Liberty Expose: American Monarchs
If Aristotle’s observation that the political order of the day is a reflection upon the soul of a society is correct, then the soul of America is one that yearns for royalty. For example, let’s take a look at the news revolving around Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globes. The speech itself was not unique; much of it was the same inspirational and impowering rhetoric that one could come to expect. And while Oprah does not directly insinuate a desire to run, the media interpreted the speech as the opening to a campaign.
Numerous articles have been published weighing a 2020 Oprah run, Democratic campaign operatives have proposed setting up meetings, and journalists have asked President Trump about what he thought of an Oprah for President 2020 possibility (“I’d beat her,” the president said, and then modified his statement by stating his admiration for Oprah). Even before the speech, Golden Globes host Seth Myers jested about the possibility of an Oprah Winfrey-Tom Hanks run.
The idea of an Oprah run is not implausible. Oprah has been a political force in the past. It is widely believed that it was with her support that Barrack Obama was able to defeat Hillary Clinton, who once held a commanding lead on the future president. And for obvious reasons, being a television personality as opposed to a politician would not prohibit her from directly running for the most powerful seat in the world. Furthermore, Oprah has built a powerful media empire. Her career is dotted with astonishing achievements.
However, it is an indictment of American culture in of itself that a speech made by a daytime talk show host at one of the most irrelevant staples of culture is immediately interpreted to be a campaign speech. But that is where we are.
Celebrity has become a virtue. Social media feeds are often saturated with quotes or clips from celebrities giving their opinions on the issues of the day. Often, news cycles are powered by comments made by the famous. This does not make sense. When a drive-thru attendant at McDonald’s or an unemployed family member gives their onions, they are often neglected for heir lack of importance or qualification. But when “Motor City Madman” Ted Nugent does, he manages to make an appearance on Fox News.
Both the McDonald’s drive-thru attendant and Ted Nugent have careers divorced from public policy, but when the latter makes a comment pertaining to the political atmosphere, cameras are put in front of him – and many of us dutifully watch. The only difference between the two is that one pursued a career that led to fame, and the other is in normal occupation. The more we view, the more important those viewed become.
The monarchial tendency is already prevalent enough in traditional political life. The State of the Union, which was downgraded under Thomas Jefferson for that reason, but brought back by Woodrow Wilson for probably that same reason is paramount to a royal ball. In the State of the Union, members of congress and other government officials invite politically-charged guests to garner attention from news camera in order to substitute an emotional argument where a logical one would be much longer.
The president is announced and walks into amidst a standing ovation, He then gives a speech, not necessarily pertaining to the State, but rather he gives an updated campaign speech. Throughout that speech, opposition members dictate whether or not to applaud the president, depending on what issue he is pressing. The State of the Union is then intently analyzed for television personalities masquerading as journalists – a group of people who award each other at an annual event referred to as “Nerd Prom”.
However unsettling the monarchial tendency towards politicians may be, the revolt against mainstream politicians from both sides of the political spectrum runs the threat of isolating those who spent careers in politics in favor of outsiders for the sole virtue of being outsiders.
Politicians have undoubtedly failed America in the public eye these last few years. They lack the risk of being unvirtuous, as Bill Clinton and Roy Moore are, and run the risk of becoming ideological demagogues, such as Bernie Sanders.
In between in Machiavellian maneuvering, tribalism, infighting, and grandstanding. In essence, they have done what they have always done. However, resorting to the politics of Hollywood populism will on exacerbate America’s policy challenges as leaders would become even more aggressive in the pursuit of popularity. The difference between presidential elections and school council elections would be minimal – minus the result of the former deciding who will command the nuclear arsenal of the world’s sole superpower.
The danger of democratic politics becoming a competition of popularity was prophesized by the framers of the constitution. Much of the checks on power and the “anti-democratic” feature within the American system of government is predicated on this concern, amongst others. It too late to stop America from becoming the celebrity worshiping consuming parody that it is often depicted to be. The fact that we have celebrity president who has never held office does not mean that this has to be a new trend.
The last election showed how powerful a force it can be, especially in the primaries in regards to attracting traditionally apolitical voters. It is up to party leaders, a most importantly voters, to turn a blind eye to fame and emotional argumentation in favor of candidates with sound policy solutions. We can only wait and see if voters are virtuous enough to do that.