Certainly a leader’s ideology matters, as do their policies. But we must not forget the importance of intelligence. People who are not capable of the challenge of leading a country should not be in charge.
The fact that someone as thoughtless, incoherent and delusional as Donald Trump ss the president of the United States is not just foolishness but a moral failing. He does not deserve the office. He is completely unsuitable. This goes beyond his politics. Someone who wanted all the right things, but who did not understand how the US Constitution, US law, the media or sentence structure work would still be wrong as president. A leader does not need to be a genius, but they must be aware of what they are doing and be able to plan and organise and communicate.
Trump does have a kind of animal instinct for saying and doing things that get him attention, but he is incredibly stupid. If the purpose of a presidential election is to ensure that the best person is chosen for the job, then the system has failed.
But the non-US world should not look smugly at the United States and assume that there is no need for introspection. And we should not assume that this is a vice purely of the right. Canada’s Justin Trudeau is a dumb pretty boy who said enough liberal progressive things to elevate him to high office.
In the UK, Labour was led into the last two elections by a man who went to a very good school and managed to scrape by with two Ds at A level. As the commenters will correctly tell me, A levels are not the only indicator of intelligence. But being unwilling or unable to address the electorate’s fears about him, choosing a team that was clearly not up to the task, having an incoherent message and so on all suggest that he was lacking. He did not understand how government borrowing works. And there is no evidence that he is intelligent. If you have lived for seventy years as a vibrant, intelligent, analytical, creative person, you would leave evidence.
This matters in the upcoming leadership election because it looks like Rebecca Long Baily is the frontrunner. Her first piece in the Guardian announcing her candidacy was awful. She gave Corbyn 10/10! She hasn’t thought this through.
This isn’t intended as a point about socialist ideology. There are liberal or “centrist” dummies too, like Trudeau or Biden. And there are certainly plenty on the right cough cough Liam Fox cough cough. But it matters. Labour has only ever won outright under three leaders, each of whom was a crafty fox.
And it matters for more than electability. We should want the people in charge to be capable. We should value understanding and reasoning and creativity. Intelligent work is rewarded immensely by our banks and software companies. Why not value it in our politicians too?