With the presidential election at full throttle, I sometimes think of why and how these men and women gain power. Yes, most candidates for public office are determined, hardworking, and focused. But, the vast majority fall short of their goals.
What makes the difference? A kingmaker.
According to Wikipedia, a kingmaker is a person or group that has great influence in a royal or political succession, without being a viable candidate. Kingmakers may use political, monetary, religious, and military means to influence the succession. Originally, the term applied to the activities of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick—”Warwick the Kingmaker”—during the Wars of the Roses in England.
That is currently and historically correct. The role of the medieval kingmaker was also illustrated by Niccolo Machiavelli in his book, The Prince . Machiavelli does not simply explain how “the ends justify the means”, a quote that he never even made, but outlines the way, sometimes unethical and brutal, that a leader comes to power and holds on to it.
I am not saying that Niccolo Machiavelli or the historical figures below are good men. I am providing well known historical evidence of the kingmakers of some of the most famous leaders in world history.
Some of these well-known examples throughout history include the Praetorian Guard which was a force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors; particularly by Tiberius Caesar. For years, they would place emperors on the throne.
Ancient examples often involve bloodshed and murder. But, kingmakers survive in modern history. One example is Richard J. Daley. As Mayor of Chicago and Chairman of the Democrat Party of Cook County, he was the leading figure in the Illinois Democrat Party. He solely controlled a large bloc of delegates at Democrat National Conventions and provided crucial support that allowed Democrat Presidential nominees, including Adlai Stevenson, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Hubert Humphrey to be nominated. (Democrat nomination procedures have significantly changed over the years.)
A more recent form of kingmaker is that of Richard “Dick” Morris, the former friend and advisor to Bill Clinton. Like many kingmaker, Morris had and still has all of the skills to be an excellent politician, but something intrigued him about helping another talented person win.
While Morris has worked for both Republicans and Democrats, he is best known during the time when his influence began to grow during Clinton’s time as Governor of Arkansas. Morris became a political adviser to the White House after Clinton was elected president in 1992. Morris famously encouraged Clinton to pursue third way policies known as triangulation (combining traditional Republican and Democrat rhetoric, proposals, and issues to achieve maximum political gain and popularity.) After one of the Clinton situations involving a female, he would leave his role as the Clinton Kingmaker as well as his friendship with Bill.
While Dick Morris is heavily criticized today, primarily by Democrats who feel betrayed (and maybe rightfully so), he was the man “behind the scenes” of the unstoppable Clinton machine of the 1990’s.
We have kingmakers today. Some good people and some bad; just like any other career. They are not seen or even well known. But, they are there in almost every election across the country
Some of the historical examples of groups and men above should rightfully have their character and morals called into question. But, their role in putting their kings on the throne cannot be plausibly disputed.
Please do not consider this column and indictment of people who campaign for candidates. I know many good, solid people who work behind the scenes for local, state, and national leaders.
These folks are in the majority and some of them considered to be modern day kingmakers.