Western governments seem to be driving their citizens towards “Lockdown II: The Delta Variant,” an unnecessary sequel that no one asked for but that most of us will be forced to endure. Resistance to these policies has been growing of late: France and Germany are currently dealing with large-scale protests against COVID mandates. Meanwhile, the Australian government has just enlisted the military to enforce a massively unpopular lockdown in Sydney.
Things are not much better here in the United States. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has imposed a de facto vaccine passport for a variety of indoor activities. In Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser recently required people above the age of two to wear masks indoors whether they’ve been vaccinated or not.
Both de Blasio and Bowser say that these measures are necessary to combat the rising number of COVID cases in their cities. Yet free people don’t just listen to a leader’s words and obey; when much is demanded of them, they look at a leader’s actions to see whether or not he respects them enough to shoulder these burdens alongside them. Without this respect and the credibility that it engenders, a leader becomes a tyrant who must rely on force to compel obedience. This critical difference between leadership and tyranny might be called the “Alexander Test” after its most effective teacher: Alexander the Great.
A Masterclass in Leadership
Leading from the rear was not in Alexander’s nature. At 16, he commanded the cavalry at the Battle of Chaeronea and played a pivotal role in securing his father Philip’s control over the Greek city-states. Alexander showed similar courage when he invaded the East; his passion for being with his men in the thick of battle nearly led to disaster at the Granicus River, where he had to be rescued by his faithful lieutenant Cleitus the Black. Later, when attacking a village in India, Alexander suffered several wounds and had to be dragged off the battlefield.
Alexander’s willingness to share risks and hardships endeared him to his men. They were willing to follow him to the ends of the earth, almost literally. The best example of this relationship in action occurred when Alexander and his troops were trekking through the desert. The ancient historian Arrian calls it “the most noble deed perhaps ever performed by Alexander” and tells the dramatic story:
“At this time some of the light-armed soldiers, starting away from the army in quest of water, found some collected in a shallow cleft, a small and mean spring. Collecting this water with difficulty, they came with all speed to Alexander, as if they were bringing him some great boon. As soon as they approached the king, they poured the water into a helmet and carried it to him. He took it, and commending the men who brought it, immediately poured it upon the ground in the sight of all. As a result of this action, the entire army was re-invigorated to so great a degree that any one would have imagined that the water poured away by Alexander had furnished a draught to every man.”
Alexander successfully brought his army through hell by suffering side-by-side with them. Though he was a king who eventually demanded the honors due to a god, he never forgot that whatever power he had depended on those who followed him. Even when his exhausted troops finally mutinied at Opis, Alexander was able to mollify them by reminding them of what they had accomplished together. This is what made him a leader of free men instead of a master of slaves.
‘Freedom for Me, But Not for Thee’
Mayors de Blasio and Bowser have failed to reflect Alexander’s model of courageous and sacrificial leadership. Last year, while his entire city was shutting down during the early days of the pandemic, de Blasio went to the gym so that he could “stay healthy and make decisions.” This past weekend, Bowser flouted her own masking rules as she officiated and celebrated a wedding. In doing so, she joined a list of Democratic luminaries who have also failed the test by imposing rules on free citizens that they have no intention of following themselves.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California attended a ritzy dinner party without a mask and sent his kids to a private school for in-person learning. Mayor Michael Hancock of Denver flew to Mississippi to join his family for the Thanksgiving holiday an hour after telling his constituents to stay home. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan discouraged holiday travel to the northern part of her state while her husband, Dr. Marc Mallory, tried to use her position to get his boat ready there for Memorial Day weekend. Speaker Nancy Pelosi went to a “closed” hair salon in her district and, more recently, issued new mask regulations for the House that she promptly forgot both at the rostrum and while visiting the White House.
Taking Pelosi to task for her recent hypocrisy, Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., a graduate of West Point and a physician, invoked the “Alexander Test,” saying, “Leadership 101 at West Point [was] for me 35 years ago, the first thing they teach you is you never ask people to do something you as the leader aren’t willing to do.”
Will Democratic ‘Leaders’ Ever Learn?
As the Age of COVID wears on, more Americans are becoming aware of the disparity between themselves and those to whom they’ve granted the sacred trust of leadership. Sadly, Democrats will most likely continue to follow the established script and blithely ignore whatever restrictions they create, trusting instead that a fawning media will protect them by shifting the blame for rising cases of the virus onto Trump voters. Doing so will not inspire more Americans to get vaccinated; indeed, it will only embitter them and harden their resistance, like what we’re currently seeing abroad.
If Democrats wish to maintain any semblance of credibility regarding COVID after having failed the “Alexander Test,” they might want to consider embracing another rule of leadership that the great commander followed after the mutiny at Opis: Quit while you’re ahead.