More than anything, this perhaps comes down to what you regard as the qualities that a politician should always have on display. We seem increasingly to want our politicians to always be presentable, to always instantly know what to do, and at the same time to be incredibly open with everyone. In short, we never want them to put a foot wrong, be off-message, or be consumed with anything other than constant public service. This, more than anything, is what is currently delivering us identikit politicians, overwhelming upper-middle or upper-class, with next to no experience other than from within political parties, all of whom look more or less the same and indeed, offer more or the less the same. They can deliver a speech brilliantly, pretend to empathise, emerge as brain-shatteringly normal or at least act like it, and pass the barbecue test, but none of this qualifies them in the slightest to actually run a country. Surely we ought to have learned this lesson by now, whether by the examples of either Bush or Blair, yet we seem more than ever to lap up the spin we so profess to detest while railing against the outsider, the abnormal, those who don't seem to fit in.
I want to add three things to that. First, to come across as so smoothly and assuredly ‘normal’ when one is so consistently in the public eye isn’t ‘normal’. While celebrity itself must be disconcerting and stressful in many ways, a mere sporting, pop or TV star doesn’t have to stick so thoroughly to a particular line: you can get drunk in public, you can make stupid comments, and if your album only gets to number 2 in the charts, you don’t lose your job. Not so in politics.
Second, to seek power (as all political leaders do) isn’t ‘normal’. To get into the higher echelons of this game requires uncommon drive. Furthermore, to hold and exercise political power makes you less normal – Thatcher and Blair had their personal oddities before they set foot in Number 10, but their years at the top manifestly made them less ‘normal’.
Third, and perhaps aptly in Democratic convention week, is what Congressman Matthew Santos told that convention a couple of years ago:
We all live lives of imperfection and yet we cling to this fantasy that there’s this perfect life and that our leaders should embody it. But if we expect our leaders to live on some higher moral plane than the rest of us, well we’re just asking to be deceived.
I have never met anyone who wasn’t “psychologically flawed”.