There is a lot of talk about the United States being without credible leadership, given that our president is not mentally sound.
But in a functionally differentiated society, government officials are not leaders of a nation. Indeed, there are no leaders. The traditional ideas of political leadership derive from the old stratified society. We may find that we can get along fine without a decent president. All he is is the chief executive of one branch of the federal government. He is not an emperor. We still have laws and a Constitution. We still have a legislature. We also have state and local governments.
We also have other function systems–not only the legal system, but the economy, the art system, the education system, the science system, the health system, the mass media, etc. Politics is not in control because no system is in control or in a position to lead society. The other systems will push back against any effort by the political system to exert control. And the president is only one player in the political system anyway.
The idea that the president “runs the country” is just nonsense, and our president is certainly not, and never has been, “the leader of the free world.” Speaking of leaders in this way just serves to reassure people that there is someone in charge, someone with a plan, some God figure who is taking care of things. But there isn’t.
This is the world Don DeLillo portrays in novels such as White Noise.