Joe Biden is my kind of leader—bright, compassionate, experienced and, of no small importance, he lead’s by consensus. I think he’s one of the better presidents the Americans have had. A great many American voters, however, disagree with me. At the moment he’s barely managing to stay even in the polls with the worst president the country has ever had.

How can this be? A recent article in The New York Times offers a clue. According to political scientist Steven Fish, Trump is an “avid and ruthless practitioner” of domination, and “politics is a dominance competition.”

Trump’s domination is certainly effective. It allows him to bring his fellow Republicans to heel. An example is Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz opposed Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Trump insulted him, insulted his father and insulted his wife. Yet on January 6, 2021, Cruz was standing loyally by Trump’s side as he whipped the infamous mob into an insurrectionist frenzy.

He called his his former attorney general Bill Barr, “Weak, slow moving, lethargic, gutless, and lazy.” Barr, a forgiving soul, recently endorsed him. Republicans submit to his abuse and accept his lies like true sycophants.

Unfortunately it seems to be in our nature to submit to the alpha dog, something demagogues know instinctively. An American poll showed that over twice as many voters preferred a “strong leader” as one who “shares my values” or “cares about people like me.” And an American study that polled voters on presidential candidates’ since the 1980s said the candidate who rated higher on “strong leadership” has never lost while the one who more people agree “really cares about people like you” lost half the time.

Fortunately dominance is not limited to bad boys. Some of America’s most progressive presidents have been high dominance, e.g. Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. This is true for Canada as well, e.g. Tommy Douglas, Brian Mulroney and Pierre Trudeau.

Not that we haven’t also had consensual leaders who achieved a great deal. Lester Pearson comes to mind. This prime minister, steeped in diplomacy, led a government whose accomplishments included the Medical Care Act, the Canada Pension Plan, our Maple Leaf flag, the Canada Student Loan Program, the Order of Canada and the world’s first points-based immigration system. And of no small importance this winner of the Nobel Peace Prize kept us out of the Vietnam War.

Today the U.S. and Canada both face a choice between dominant or consensual leaders, the U.S. a stark choice. A recent Gallup poll showed that 57 percent of Americans regarded Trump as “a strong and decisive leader” compared to only 38 percent for Biden.

Our incumbent leader fits the consensual label. When Trudeau said during the 2015 election he would take the high road, I felt that was it for the Liberals—another Dion or Ignatieff debacle. You couldn’t beat the Conservatives without joining them in the down and dirty. Well, I was wrong. He did take the high road and his “sunny ways” won the day. That however was his high point and the Liberals have won fewer votes in every election since.

The Conservatives are now led by one of Stephen Harper’s attack dogs, a dominant strain in that regime. Poilievre is no Trump, but he’s an everything is broken and only I can fix it kind of guy who reflexively insults his opponents, which makes him at least a pale imitation.

We face the nightmarish possibility that next year could bring a Trump-run U.S. and a Poilievre-run Canada. We can only hope that the electors of both countries will allow their belief in decency to triumph over their innate weakness for the bad boy.

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