THE BLOG
11/17/2014 03:24 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

From Jonathan Gruber to Kim Kardashian: Why American Leadership Is Broken

Grant pollard/AP/Invision

Kim Kardashian's break-the-Internet nude photos, Jonathan Gruber's outrageous statements on getting Obamacare passed and Sen. Mary Landrieu's speech on the Senate floor on the Keystone XL pipeline made for an interesting week in America, with the seemingly mixed events all clearly pointing to a consistent message: Each, trying to enhance their fame, advance their vested policy interests or save their careers, seemed to decide that the desired ends justified using whatever means were necessary.

This dynamic isn't unique to Hollywood, Democrats or Republicans. All have, at times, believed that the ends justified the means. And it is a major contributor toward why Americans are so frustrated with leadership in this country and have lost much faith and trust in institutions even while they tune in to each of these train wrecks of values. Americans keep asking for change, but they end up getting more of the same.

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Kim Kardashian, a celebrity by virtue of having accomplished not a thing substantive, but having been an expert at using a voyeuristic culture to make herself well-known, decided to sit for nude photos, apparently to make sure she stayed in the limelight. Did she do this to raise awareness about women's body image issues? Did she get nude photos taken to highlight the abuse of animals for expensive fur or clothing? Of course not, to both of these. At a time when women want to be taken seriously and enter into leadership positions, Kardashian apparently merely wanted continued fame and fortune for their own sake.

Jonathan Gruber, the MIT professor and adviser for the Obama administration on health care policy, seemed to claim in videotaped comments from 2013 that it was OK to play hide the ball with the public, with assumptions made about "the stupidity of the American voter" in the process of getting the Affordable Care Act passed. He may as well have quoted Machiavelli by getting the health care reform accomplished by any means necessary because he and others knew that it was the right thing for an ignorant public. When asked about his comments in a television interview, Gruber said, "I was speaking off the cuff and I basically spoke inappropriately."

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, stood up in the Senate chamber this past week to advocate forcefully for the first time that the Keystone pipeline needed a vote. Though she had done little to push it through before the November election, Landrieu got on her high horse because she desperately wants to retain her Senate seat as she is headed to a likely loss in a December runoff. Again, retaining her political position as a United States senator seemingly became the main motivation for using the means of empty, loud rhetoric in a public speech to a near empty chamber.

In election after election in the last 10 years, Americans keep saying the means of governing and leadership is broken. Citizens across the country know leadership is desperately needed to accomplish some big ends in the United States, at this time. However, they know that the only way this can be done is by changing the means of governance. Once the means are fixed, the good ends will flow naturally and inevitably. Americans, while divided on some of the answers in public policy, are united on the dysfunction they see in leadership nationally.
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While I am dismayed by watching the events of the last week, I am optimistic as a I see leaders locally in our neighborhoods and communities emerge and attempt a different way of getting things done. Social entrepreneurs have sprouted up across our land like wildflowers in the desert to try and meet the needs of the public. At some point, some national leaders will follow where the country is already headed. As I have always said, national leaders don't lead, they follow where citizens want to go.

The message is very clear in the mess of the noise coming from reality television and reality politics. Fix the means, and find the core values all of us Americans care about. It is my hope, as these national leaders begin to emerge who are authentic and who put means over ends, that we will give them the support they deserve. As we are all about to sit down with our families for a feast at Thanksgiving, it is apparent we are hungry for this brand of leadership. This is a table we can sit together at no matter our party.

There you have it.

Matthew Dowd, founder of ListenTo.Us, is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not reflect the views of ABC News.