All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted.
Frank Herbert — Chapterhouse: Dune.
This immortal quote from a giant of science fiction seems to become more relevant the older I become.
In about a month I will be 48 years old, I have lived through eight presidencies, innumerable scandals and more corruption trials than I care to count.
It came to my thoughts, in particular, Friday as I learned of the death at 95 of former Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe.
Understand, Mugabe started off with the best of intentions — at least publicly — to free his people from colonial rule when Zimbabwe was called Rhodesia.
Unfortunately, Mugabe proved supremely corruptible and turned what was once "the jewel of Africa" into a hell of poverty, violence and runaway inflation.
From the breadbasket of the continent and one of the wealthiest nations in Africa, Zimbabwe became the second poorest country in the world, with unemployment rates above 80 percent.
Or as The Daily Telegraph notes:
Robert Mugabe, the former president of Zimbabwe who has died aged 95, began his 37 years in power as a Nobel Peace Prize nominee credited with creating Africa’s most successful multiracial state.
By the time he was ousted in November 2017 his repressive determination to remain in charge had driven the country into ruin and ensured his place as an international pariah, while the determination of his widely despised second wife, Grace, to succeed him had threatened to plunge the country into civil war and led to a military intervention.
Rather than being tried for his crimes the new president Emmerson Mnangagwa more-or-less pardoned Mugabe and allowed an evil man to live out his final years.
I asked of a friend's husband — who is a recently-naturalized former South African with intimate knowledge of the region — if Mnangagwa is going to be just another Kleptocrat or if he'll try to restore some sort of norms.
"He's not as evil as Mugabe — but many, many dictators and politicians have failed to be as evil as Mugabe. He's an African politician; by definition, he's corrupt. He will try to restore some of the norms just because Mugabe was so bad. He will try to improve somewhat over the dictatorship Mugabe had."
Note well — once again power attracted the corrupt and corruptible.
As we're heading into another presidential election we need to keep in mind that all of the candidates, of whatever party are seeking power.
Politics, almost by definition attracts pathological personalities (and no, for my friends on the right, I do not except Donald Trump from this.) None of the candidates, no not even Bernie Sanders, really care about the individual voters. No, they don't care about your personal struggles or really even about fixing the myriad problems that face the country. Whatever they tell you to your face — or even lie to themselves about — what they're seeking is power.
The only difference between our current crop of politicians and Robert Mugabe?
A Constitution which restrains them from their ultimate ambitions — for now.
All IMHO, of course.
— Patrick Richardson is the managing editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter @PittEditor.