The Majesty of Quasi-Royalty

I go to IOZ for my considerable anti-political-romanticism needs:

David Brooks like totally like hates Bobby Jindal. Meanwhile Barack Obama remains Superjesus Black Reagan. He's got good delivery. Let's not say otherwise.
The . . . what would the Teevee call it? . . . optics were embarrassing. Congress? Men fit to be slaves, as Tiberius would've had it. All that leaping up to applaud. Watching adults seek to ingratiate themselves in so obsequious a manner makes me a bit queasy. What must this Roman spectacle look like to the rest of the world? The Elder Gods of the Senate may just have better quads than me, and I make yoga every goddamn day, what with all that rising and reposing. Lord above, it reminded me of High Holy Day services in my youth, except that we stood to acknowledge God and His Torah. Purim, appropriately, is right around the corner.

We will be civilized when national politics is what local politics is in my parts: relatively comptetent public administration with occasional catfights.
I was watching Unforgiven last night, one of my favorite movies. President James Garfield has just been shot and killed by that disappointed Oneidan Charles Guiteau. Gun-for-hire English Bob — the “Duke of Death,” who specializes in murdering wayward Chinese for the railroads — takes the occasion of Garfield's demise to bait Americans at every opportunity by suggesting that they might prevent further presidenticide by rejecting their quaint notions of republican equality and just get a King–even a Queen! Hey, let's go to the text!

ENGLISH BOB: … there's a dignity in royalty… a majesty… that precludes the likelihood of assassination. Why, if you were to point a pistol at a King or a Queen, sir, I can assure you your hand would shake as though palsied…
BARBER: I wouldn't point no pistol at nobody, sir.
ENGLISH BOB: A wise policy.  But if you did, I can assure you, the sight of royalty would cause you to dismiss all thoughts of bloodshed and stand… in awe. Whereas, a president… I mean, why not shoot a president?

Because it would be murder, of course. But that's no reason for a murderer. But, these days, we've got the majesty of quasi-royalty. Turns out Americans long ago accepted the spirit if not the letter of English Bob's advice–for all the good it did Kennedy and Reagan. I'm afraid that this doesn't prove that Americans are not impressed by majesty, just that we're prone to ideological derangement, trigger-happy, and impressed by Jody Foster even more. (God, how did I get on this riff? Please please please no one shoot the president!) 
For your further jaundiced-eye needs, here's our nation's preeminent imperial president skeptic, Gene Healy:

Today's president is a constitutional monstrosity: a national talk-show host with nuclear weapons. 

And so it has been for about a century now. [ADDED: I mean, not the teevee and the nukes in particular, but you get me.] I believe the executive of the de facto constitution is a creature of technological contingency–the invention of mass media–and so may be rather inconsistent with earlier American ideals and the methods of political limitation built into the de jure constitution. The hard question is whether life under the de facto constitution has changed our ideals so much that we cannot now conceive of officially moderating the role of the “our regular programming has been preempted” executive.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center