“Things will last my time,” said the Marquise de Pompadour, “But after me, le deluge.”
More prophetic words were never spoken. The mistress of Louis XV foresaw clearly the collapse of the French monarchy and the flood of violence and chaos that would engulf the next generation. But that was the future’s problem. Why should she care?
In some ways, her brutal disregard for future suffering is more palatable than the utopian fantasies and rhetorical flourishes of modern leaders. At least the Marquise knew what lay ahead, and at least she didn’t pretend that she had an easy fix to prevent the future from arriving on tomorrow’s doorstep.
But today we face an impending crisis no less ominous. Our expectations for national leadership have sunk so low that we are willing to overlook pathological, craven, and unapologetic dishonesty from one presidential candidate and volcanic, adolescent recklessness from the other. One can scour the nation’s capital without turning up even a smidgen of character and statesmanship, evidence of a political culture rife with cronyism, gridlock, and groupthink.