Thursday, November 10, 2016

Avshalom, King Yoshiyahu and President Obama walk into a bar

From my vantage point, it seems that Avshalom, King Yoshiyahu and the American Democratic Party all fell victim to a common leadership mistake.

About 3,000 years ago, wicked Avshalom launched a failed coup against his father, King David. Achitofel, described in Tanach as the greatest counselor of all time, advised Avshalom to lead an immediate assault to eliminate his father, but instead he listened to the flattery of a shepherd who said that the whole nation was on his side, and he had already won. If Avshalom had not taken the nation's support for granted, he might not have taken three lances in the heart. (See Shemuel II 16-18)

About four centuries after Avshalom's death, righteous King Yoshiyahu suffered not three lances, but three hundred. The prophet Yirmiyah warned him not to go to war against Egypt, but he didn't listen; Yoshiyahu thought the nation was behind his attempts to restore Torah law, and that their merit would ensure victory. The result was his death, and the end of his pious campaign. (See Eichah Rabbah 1:53)

Which brings us to Donald Trump's surprising victory in this week's American election. Analysts will debate this upset for a long time to come, but from my perspective there is at least one clear lesson in the rejection of President Obama's legacy by sixty million American voters: Never take for granted that the nation is behind you .

This president passed healthcare, trade deals, the Iran nuclear agreement, environmental legislation and more by aggressive lobbying or executive order. As the New York Times wrote, "Once skeptical of executive power, Obama has come to embrace it. Mr. Obama will leave the White House as one of the most prolific authors of major regulations in presidential history." Pollsters and Hillary Clinton's team thought that the president's supporters and beneficiaries outweighed those who had been legislatively overpowered over the past eight years ; it was only Tuesday night that we learned that given one vote per person, the balance of power would swing the other way. In politics as in physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

To my amateur eye, the shared experience of Avshalom, King Yoshiyahu and the Democrats teaches a critical lesson in leadership. As Mishlei 28:14 preaches, "Fortunate is the one who is always afraid." A little bit of insecurity in our leadership, a little less bullying and a little more bargaining, can go a long way.


  1. Very interesting, but besides that, Hillary, herself sabotaged her campaign. Please read Shiloh Musings: Hillary's Loss had Nothing to Do with Her Sex!

  2. Obama's anti-Constitutional executive orders warranted his impeachment but Congress was too timid or too bought off.