The Myth of the Strong Leader

The Myth of the Strong Leader
AP Photo/ File

In April 2016, after Boris Johnson referred to Barack Obama as a “part-Kenyan president” with an “ancestral dislike of the British empire”, one of the US president’s aides remarked: “They’re more subtle back home.” Obama replied: “Not really. Boris is their Trump.” This observation – made before either man had been elected – now appears a prescient distillation of a strange new era of Anglo-American politics.

At the height of liberal globalisation it was thought that presidents and prime ministers might be reduced to mere technocrats, committed solely to the efficient functioning of the free market. Politics would no longer produce what Hegel called “world-historical figures”. But Trump and Johnson – to say nothing of Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi – have defied such prophecies.

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