Thursday, January 11, 2018

Trump, Oprah and the New American Monarchy?

In the wake of assertions that Oprah, you know, should, um, err, run for president, I’ve been thinking about the United Kingdom (aka Great Britain). It’s a constitutional monarchy. The monarch is head of state, but has no responsibilities for governance, while the prime minister is head of the government. The monarch symbolizes the nation while the prime minister gets things done. The American presidency combines those two functions.

Trump, however, has not been particularly adept at getting things done. He has not prior experience in government, is not at all suited to the demands of the presidency, and apparently didn’t really want the job in the first place. He is, in effect, a largely symbolic head of state – though the majority of his citizens did not elect him (but then, the British monarch isn’t elected either) – who talks about making America great again while leaving governance, if not to change, to a poorly coordinated congeries of underlings of varying degrees of incompetence. That is, under Trump the functions of head of state and head of governance are being pried apart with governance, alas, being largely headless.

And now, along comes Oprah with a stirring speech at the Golden Globes. Now she’s being put forward as a candidate for the presidency. It seems to me that, in effect, she’s being put forward as a candidate for a head of state position that’s only loosely coupled with head of governance. THAT’s what the Trump presidency is doing. Decoupling the two functions.

Oprah is a more attractive person than Trump is. But we have no particularly good reason to think she would be effective at governance. Would she appoint more competent staff? Probably. Would he nominations to high level posts be more competent? Likely so, if only because she will have been thinking about it and working on it.

But still, is this what we want, a separation between head of state and head of governance, with the latter function being basically catch as catch can? More to the point, is this what we’re stuck with given the current media environment? Has the carefully calibrated system of checks and balances been broken, permanently?


  1. And Tom Hanks is being touted as Oprah's vice presidential running mate. Really. He playfully spoke to this in a red carpet interview. But what I see in him and in Oprah is this spark that ignites, "Well, maybe I could indeed rise to the occasion." I don't think she's registered a for-once-and-for-all "No!" to this yet.

    1. This strikes me as an expression of the symbolic head-of-state function, not the governance function. Governance, alas, is all but invisible.

  2. I got a relationship hit for different reasons.

    American news broadcast, its take was t.v stars Oprah had mass appeal as she was beamed directly into peoples homes creating a connection and relationship.

    Our Monarchy does this differently. Its a serious meet and greet machine. Direct pressing of flesh on a huge scale.

    However fleeting a surprising large proportion of the population will have had some form of direct contact with a member of the Royal family or will have a close relative who has.

    Its an aspect of 'royal duty' that is taken really seriously.

    Face to face encounters with no disconnection. Powerful and ancient political tool, its also a significant contemporary complaint with regard to political leadership.

    As a non-American I have a complete comprehension fail on this one as you are living with what the formula will regularly produce if you stick with it.

    From the outside it looks crazy.

    1. "Our Monarchy does this differently. Its a serious meet and greet machine. Direct pressing of flesh on a huge scale."


      "From the outside it looks crazy."

      From the inside as well.

  3. Just came across this in the Guardian.

    Re- invention of Will Smith. The first video details 'the one thing Arnold Schwarzenegger told him that he will never forget.'

    He wants to know how to become the biggest movie star on the planet.