From constitutional presidency to the “family on the throne”

A reader sends Simon Heffer’s commentary on the Democratic convention:

It is interesting how the Americans, having rejected the British Constitution in 1776, now seem entranced by the idea of what Walter Bagehot (explaining the appeal of monarchy) called the constitutional device of “a family on the throne.” We have had the Bush family ad nauseam, the Kennedys ditto (with old Ted yanked from his sickbed to endorse Mr Obama in a stunt that made On Golden Pond seem light on sentimentality), an attempt at the Clinton family, and now the extended family of the Obamas.

This is a major development in American politics over the last 20 years, and has hardly been written about. It has something to do with the loss of a sense of a public order in which we participate as citizens, as distinct from our private and personal lives. If only the personal is real, then a politician’s family becomes on object of public interest in a way that was never the case before. We did not see the families of the nominees at national conventions forty or fifty years ago, except perhaps in a final gathering at the podium at the end of the convention, and we certainly didn’t hear speeches from the candidate’s wife and children.

Of course this also has a lot to do with feminism. When, in the name of equality, you introduce women into institutions and areas of life that have always been male dominated, you inevitably alter the character of those institutions.

The fact that America, supposedly the anti-monarchical country par excellence, now routinely turns political families into quasi monarchical families, is a direct result of the intrusion of the female and the personal into the realm of politics, which by its nature is male and impersonal. (I mean, of course, relatively impersonal.)

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 30, 2008 02:40 PM | Send

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