The Leaders We Deserve?

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

“We are a democracy, and we get the leaders we deserve because we elect them.” Who knows who said it first.  Was it Mark Twain or Yogi Berra?  Variations of the sentiment that “in a democracy, people get the leaders they deserve” have been attributed to several individuals, including Joseph de Maistre, who is often credited with the statement:  “Every nation gets the government it deserves.” The idea behind such quotes is that in democratic systems, the elected leaders reflect the choices and values of the electorate. The leaders we deserve.  One could argue we already have the leaders we deserve.


So David Hogg launched an activist career off of tragedy, the Parkland school shooting.  He has been a figure of controversy because of his tenuous connection to the school attack; he wasn’t particularly close with any of the victims and he wasn’t in any real danger that day.  But for David, he was in the right place and February 14, 2018 was the right time.  While some praise him for his advocacy for gun control, others criticize his methods, rhetoric, and recent ventures. His newest undertaking, the “Leaders We Deserve” political action committee (PAC), is no exception. Like much of what Hogg has pursued, this PAC’s goals and strategies beg the question: is this truly the leadership America needs?

His generation is the product of an educational system that values activism over mastery of core curriculum. Rather than focusing on the pragmatic, he’s been taught that issue advocacy is a “higher calling” and many of the adults around him have done nothing but feed the narcissism born from a national spotlight.

None of this is to say he doesn’t mean what he is saying today, right now in this moment. But to better understand the “Leaders We Deserve” PAC’s chances for success, it’s vital to take a closer look at Hogg’s track record.

1. Misplaced Priorities with March For Our Lives (MFOL)

While the tragic Parkland shooting event and the resulting March For Our Lives movement brought much attention to the issue of gun violence in America, their de minimis achievements left many unconvinced. While it is commendable to stand against gun violence, the MFOL’s agenda often strayed from its initial purpose. They’ve never been willing to tackle the largest statistical contributors to gun violence statistics, suicide and urban crime. Rather than focusing on policy solutions, MFOL seemed more intent on vilifying law-abiding gun owners and the National Rifle Association. This demonization divided Americans rather than bringing them together for a constructive conversation.


2. Failed Pillow Venture

One of Hogg’s most noted ventures outside of gun control advocacy was his attempt to launch a “progressive pillow company” to rival Mike Lindell’s MyPillow. Despite considerable initial buzz, Hogg’s foray into the pillow industry was short-lived. His lack of experience in business and manufacturing was evident, as he quickly faced production, distribution, and branding issues. Eventually, he stepped away from the venture altogether, leaving many to question his ability to effectively lead and manage.

3. Misguided Focus on Partisanship

Hogg has repeatedly shown a tendency to focus on party lines rather than issues. The “Leaders We Deserve” PAC seems to be another example. Instead of promoting leaders based on their skills, experiences, or proposed solutions, the PAC appears more invested in endorsing politicians who fit a particular political ideology and age. Progressives.  It will support candidates that appeal to emotion over reason.  This kind of polarizing partisanship doesn’t foster a culture of unity and compromise, which is vital in a constitutional republic like the U.S.

4. Lack of Experience and Depth

Perhaps one of the most significant criticisms of Hogg and his ventures, including the new PAC, is his apparent lack of depth on policy issues. While passion can be helpful, it’s not a substitute for understanding the nuances of complex matters like gun control, healthcare, or education. Hogg’s oversimplified solutions and soundbite-driven campaigns may attract attention, but they don’t result in policy change.


5. Emotion-Driven Rhetoric

While Hogg’s emotional appeal has garnered him a following, it’s worth questioning if emotion is always the best driving factor in policy-making. Effective leadership requires a balanced approach, combining emotion with logic, reason, and factual data. However, Hogg’s endeavors, including the “Leaders We Deserve” PAC, often seem to prioritize emotion over reason, potentially leading to policies that feel good but might not achieve the desired results.

How have other gun control and “Gen Z” focused political action committees faired?

Political action committees (PACs) have been a part of the American political landscape for decades. While some have been successful in pushing their agendas or electing candidates, others have struggled to make an impact or have seen mixed results. Regarding gun control or electing new leaders, several PACs or initiatives have faced challenges:

1. Americans for Responsible Solutions: Founded by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, after she was critically injured in a shooting, the PAC sought to promote gun control measures. While it did raise awareness and funds, it faced opposition from pro-gun groups, and its impact on actual legislation was limited.

2. Everytown for Gun Safety: Backed by Michael Bloomberg, this group has spent millions advocating for gun control. Although it can be argued that Everytown has successfully raised awareness and engaged in grassroots efforts, it has also faced criticism for its misuse of statistics and its manipulative methods. Moreover, legislative achievements at the national level remain elusive, although they’ve had some success at a state level.


3. Mayors Against Illegal Guns: Another initiative backed by Bloomberg, this coalition of mayors aimed to combat illegal gun trafficking and gun violence. However, it faced challenges as many mayors left the coalition, citing concerns about the group’s mission creep and focus.

4. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence: One of the oldest gun control advocacy groups, its influence has waned over the years. Despite early successes like the Brady Bill, which mandated federal background checks for gun purchasers, subsequent efforts have met with limited success as the gun debate in America has grown more polarized.

5. Run for Something: This PAC, not focused on gun control but on electing young progressive leaders, has faced challenges in terms of getting their endorsed candidates elected. While they have seen some success stories, many candidates supported by this PAC have lost in their respective races.

It’s essential to note that the definition of “failure” can be subjective. While some PACs may not achieve legislative victories, they can succeed in other ways, such as raising awareness, shifting public opinion, or fostering grassroots activism. I don’t need to explain to you that the gun control debate in America is deeply polarized, and many groups on both sides face significant challenges in pursuing their agendas.

While some may praise David Hogg’s advocacy work post-Parkland, his track record showcases a series of missteps and a lack of depth in understanding the very issues he campaigns on. The “Leaders We Deserve” PAC, while promising a new generation of leaders, seems to be more of the same from Hogg – partisanship over policy, emotion over reason, publicity over effectiveness, and most importantly, grifting over results. There is no doubt that America deserves leaders who can unite rather than divide, and who understand the complexities of the issues they tackle. Backing progressive young candidates without experience is just a quick way to spend donor contributions without delivering victories.  But again, maybe that’s the real goal.  Using someone else’s money to keep the spotlight on.  In that regard, what Hogg is doing is nothing new.  In fact, Hogg’s latest endeavor is the organization his donors deserve.


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