Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post looks at Ferguson and sees a failure of leadership in the weeks since Michael Brown was shot:
... Ever since that fateful Saturday afternoon, there have been protests about the way Brown was treated and the way African Americans in general have been treated in the St. Louis suburb. The most dramatic and revealing were those that erupted the evening of Aug. 13.... in the chaotic nighttime scene three people were missing: Gov. Jay Nixon (D), Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III and Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson.Did they really fail a test of leadership? Or are they just running government the way Heartland America wants it to be run?
As their city and state and their police forces ran roughshod over the First Amendment rights of demonstrators with the entire world watching, those three public officials were nowhere to be seen. Their inexcusable absence that night, the lack of leadership it exposed and the subsequent bumbling efforts to show control might explain why there was so much hysteria leading up to tonight’s announcement that Wilson will not be charged in Brown's death.
My view of their actions is certainly colored by my 16 years in New York City. Whenever anything big happened or was about to happen in the Big Apple or the Empire State (from snow storm to terrorist attack), you were guaranteed to see the mayor, the governor, the police commissioner and every relevant city and state commissioner squeezed behind a podium to give anxious New Yorkers an update. Both in word and presence, those public officials at least gave the impression that someone was in charge. Someone was accountable. Someone was speaking for them. Nixon, Knowles and Jackson (especially Jackson) have consistently failed that basic test of leadership....
Capehart is right that we New Yorkers expect our elected officials to be responsive in situations like this. We may disagree, sometimes strongly, on what those responses should be, but up here we generally believe in the existence of government. We expect government officials to do what they can to make a troubling situation better.
Maybe that's not what elected officials in Missouri think -- Democratic or Republican -- because they're in a heartland state and they're being responsive to the majority population, which doesn't believe in government. Maybe the Gospel of Reagan holds sway -- government never makes anything better, though if there are undesirables to be violently confronted, then government absolutely has a role in that. But government as a real, proactive force for good? That's crazy talk.
Maybe this is just the government Missouri deserves. Maybe this is precisely the amount of government Missouri, or at least its majority population, thinks it wants.