The Case for a King

I agree with Jon Chait about the “trouble with presidential dignity”:

On the contrary, I think the office of the president has too much dignity. The president is a citizen who serves the public. It is in the interest of the president to make himself into something exalted, a national father figure and symbol of the government. But the public has no interest in this function, which, indeed, can take on monarchical trappings with an insidious anti-democratic undertone. (It’s a little disturbing when people who see the president salute — a military signal that suggests subordination.)

Obviously, I don’t want to see presidents cutting their own rap videos or jumping into the ring with professional wrestlers. But at the moment, and for the foreseeable future, out problem is not too little presidential dignity but too much.

In some ways I would say the whole thing highlights a problem with republican government that wasn’t appreciated or foreseeable in the late 18th century. Since that time, many democracies — from Canada to Spain to Sweden and beyond — have hit upon the idea of denying the monarchical glow to their head of government by keeping the monarch around but denuding him/her of governing authority. Some countries, such as Germany, India, and Israel, try to have a powerless “president” fill this role but I think it doesn’t really work. Such people have too much democratic legitimacy and too little pomp and circumstance to adequately fill the king role.


So does America need a king and queen with the President demoted to a more drab functional role? I say: Perhaps. At a minimum, America’s Next First Couple could be the world’s greatest reality TV show.

My preferred candidate for Queen would be Princess Märtha-Louise of Norway who’s basically out of the running for succession there (fourth in line) and who conveniently already lives in the USA. She’s author of the children’s book Why Kings And Queens Don’t Wear Crowns, and the Norwegian royal family is one of the youngest in Europe. Märtha-Louise’s great-grandfather was born in Denmark and elected King of Norway in 1905.