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?