We need wise leaders at every level of government. In fact, Latter-day Saints are under scriptural command in this regard.
The Doctrine and Covenants admonishes:
“Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.”
But much of a leader’s wisdom is derived from great advisors. Young Arthur had Merlin. King David had the prophet Nathan. When assessing our contemporary political landscape on the left and the right, I cannot help but query: Where are our wise advisors?
In her landmark book, The Highly Sensitive Person, psychologist Elaine N. Aron identified two types of leaders: “warrior kings” and “priestly advisors.” According to Aron, the personality traits of these leaders and advisors balance each other out and are necessary to long-lasting governments that promote the common good.
“If the warrior mindset is not balanced,” Aron warned, “a society can get into considerable trouble by not looking ahead to the long-term consequences.”
Queen Esther had Mordecai. Abraham Lincoln had his team of rivals.
As the United States is increasingly polarized, it may trend increasingly toward warrior leaders. Those leaders need wise advisors. It’s my hope that the two advisors inside the White House who share my faith—Robert O’Brien, the President’s incoming United States National Security Advisor, and Gregory Smith, the Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Political Affairs for Policy & Personnel—live up to the mantle of being wise advisors. I hope the same can be said for all others who serve at the nation’s highest levels.
However, I admit that my faith in this regard is being tested.
I see too many wise advisors across the political spectrum leaving important positions both in Congress and within this administration. While those who replace them can also be thoughtful and wise, there seems to be a trend where people taking power are louder and more aggressive. They appear to be warrior kings, not wise advisors. As a result, in lieu of moderating voices, our halls of power are increasingly peopled with those of impetuous, intemperate instincts, rather than advisors who might provide the balance of a “priestly advisor.”
“I fear that those with the skills, education, and experience in wise government are no longer welcome and are less and less willing to invest their careers in public service.”
For instance, Attorney General Jeff Sessions endured months of criticism from the president after he recused himself from the Russia investigation until he was fired for this initial act of integrity. And Senator Jeff Flake, along with other moderates, has been politically sidelined.
Franklin D. Roosevelt had Eleanor. Frodo Baggins had Gandalf.
Other wise advisors are leaving Congress, including Pennsylvania Representative Charlie Dent and Texas Representative Will Hurd, both Republicans. Without traditionally conservative and moderate voices, once again, more poisonous forms of partisanship have space to dominate. Similar patterns left Congress in near-ruins in the 1980s and 1990s. And in seemingly parallel fashion, both the left and right increasingly embrace populist fervor and a slash-and-burn, take-no-prisoners set of tactics.
Queen Victoria had Prince Albert. Harry Potter had Albus Dumbledore.
Sweeping actions based on petty grievances and ignorance, desire for power for power’s sake and profit for profit’s sake, desire to achieve one’s own ends without the possibility of principled compromise—these seem to be leading the United States government to ignore the public good.
I fear that those with the skills, education, and experience in wise government are no longer welcome and are less and less willing to invest their careers in public service. In the coming 2020 elections, we should seek and vote for candidates with foresight and wisdom, temperance and judgment.
We should elect brave warriors with wise advisors who will speak up for common sense and sound principles, who will seek to moderate the damaging extremes that have overtaken our government and political processes.
We need Merlins and Mordecais, Eleanors and Nathans. We need leaders willing to listen to the wise advisors. We even need teams of rivals who will act in civility and service of the nation’s interest. It’s time to bring the wise advisors—and the warrior kings who will listen to them—back into our federal, state, and local governments.