boys who exercise the dominant leadership roles in William Golding's The Lord of the Flies are the characters named Jack and Ralph. Ralph is a practical, solid individual with little charisma but with very sensible ideas about how the stranded boys can best survive on the abandoned island their plane has crashed into. Jack is the more attractive and 'sexy' leader of the two individuals. He leads by organizing a cult of personality around his promises of more meat for his tribe, and by creating a mythology of fear around the strange happenings and visions that afflict the younger boys on the island. In many ways, when comparing these two boys, Ralph can be said to be the 'George Bush' of the two, and Jack can be read as the 'George W. Bush' in contrast.
It may seem strange to compare the protagonists of a work of literature written in the first half of the century to today's politicians. However, the author William Golding intended his book to not merely be about World War II and its aftermath. The book is set during that time period, after a plane carrying children to safety has crashed on an abandoned island, leaving all grown-ups dead and the young boys to fend for themselves and to rule themselves. But Golding uses his book as an explication of how human leadership evolves within the dynamics of a new and constantly changing social community. The boys must temporarily recreate a new leadership structure within this new society's midst. The society they are most familiar with is the rule-bound one of the English class system and public school system, and thus they attempt to create a society of rules and regulations. Yet the leadership techniques used by the different personalities of the different boys to govern that society are not particular to the boys' nationality and class. Rather, they are universal leadership types that have resonance in today's political life.
Ralph, like Al Gore, can be said to be the bland, almost technical 'good guy' who is often right but has little ability to convince others for an extended period of time to do the right thing as a collective. Because of his evident intelligence and accomplishments he wins early support from the group. However, that support is quickly lost when he does not have the social and emotional skills to rally the other boys permanently around his leadership and persona. Ralph has the right ideas. To build a signal fire is the most important thing on the island. "How can we ever be rescued except by luck, if we don't keep the fire going?" Ralph says. (Golding 88) But Ralph lacks the skills to rally others around his ideas for very long.
Ralph genuinely believes in fairness and democracy. He is a moral individual. At the beginning of the book, when the boys are frightened and disorganized just after the crash, he makes a stab at establishing a democratic system. "I'll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he's speaking." (Golding 36) He rewards and punishes people according to their merits. For instance, Piggy emerges as a good friend of Ralph's, despite the fact that Piggy is a virtual social pariah. (Piggy is overweight, intelligent, asthmatic, myopic, and does not even posses the good sense to avoid telling the group that he was nicknamed Piggy 'back home.')
When Jack hits Piggy and breaks his glasses, Ralph calls it a "dirty trick." (Golding 78) This outrages Ralph's sense of fairness. But just because Piggy is Ralph's friend does not mean that Ralph always defends him, even when Piggy is wrong.
For instance, Ralph persuades Piggy to use Piggy's glasses to start a fire, even though this frightens the boy, temporarily depriving him of sight. In contrast, Jack rewards only those who have charm and political pull in the book. When Jack hunts successfully, he gives everyone some except for Piggy. When Piggy asks for some, Jack says, "You didn't hunt." (Golding 80)
Although not every person killed the animal, only Piggy is denied. There is no sense of rewarding an individual for other skills he might possess, such as intelligence, only for the immediate rewards of the hunt. Personality and charm more than ability are important to Jack.
This is strikingly in keeping with Al Gore and George Bush's attitudes towards their political allies. Al Gore was the vice president of an extraordinarily popular president. Yet because he disapproved of Bill Clinton's immoral behavior, Al Gore often criticized the president publicly. He was true to his moral values, yet failed to capitalize upon a great opportunity to win support for his campaign. He rejected a great potential ally on principle, but with no political or personal gain. Al Gore was often called an immensely intelligent man during the campaign. He had good ideas. However, he lacked the personal charisma to make his ideas interesting and vital to the American people. Al Gore, when speaking to the Democratic convention, was said to overtly avoid partisanship. ("Election 2000" CNN/ALLPolitics.com) Bush always kept 'tight' to his 'Texas Mafia' in contrast, and showed great loyalty to the Republican Party throughout his political career, right or wrong.
After all, a certain amount of partisanship may be necessary when fighting a political campaign. Bill Clinton was said to have felt rebuffed by Al Gore's attitude towards his legacy and to have made an active decision to hold back from overtly campaigning for his vice president because he did not feel appreciated by the man whom he had selected eight years ago. "Clinton is a compulsive self-aggrandizer, so as nauseating as his performance was, it came as no surprise. But for Vice President Al Gore it must have been bitter nonetheless. Gore is in deep trouble politically. It would have been a boost -perhaps a major boost -- to the Gore campaign if Clinton had scrapped the usual bragging and spent his 40 minutes of prime time talking about what a great guy Al Gore is," wrote commentator Tucker Carlson, when observing the 2000 Democratic convention. (Carlson "Unsurprisingly Clinton Focused on Himself")
Al Gore seemed to believe he could campaign on his own, without either his party's or his president's support, simply because his ideas were good. Like Ralph, he assumed that individuals make choices on purely rational decisions. If the fire needs to hold steady, the boys will do it because they want to be rescued -- so Ralph's reasoning follows, very logically. Ralph does not consider the profound internal upheaval that has gone on within many of the boy's minds, that produces needs and psychological phenomena that is anything but rational.
In contrast to Al Gore, George Bush was often mocked as 'stupid' during the campaign. If the most popular stereotype of Al Gore was that he was wooden, the most popular stereotype of George Bush was that he was unintelligent and undisciplined. Although George Bush was an admitted alcoholic, ultimately this had little effect upon the man's success in the campaign. Bush managed to rally support because he was perceived, despite his many flaws, as patriotic and emotionally representative of the United States. ("Election 2000" CNN/ALLPolitics.com) He was able to use his malapropisms and his 'Texas charm,' even his questionable work ethic as a source of humor (such as his election eve 'Black tie and Boots Ball') to his advantage rather than to his disadvantage. (McCabe and Barrett "Bush Parties on Eve of his Inauguration")
Political ideas aside, Bush seemed to be more presidential than the technocratic Gore. Bush seemed more like a human being, a person the United States could turn to for emotional support in a time of crisis rather than someone who seemed like a walking store of facts and figures. Even today, Bush has a flair for rhetoric that Al Gore lacked. His 'axis of evil' speech after the attacks of September 11th might have outraged some individuals in the world community, but it seemed to strike a strong chord amongst the United States' people. In response to this swell of support, Bush continues to strike such a hard-line note in his speeches. Recently, in a speech on welfare, almost in passing he noted: " And the best way to make America safe is to not only have a homeland security strategy that will support our mayors and our police and fire and EMS teams all across America, but to make America safe, we've got to hunt these killers down, one by one, and bring them to justice." ("President Bush calls for Welfare Reform that Strengthens Families" rnc.com) Even when not talking about the September 11th attacks directly, Bush is able to use the attacks, to use fear, to support his agenda, much in the same way Jack uses the fears of the 'little ones' on the island to rally support around his tribe.
At one point, Piggy says to the boys who follow Jack "Which is…