australian or even Canadian systems. There have been leaders pushed out due to popular backlash in both. I can’t think of European instances, but the top fellow does not exist independent of the other members of the same party, who are not independent of the voters.

    Your comment on the (I infer) need for an independently elected President et al: It strikes me that you feel the current American system of elected government does not represent the will of the people for systemic reasons. So is the solution a powerful President with a Vision, or a reform of how Congressmen and Senators perform or function?

    I don’t really see a need to reform the American system of government. Just a demand that they be accountable and represent the voting public – by throwing the bums out, essentially. Knowing that the voters will make them unimportant (and unemployed) is a powerful antidote to self-interest. Make them do their jobs of negotiating equitable and reasonable policies despite different needs, interests and proclivities region to region. Instead of having Mom or Dad at the top settling squabbles between the kids and telling everyone where they are going on vacation this summer.

    1. Douglas,

      You are taking a button and sewing a coat on it. That is, you inferences about my beliefs concerning the US government are almost completely wrong.

      “I say “weak” dictatorship because Obama pushes programs that apparently Congress and the Senate doesn’t like.”

      All 3 branches of the US government have their own sources of legitimacy, and the system is designed for them to compete — as they have since the Founding. To call that a “dictatorship” is absurd. Each branch has direct forms of control on the other two, including a big stick (i.e, Congress on President & the Supreme Court, President on C & SC, SC on C and P). It’s a complex system allowing initiative, but making large-scale action difficult and slow without a large supporting consensus.

      Obama’s mild exercises of authority are trivial compared to commonplace ones in the past — let alone the extreme cases, such as Jefferson’s Louisianan Purchase and FDR’s aid to Britain during WWII.

  7. Pingback: Links 2/20/16 | naked capitalism

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