In recent days, I've heard some folks wondering how Russians could re-elect an authoritarian like the spymaster*-turned-politician, while others nod knowingly and murmur, "Russians, what'd'ya expect?"
Would that it was that simple; would that you could point to a nation out from under Czar and Commissar within living memory and sigh that they could know no better.
They're not the only ones! Any time you've wished aloud for a U.S. President to "grow a spine and show those so-and-sos," you've been wishing for a strongman; presidential election campaigns hammer over and over how their guy is a powerful leader who would set things right at home and abroad! --Bold claim for an office that was only supposed to be implementing laws passed by Congress, doing the Head-of-State waltz with kings and autocrats and making all the day-to-day gap-filling or crisis-driven decisions needed to keep the country running.
Most people miss Daddy sometimes, but there's a whole big section of the human race that longs for an über-Daddy. A strongman. Maybe you aren't that way but your neighbor, boss or coworkers are.
And guess what? The people who look to authority by default, the ones who feel, deep in their souls, that authority is to be deferred to simply because it exists, end up running things, since they're the people who can -- and will -- jump through all the hoops, working their way through the maze. Knowing what to kiss and what to kick -- and enjoying being a part of it -- they end up in charge. (See Kevin Baker's postings anent "administrative control bias" in the media and academia for one example of what results therefrom).
Meanwhile, ol' intractable you -- and me, too -- is on the outs. Doesn't make any difference what you know or how well you do it: if you lack that essential sense that those above you must be right, just 'cos they're up there while you're down below, you're not going to find the Ladder of Success an easy climb unless you figure a way to do it solo.
And while you are at it, those around you are looking for a new Man On Horseback.
The Constitution was supposed to limit this, or at least to limit the harm it among the elected and to the electorate; but the Founders and Framers had only an inkling of the innate drives and expectations they were up against.
So Russia gets a Putin. And we get demagogues, making promises they cannot possibly deliver without a compliant Congress and malleable courts -- and most of the discussion I'm hearing and seeing isn't about what despicable nonsense that is, but only how terribly awful it would be if the wrong man got the job.
From where I'm sitting, they're all wrong.
* An earlier version of this posting identified Putin as a former "spamaster." It was a typo. For the record -- and as spook-y as his is -- I do not think the man has been involved in spamming. Or bossing a spa.
6 months ago