This can be made concrete through two examples in western(ized) culture that I can immediately make: (a) Donald Trump: a politician by Machiavellian standards in so far as he has inconsistent stances – “20 times Donald Trump has changed his mind since June” (The Washington Post) – so, in this sense he maintains the Machiavellian principle that he shouldn’t let anyone know what he is about or what he stands for, but rather seem what he is about for swaying the audience's’ fantasies. This is not unique to Trump; Hillary Clinton could be suggested to be doing that as well due to her appropriation of feminism, immigrant issues, and other identities to guilt-trip women, the LGBTQ+ community, the colonized, and whatnot to sway them into her Machiavellian political performance. (b) William Shakespeare’s Henry V portrays an idealized king, Henry V who always saves face among all of his subjects. Except for slight hints in soliloquys, Henry V always talks for others, never for himself, in such a way he plays with his subject just as chess pieces; in contrast, Richard II’s failure as a king is due to this lack of control and performance for the subjects.
But the question has been surfacing since Machiavelli whether this is what politics should be? Machiavelli, and along with him, his whole tradition, position human beings as mere tools and mechanisms in the construction and institution of the State. The Prince, as the One, is an over-human being who is beyond the merely human concerns of morality, according to Machiavelli; but question has become whether we should have this over-human leader for a human society and State, one which only makes sense through human principles and dynamics? Isn’t the amorality of the Prince such that it amounts to an in-morality in caring for the State over its composite elements, namely people? If we ask the question of what politicians are about and what do they stand for, we should perhaps ask the question of what they are willing to fall for? Passion has been marginalized by calculation and reason that determines itself transcendental to humanity. By contrast, cultural and critical theorist, bell hooks presents how this kind of Machiavellian thought, as a perpetration of masculinism, sexism and the all-watching-and-ordering One, “made us judge each other without compassion and punish one another harshly” (Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics). In essence, this drawing into attention a staged fantastical performance by the politician alienates us from our ethical situation where oneself is situated (existing) to act and interact; grassroots movements, for instance, aim at remedy that by community building – however, the risk of re-perpetuating Machiavellianism is a haunting possibility. Nonetheless, and without any settling conclusion, the questions once asked to the politician is directed at us, as actors in the stage: what are you about? What do you stand for? What are you willing to fight for? And to transcend the Machiavellian situation, are these values pursued some fantastical, ideological masturbation as portrayed by the political performances of Trump, Clinton, and Henry IV? Or are these principles of a tangible human, communally situated experience?