January 16, 2012
The presidency is seen by no one—least of all its holders—as a sacramental vocation; it is merely the most elevated government job available. Rather than “father of his people,” the chief executive is simply the head of the bureaucracy, caring nothing for his subjects’ souls, little for their bodies, and much for their taxability. With the possible exception of Reagan (riding into a final showdown might have appealed to Ronnie), the thought that any of them would die for their people is absurd. So too is the idea of a Christian church canonizing any of our presidents (although the Vietnamese Cao Dai sect did so elevate Thomas Jefferson—but they did the same for Lenin).
It might be argued that the older view of governance was relevant to another time but makes no sense today. Even if that is true, must we accept so very little out of those who run our lives?
If you make your way to one of the royal observances I have mentioned—the requiem for Louis XVI put on at the basilica of Saint Denis by the Memorial de France or the Royal Stuart Society’s wreath-laying at the statue of King Charles in Trafalgar Square, you will meet an interesting group of people—youthful romantics, hard-bitten seniors, chic society ladies, club-going aristocrats, and many more. It is easy to dismiss them as impractical at best, crackpots at worst. But if you go off with some of them to a nearby pub or restaurant (which they inevitably seem to do), you’ll notice they are usually better educated and far more fun than the general type one meets at party election rallies. If such folks are out of place in everyday politics, it speaks poorly for our system.