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Why Don’t We Trust Our Leaders?

OXFORD – In developed democracies today, political leadership is increasingly up for grabs. Voters, clearly tired of the status quo, want change at the top, leaving even major parties’ establishments struggling to install leaders of their choosing.

In the United Kingdom, Labour Party MPs have been stymied in their efforts to unseat Jeremy Corbyn as leader. In Japan, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s preferred candidate for Governor of Tokyo, Hiroya Masuda, lost in a landslide to Yuriko Koike. As for the United States, the Republican Party wanted virtually anybody except Donald Trump to win the nomination for the presidency; yet Trump it is. And while the Democratic Party is being represented by the establishment choice, Hillary Clinton, her competitor, Bernie Sanders, put up a much stronger fight than virtually anyone anticipated.

The message to the establishment is clear: we don’t trust you anymore. But some of the leaders voters do trust could pose a very real danger – to their supporters, their countries, and the world.

Trump – with his admiration of dictators, unabashed racism and sexism, ignorance regarding the issues, and mercurial temperament – stands at the top of this list. Those who led the British campaign to leave the European Union – such as Conservatives like Boris Johnson (now the country’s foreign secretary) and Nigel Farage, the right-wing populist leader of the UK Independence Party – are similarly disparaged for recklessly jeopardizing the future of the UK and the EU alike.