The City Journal article by Blake Smith, Attention Counteracting Ambition, hit some interesting buttons for me. Our elites desire admiration more than power. That seems plausible.
Obama’s speeches and Trump’s tweets gave their supporters the pleasure of imagining that their team now occupied the driver’s seat of history, leaving “bitter clingers” or “losers” in the dust. Both political elites and their audiences seem content to let politics become a kind of dramaturgy, in which roles are performed to cheers and boos. Obama flew to Cairo to give what was then hailed in the global press as an epochal speech. Trump flew to North Korea for an equally blustery, equally inconsequential meeting with Kim Jong Un. Both enjoyed fame in its postmodern sense of media attention, not its eighteenth-century meaning of lasting glory.I see the complaint on conservative sites - more in the comments than the posts - that various liberals crave power and control over us, and they apply that interpretation to everything that they do. I don't reject that entirely, but it has never quite rung true for me. It seems an overinterpretation of motives, and when that happens, one has to wonder if it is projection, and the critic is desiring power himself.
Beto O'Rourke does not seem to be pursuing power. He wants to be seen as a cool dude with massive righteousness, admired by all. Hillary might be best understood on the power axis, but AOC seems more like Beto.
Nearly half a century ago, Jean Baudrillard advanced a blistering critique of Michel Foucault’s theory about the ubiquity of power, arguing that political elites today seek only the illusion of power.
I was in the Order of DeMolay, a Masonic-affiliated order for young men when I was in high school. My participation was indifferent, having been dragged in by a friend whose mother was very involved with Eastern Star. But I do recall that there were phrases that kept showing up in the secret ritual, and one was "worthy of the commendation of all good men." That seems like that older version of fame that Smith is referring to.