Americans have been getting the political leadership they deserve since the beginning of this nation. During times when the electorate has paid attention, we have received the greatness we needed. Our first president could have been King.
George Washington was advised to run for a third term and establish a dynasty. His refusal to run for a third term assured the nation would remain a democratic republic. We were in the growth and expansion of the American Empire. The public cared, paid attention to the fledgling democracy, and got what it deserved, a leader who put the national interest above his own.
As our new nation grew, most of our leadership was dedicated to America. When the question was "Is it good for the country or is it good for me and my party" and it really counted, America came first. As in every political system there were petty squabbles, attempts a power grabs, and gaming the Constitution. Men are men. We were led by humans with human weaknesses. You have to expect that, however when it really counted, greatness emerged.
The prospect of being hanged sharpens men's minds. The widening split between the North and South, which led to the Civil War, was foremost in the minds of the populace. They were engaged in politics. They deserved greatness, and received it with the election of Abraham Lincoln. He was one of the few with the intestinal fortitude to deal with the country's greatest crisis.
After the war, the public attention diverted to fulfilling it's ‘Manifest Destiny.' Again we got what we deserved, a string of mediocre presidents. It was not until the nation stretched from the Atlantic to the pacific that Americans began once again to pay attention to politics. We got what we deserved, Theodore Roosevelt, another one of the ‘greats.'
America was ambivalent if not hostile to the country's involvement in the "Great War." Again we got what we deserved Woodrow Wilson, an idealist who was unfit to lead the nation through the crisis. The ‘Jimmy Carter' of his time, he talked a good game, but when the chips were down, he was a failure.
The "Roaring twenties" diverted Americans from the nation to the pursuit of pleasure. No one cared about Washington until Black Monday when the stock market crashed, the great depression, unemployment and food lines brought attention back to politics. FDR emerged as the man of the hour, began the restoration of confidence, prepared and led us through the Second World War.
The ‘cold war' kept American eyes focused on Washington, resulting in string of good presidents until Vietnam and Watergate soured the public on politics. We never recovered. The American Empire had reached its zenith. It was the start of our slide down the razor blade of decline.
For a short time, the disaster of the Carter presidency, attracted the public attention. That brought another and perhaps the last of the ‘greats' Ronald Reagan. During the ‘Reagan revolution' the public attention turned inward, the Zeitgeist changed to "What's in it for me" where it remains to this day.