In Real Life
, there is the head of government, who heads the government
, and the head of state, who is the public representative of a nation. Until recently, the lines between the two were merged together, and in modern-day examples, such as presidential systems, it's usually wrought with enough restrictions and limitations that it keeps the political head from seeming dictatorial.
However, in fiction, it's almost a requirement
for a political leader to exercise authoritarian policies, utilize draconian methods of leadership, and/or obtain near-autocratic duties, allegedly bestowed upon them by the law. Enter the Absurdly Powerful Elected Official, who spearheads the government to such a degree that it makes an Evil Overlord Face Palm
at how easy
it is to be a despot. The main distinction regarding an Absurdly Powerful Elected Official is that, in a nominally democratic government, the official leader acts almost like a dictator, but it's not always a bad thing, and more often than not, they need to get 'permission' to exercise such powers.
Depending on the setting of the story, the Absurdly Powerful Elected Official is either in a Tyrant Takes the Helm
story (especially when draconian punishments
are enacted), a necessary evil opposing a far more tyrannical despot, or an authoritarian politician with a few limitations on their influence. In some cases, it may simply be a case of Fridge Logic
, or even some Values Dissonance
in regards to how a leader should be like.
Also can be a Man Behind the Man
; the Absurdly Powerful Elected Official doesn't have to be the "official" leader of a government. The Absurdly Powerful Elected Official may be the adviser to the actual leader-representative, but the decisions that are made, the directions that are taken and the policies that are enacted, are all at the behest of the adviser. Alternatively works as a Dragon-in-Chief
, where the managing of the bureaucracy falls onto the shoulders of a position that's nominally subordinate to a democratically-elected authority.
- Baten Kaitos Origins reveals Alfard's Emperor is elected by the general public (a senate is mentioned, but never elaborated on), which make the fact that an emperor is able to casually order the execution of an entire village (which is part of Alfard) in the first game in an example of this.
- The New Yorker once ran a cartoon of a man in a suit, behind a desk, using Force lightning (or similar) on the man in front of the desk (also in a suit). The caption was "The voters have endowed me with certain powers, Mr. (name), and I'm not afraid to use them!"
- In Julius Caesar: Cassius and the other conspirators killed Caesar out of fear that he'd become one. Caesar himself established himself as dictator for life, too.
- In Sinclair Lewis' It Cant Happen Here, a man gets elected President Of The United States, dismisses congress, and becomes a dictator.
- President Clark of Babylon 5 became one rather quickly.
- Time Scout has Senator John Caddrick. Just mentioning his name is enough to terrify people.
- Vladimir Putin, the sometimes-President, sometimes-Prime Minister of Russia, but whether or not it's a good thing is a different matter entirely.
- The office of Mayor of the Foundation over the centuries was at various times a normal democratic leader and during other times an elected dictator.
- Harry Potter has the Minister for Magic. It's officially a subdivision of the British Parliament, but in practice, it basically functions as the political ringleader of the wizards.
- In the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Palpatine turned the office of Supreme Chancellor into a despotic position, eventually culminating in the creation of The Empire.
- Chief of State Natasi Daala of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, though she fits the draconian phase best. When Daala became Chief of State, she increased the role and reach of the Mandalorians; launched a smear campaign against the Jedi, arrested allies and sympathizers of the Jedi; placed them into carbon freeze; forced several Jedi opposed to her policies to publicly apologize for trying to defend themselves; tried to get Niathal to stand on trial for dereliction of duty; ordered the Mandalorians to attack the Jedi Temple; and dismissed her assistant when he called her out on her policies.
- American presidents always have someone that ends up more influential to them than anyone else in the White House, and as the entry paragraph states, you can always tell by the decisions that are made and by the directions that they go, along with the way they play politics. That can range from members of the cabinet, to positions with cabinet-style authority.
- In a Dragon-in-Chief variant, the White House Chief of Staff works as the manager for the President, selecting and supervising key White House staff members, structuring the White House staff system, managing the flow of information, controlling the flow of people into the Oval Office, protecting the interests of the President, and negotiating with Congress to implement the Presidents' agenda. As an analogue, if a President took a hands-off approach to governance, the Chief of Staff would work well as a Prime Minister.
- Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt held control of the White House, the Senate and the House in a supermajority - the Democrats would easily pass legislation that was supported by Roosevelt himself. From the acquirement of emergency powers in response to the Great Depression, Roosevelt developed executive policies that heavily expanded the role of the United States President and the federal government in general. For example, staff members were chosen based on personal loyalty to the person holding the presidency, while new advisory boards were developed around the presidency, which complemented and even rivaled the cabinet in influence.
- Republican President George W. Bush mostly followed Vice President Dick Cheneys' advice during their eight years in office. In practice, it was as if Cheney was the President, since Bush let Cheney do most of the major decisions, until the last two years of his presidency.
- In a departure from the executive branch, Joseph Gurney Cannon was the Speaker of the House of Representatives. At the time, the Speaker pulled double-duty as chairman of the Rules Committee, which determined under what restrictions that bills could be debated, amended and voted on, and in some cases, whether they would be allowed on the floor at all. Therefore, Speaker Cannon effectively controlled every aspect of the legislative agenda: Bills reached the floor of the house only if Cannon approved of it, and if he approved it, it reached the floor in whatever form he determinedówith he himself deciding whether and to what extent the measures could be debated and amended. Furthermore, Cannon reserved to himself the right to appoint not only the chairs of the various House committees, but also all of committees' members, and used that power to appoint his allies and proteges to leadership positions while obstructing those who opposed his legislation. He was later forced to resign by Democrats and dissatisfied Republicans as a result.