In politics, leadership discipline isn’t understood or practiced differently or out of context on how leadership discipline is applied in other areas of organizational functions in our societies.
Political discipline is the practice of making people obey rules or standards of behaviors and facing the consequences and accountability when disobeying the rules occurs. In the political arena, law, order, and discipline are placed in the hands of our elected political leaders and the governing bodies.
So, the business of governing and government is a contract and consent between the people and the representatives of their government. As such, “Leaders inspire those they supervise to find their voices.”
But what happens when our political leaders are stuck on political partisanship?
The growing partisan politics or political tribalism in America and around the world is contributing to the erosion of discipline in politics.
Effectively-weak political and governing leaders tend to shirk discipline, violate leadership norms, fail to abide by the rule of law and sentiments of abandoning the Constitution and their oath of office.
All these traits pave the way to disruption in society and authoritarian behaviors that is characterized by political violence.
According to studies conducted by Mason and Kalmoe, “partisan identity strength” within being Democrats or Republicans as a part of who they are is the most important factor in endorsing political violence.
Thus, more Americans now are using their political party affiliation as a source of meaning and social identity, with these identities linked to differences in “leisure activities, consumption, aesthetic taste, and personal morality.”
And in doing so, they are diluting the strength of the American unity and threatening peace, freedom, and democracy due to intensified disagreements about political issues of our time.
The shifting demographics in the US are increasingly associated with changing the identity of the US. Its diverse population, according to Pew Research Center, is reshaping the US political narrative.
“Americans are more racially and ethnically diverse than in the past, and the US is projected to be even more diverse in the coming decades. By 2055, the US will not have a single racial or ethnic majority… Over the next five decades, the majority of US population growth is projected to be linked to new Asian and Hispanic immigration . . . America’s demographic changes are shifting the electorate—and American politics. The 2016 electorate [was] the most diverse in US history due to strong growth among Hispanic eligible voters, particularly US-born youth. There are also wide gaps opening up between the generations on many social and political issues. Young adult millennials are much more likely than their elders to hold liberal views on many political and social issues, though they are also less likely to identify with either political party; 50% call themselves political independents.”
Given that shift demographically, our political leaders now more than ever are engaged in political violence, politics of confrontations, thrive on intimidating others, and are participating in organizing and supporting faction groups that are committed to acts of political violence against the government and its democratic institutions.
The January 6, 2021 act of political violence against the US Capitol Hill during a democratic process session at the core of democracy, was the most wicked crime against democracy in the history of the US.
Despite what happened that day, democracy endured but left Americans more divided than ever. If the same stairs that harbor the chaotic hatred and chaos of that day are the stairs of faith, strength, and hope for the future remain to be seen.
Or, in other words, it remains in the hands of the people, who are the ultimate defenders and protectors of democracy.
Nevertheless, as a society, we should never miss the sight of who was behind that political violence. When a leader of a country sees political violence as “good people…will never take back our country with weakness…have to show strength, and you have to be strong,” then the same leadership directed them to march to Capitol Hill.
This caused six deaths and more than 140 people injured. January 6 will be Donald Trump’s and the GOP’s legacy. He started the presidency he stole from Hillary Clinton with the help of foreign adversaries, led with chaos, and ended his presidency chaotically and unceremoniously, contrary to the well-established democratic process of peaceful transfer of power. This helped him in rebuking the fundamental practices of the Republican party.
What does political violence look like in America?
A political leader who cannot protect and defend its government and all its people is vicious.
The leadership that is capable of positive change but neglects or refuses to adhere to proper and necessary change is not only participating and enabling unfavorable political behaviors but is also weal! Thus those who minimize the January events are increasingly accepting of political violence.
Where people’s lives are in danger or insecure, either because of viciousness and/or weakness of a leader/leadership that is shirking leadership discipline, lawlessness, corruption, and political violence will deny people freedoms, justice, and liberties and destroy the principles of democratic government.
Leadership that does not shirk political discipline is based on inspiration, not domination, and on cooperation, not intimidation.
For the GOP to engage in politics of domination and intimidation since Barack Obama’s presidency to date is not only visible but questionable.
Being a leader is more than just wanting to lead.
Political leaders, in particular, must possess empathy for others and a keen interest and ability to find the best in people, not do the worst to people.
During Donald Trump’s tenure in office, his words and actions or inactions were full of trash talk for a leader but also accompanied by political violence and incited violence in the streets. Consider that he said, “They are fine people…We love You… You are very special people…We will be back in some form…”. This is Donald Trump pleasing the insurrectionists of Capitol Hill.
There was also his divisive and discriminatory policies on immigration, the Muslim ban, derogatory language against African and poor countries, cursing the US adversaries, withdrawing the US from the WHO during the worse pandemic in the recent memories.
He also denied the science by withdrawing the US from the Climate Change Paris Accord at a time that climate-related crisis was raging across the globe, as well as abandoning the US leadership on the world stage, which flared the rising simulations and mimicking of undemocratic practices by leaders of his caliber in other parts of the world.
If a leader cannot control his words and actions, he cannot find a proper way to manage and inspire; he also loses all the wisdom, integrity, and virtuality that comes with the leadership status.
Having severely lacked leadership discipline during his time in office, Donald Trump’s administration suffered the worse staff turnovers in the history of the White House.
The worst political leaders are those who think they know much or more than the people who work for them.
On the other hand, the best political leaders are those who know that their people know more than they know and are still able to admit it, value them, their work, and their contribution.
Political leaders become great not because of their power but through their ability to empower others positively.
There is a large group of Republicans, and most of them are politicians who continue to back Trump’s “Big Lie,” and worst of all, pride him as a party leader. This serves to highlight the unprecedented political tragedy on the horizon.
Shirking discipline in political leadership has been demonstrated by the Republican politicians, and their party leadership is an attempt to abort the principles of democracy.
They conspire to stand by and pledge their loyalty and support to a corrupt leader to undermine and destroy American democracy, to assume absolute power, and pave the way to a dictatorship government.
The GOP reject honesty by hiding the truth, telling lies, and speaking dishonestly; they ignore the respect of the oath of their offices by engaging in divisive, discriminative, and hateful arguments, policies, and state laws.
They refuse to acknowledge opponents and threaten others in their camp by aggressive character assassination, rejecting them an endorsement and even reprimanding when they tell the truth or refrain from their unconstitutional behaviors.
In February 2021, Congresswoman Liz Cheney from Wyoming, the third-ranking member of House Republican leadership, was censured and stripped of her leadership role.
This related to speaking the truth and fulfilling her constitutional role, abiding by the rule of law, and upholding the principles of democracy, and not backing the Republicans “Big Lies” about who planned and attacked Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021.
Cheney was also one of the ten Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump for the unprecedented second time. All ten Republicans were rebuked in one way or the other by their party campaigning against them, calling out for them to resign their positions, or asked not to run again under their party ticket.
Even worse were the verbal mistreatments simply for exercising their constitutional rights. If that is not shirking leadership discipline and political violence, what is?
For the Republican party, loyalty supersedes the fulfillment and respect for the Constitution or the rule of law.
Time and time again, we have witnessed the GOP compromising their leadership integrity and shirking political discipline by failing even to tell themselves the truth. Instead, they play party politics and practice political violence. “Nothing makes one a fool as lying to yourself.”
For those who neglect political discipline, their conduct so far reveals that their characters lied to themselves; their overall conduct also reveals that they not only betray the oath of their offices but also a betrayal of American values, the American people, and American democracy.
Political incivility in today’s politics has hit the crisis level behavior, which continues to rise in America through online and social media and in recent years into the political arena, where it has turned into political violence.
It affects partisan politics, into Conservatives vs. Liberals or Left vs. Right or into white vs. Black, as such tensions in the society are at the highest level.
Incivility behavior is felt everywhere; in the political arena, in the streets and communities, and in schools and in our homes. As people, as a society, we are failing ourselves.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, 70% of Americans today believe that incivility in society/politics has reached crisis proportion, and this is exacerbated in the leadership crisis by leaders who shirk discipline.
On social media, it is not surprising to see the growing occurrence of uncivil discourse and culture, but at the political level, to emulate such incivility culture in policy discussion can turn to personal attack and threats.
This is unprecedented in the House and social media. Trump has been permanently banned from Facebook and Twitter for using the platforms to spread lies, misinformation, disinformation, misleading and fake news. Others also have recently been banned from Twitter.
In May 2021, Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green posted a harassing video against Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.
Marjorie Taylor Green also became aggressively confrontational about debating AOC on false allegations that she supports terrorists, causing concern for safety among members of Congress.
Those who cannot discipline themselves, cannot discipline others. Likewise, freedom without discipline is chaos.
Undisciplined leadership and the coronavirus pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic that has been terrorizing every human being on the planet has also become both a tool of political discourse and political violence caused by lack of political leaders’ discipline in some states.
Vaccines have been turned into a political football and weaponized, fueling anger and aggression. Anti-vaccine people contribute to making the COVID spread threat unattainable, allowing the virus to continue mutating and attacking with raging speed.
Political violence due to the coronavirus pandemic in some red states is not caused by others, but the states’ leadership is leading with defiance of the vaccines.
This causes antagonistic behavior between the people in their states, which is disheartening., A leadership shirking of discipline shirking has led parents to get violent over schools closures, aggressively attacking one another and school principals, or challenging schools systems.
These are regardless of the school’s rules and laws they must abide by to ensure and maintain a healthy and safe environment in the schools.
All these dissension results in neglecting what is in the best interests of a child and her/his health and safety over defiance against mask-wearing in schools, or whether schools should be closed when the coronavirus infection is spiking, or whether vaccines are available for students, and allocating who gets and doesn’t want to get it.
Be that as it may, it’s as if all of a sudden, everyone has their own sets of rights that supersede the rights of others or jeopardize the health and safety of others.
The rules, laws, and procedures that have guided public safety for as long as we can remember no longer work for some, or are being abused in the name of the pandemic.
Can this go on like that, and expect law and order, peace and unity in the society and communities we live in?
“The party of law and order has always been the greatest threat to law and order.” Lip service and their words that don’t typically match their actions.
The recent trend in the political arena indicates that “politicians who are more antagonistic get more media attention, and are more often elected than more agreeable politicians.”
Therefore, aggressive behaviors today in politics are shaping political outcomes for the worse since aggressive people and behaviors are associated with a lack of discipline and emotional regulation, and empathy.
What does this imply? Are we now opting for aggressive leadership instead of decent, regulated leadership? Is shirking leadership discipline a new normal in the political arena?
Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman in Scientific America narrates, “In the general population, antagonistic people are more likely to distrust politics in general, to believe in conspiracy theories, and to support the secessionist movement.”
January 6, 2021, attack on Capitol Hill is a result, and proof of conspiracy theories organized, initiated, and carried out by aggressive political leaders who spread and are still spreading the “Big Lie” about the free and fair election that awarded Joseph R. Biden the presidency.
Because Donald Trump and the GOP lost the election, they cannot accept it, and therefore, their aggressive attitude and uncontrollable behaviors enrage them to attack democracy at its core via the Capitol Hill attack.
In various experiments conducted since 2014, it was found that “exposure to mildly violent political metaphors such as ‘fighting for future’ increase general support for political violence among people with aggression personalities.”
As people, as adults, we need to be conscious, vigilant, and custodians of peace in our communities by first being mindful about whom we elect to lead us, and second, to avoid instigation syndrome and attitude when we disagree with one another or with our leaders.
It is easier to be a follower than a leader, but it’s called upon us to be leaders, not followers.
Our dissatisfaction with our democratic governments and free-market reforms, if genuine, should, therefore, start from the bottom-up, by “We, the People,” not top-bottom by the” political elites.”
Thus, when it is a faction group of “wealthy people, class of elites/leaders” organizing and luring the” bottom working-class” to conspire and commit to political violence against their government, it is not for the benefit of the working class.
It has instead been used as a scapegoat for a power grab, manipulation, and corruption.
We must avoid falling into the wide and entangled web of lies, misinformation, disinformation, misleading falsehoods, and fake news that dominate the world of politics today.
A good number of current political leaders have ceased to act as professional political scientists, perhaps because some of them buy their way into politics, and they know nothing about political science or politics.
As a result, they become engaged in political games of aggression and violations of political norms, rules of law, and insult the Constitution.
Ineffective Congress, all three branches of government, or is it?
Effective leadership not only calls for political discipline but also puts people and country first while effectively managing the required discipline of running and carrying out the functions of the government.
How Congress, with its supreme role, performs its legislative duties has raised questions, increasingly becoming a subject of debate in schools and colleges.
It has been receiving low rates of public approval for over a decade and a half now. Thus, people are dissatisfied with the way Congress legislates nowadays.
Many founding principles have been ignored or neglected, and Congress is increasingly becoming too partisan. The result is that they now cannot legislate the people’s agendas before the party’s agendas.
The in-fighting within the Houses has gotten worse and goes above and beyond politics. Nothing much gets achieved. Rhetoric has become the power and the tool of insult and language of manipulation.
People have been fed empty words day in, day out. As such, the infighting in both Houses (Congress and Senate) has led to many failures in agreement on popular common-sense bills to strengthen our democracy, like the Freedom to Vote Act and The John Lewis Voting Right Advancement Act.
This leaves both Houses looking like they are less interested in defending the Constitution and democracy than for party loyalty and politics that has become a new normal in today’s politics.
Both Houses are engaged in neglecting, even abusing, the constitutional duties of carrying out people’s business, which supersedes party loyalty and policy goals.
Now, we see all three branches of government increasingly unable to agree with one another, to work together on the people’s agenda instead.
They are receding into each governmental’s branch, overreaching its constitutional duties.
Examples are working independently while ignoring checks and balances, whether it is the Executive branch unilaterally issuing and scrapping away executive orders or the Legislative branch neglecting its supreme power of legislating by giving more power to the states’ Administrative Managers and Governors.
The Supreme Court is becoming more and more political than legal; so much so that it’s fair to conclude that events that are happening within or inside the three branches of the government (aggressive behavior of party politics, supporting faction groups, giving states’ rights to violate people’s rights and freedoms (Texas Roe v. Wade overturn), all culminating to disturbing dysfunction in the three branches of government.
This leads to the imminent threat to the rule of law and the beginning of the destruction of the democratic institutions, as seen by some Red states currently engaged in passing laws that suppress voting rights.
In a nutshell, political dysfunction, polarization, violence, turmoil, shirking discipline, or whatever you wish to call it has reached a new height.
The enemy is within, and in all three branches of the government are reflected by their failure and neglect of abiding by the principles of the nation’s democracy to the tone of the Founding Fathers and the Constitution. Thus governments must course correct immediately.
Political leadership discipline is a bridge between effective leadership, goals attainment, and achievements; nothing of importance is achieved without discipline.
Adveline J. Minja is a lifelong educator and a die-hard political scientist. She holds two professional careers. She has been working in the field of education for over 23 years in all settings-private and public, as well as working in the government.
Her philosophy about life is based on her beliefs that, we as people, learn from one another and understand better when we are engaged in exploring, discovering, and experiencing life together, influencing one another with our knowledge, ability, creativity, attitude, and even shaping our characters.
She thrives in knowledge seeking and sharing.
She holds the belief that as humans we have more in common than what distinguishes us.
She aspires to the societal norms and practices that bring shared common good and desired common goals-freedoms, democracy, and social liberties.