In Cairo, Morsi scribbles his decrees and in Washington DC, Obama scribbles his. There is an ocean between the two men, but there is a good deal that they have in common. Both are ideologues who piggybacked on public outrage over the national impact of international economic declines to climb to power and pursue their true agendas.
Without worries about the price of bread, the odds are good that Mubarak would be sitting in his old place and Morsi would be looking over the latest economic reports from the Brotherhood’s business networks and front groups. And without a sharp decline in American living standards, Mubarak would be receiving phone calls from President McCain urging him to democratize Egypt, while Obama would be rallying the troops at the latest SEIU event for taking back Congress.
Times of crisis are political hunting grounds for extremist groups whose ideologies would otherwise be unpalatable. Angry people are more willing to accept the previously unacceptable to shake up the system and punish those that they blame for their economic situation. They are in the long run, only punishing themselves, but the long run rarely wins elections. The short run however is the all-time ballot box winner.
But the problem with running on the old Bolshy platform of “Land, Bread and Peace” is that the people eventually expect you to deliver at least two of three. And ideologues are not interested in empowering people. They will hand out subsidized freebies to their supporters to win elections, but they won’t empower them economically, outside their network of subsidies, and peace is never on the table with folks who believe utopia is just a hundred years of war away.
There is a point midway between the cheering for hope and change, and the complete consolidation of power in the hands of a tyrannical system when the tyrant is vulnerable. That window is the one that opens when the people begin realizing that there is no land, bread or peace on the horizon. Their eyes haven’t opened, but their patience has run out.
Morsi has tried to cut the duration of the window as narrowly as possibly by moving quickly to consolidate his power, but that brought on a second crisis and a wave of popular protests. Triggering those protests prematurely may have been his plan, but that plan may have also backfired. The only way to tell will be retroactively.
Obama’s ObamaCare power grab was generally held to be premature, but even though the majority continues to oppose it, the man behind the program survived an election thanks to a hurricane and plenty of voter fraud. Morsi may similarly be able to survive his own power grab. An Islamist is, if nothing else, absolutely immune from the sort of human emotions that animate normal leaders.
The advantage of being an ideologue is that you simply do not care what infidels think and anyone who is not a member of your mental club is an infidel. Transnationalists, whether of the leftist or Islamist flavor, are men who live without a country. Their country is an imaginary global utopia, the infinite Reich of dreams, the Caliphate of their conspiracies and the World Revolution that can never be.
That disregard is what allows men like Obama and Morsi to survive the widespread hatred and contempt of a country, to sneeringly dismiss it, and get on with the program of taking it over. Bush and Mubarak could be hurt by how their own countrymen saw them. But Obama is not an American and Morsi is not an Egyptian. Obama is a Progressive and Morsi is an Islamist. Their approach to anyone outside that circle is limited to distinguishing between potential converts and useful idiots.
Bad leaders can be protested out of office. Ideologues can only be forced out of office. And that isn’t easy. Any movement with enough money, skills and leverage to take their man all the way to the top is not going to fold just because the streets are full of protesters or because legal action is being taken against them. The cadre of such movements consists of men with no regard for any of laws of a society and who are entirely willing to destroy a country rather than give it up.