“We do not have a parliamentary system where party leaders fight internal battles and get replaced by their internal rivals on the regular; instead, we elect a quasi-monarch, whose removal seems as traumatic as a regicide. And thus, party loyalists tend to identify with their leaders the way royalists identify with their kings and regard the prospect of impeachment not as an opportunity for a change of leadership but a revolutionary threat.”
The quote is from a Ross Douthat opinion piece published April 11 in the New York Times as part of that newspaper’s continuing attempt to explain what is happening in the once proud “land of the free and home of the brave” – the Republic of the United States of America.
In the 1700s, British settlers holding an uncertain toe-hold on the lonely and largely unknown vastness of North America revolted against being ruled by a remote and occasionally insane King George in England. In a dangerous gamble, they challenged the might of the Empire. With a roughshod frontier “militia” and a laughable “navy,” they defeated the King and his parliament and established what they felt was a truer democracy: “A state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.”
As the decades rolled by, the new republic grew in strength and in less than a century was being regarded as one of the strongest, if not the strongest nation in the world – economically, militarily and by way of government. As “Royals” around the world retained their titles but lost their power, the United States of America grew and its president’s voice became one of great authority on the world stage. Other countries governed by freely elected governments looked to “the States” for guidance – and for protection in time of need.
And then came the assassinations of the much admired, despite some dubious moral failings, President John F. Kennedy in November 1963; Martin Luther King Jr., April 1968; and Bobby Kennedy, June 1968. And then, diminishing even more the strength and respect of the USA, the 20-years of losing warfare in Viet Nam between 1955 and 1975.
The USA was not the only nation losing status. In 1991, the world was amazed and unbelieving when the Soviet Union collapsed in what seemed like an overnight illusion. One day it was there; the next, gone, dissolved by Moscow’s Supreme Soviet with China standing ready to fill the gap.
In the USA, President George W. Bush took over in January 2001. Eight months later, al-Qaeda terrorists destroyed the twin towers in New York. The USA responded with increased force in Afghanistan and renewed fighting in the deserts of Iraq in 2003.
President Barak Obama replaced Bush in the White House in 2008 and returned for a second term four years later. Among his major promises were an end to the war in the Middle East and the introduction of Medicare as a service for all US citizens. In January 2017, he handed the keys to the White House to newly – and surprisingly – elected Donald Trump who, within days, decided where TVs with cable news connections should be placed and then launched the first of his semi-literate Tweets condemning almost daily the administration of Obama and the conduct of election rival Hilary Clinton.
Trump’s conduct has alienated many friends of America around the world; embarrassed Republican members of Congress and Senate whom he is supposed to be leading; and confused friend and foe alike with his never-ending litany of facts-that-never-were, delivered with the petulance of a spoiled child. Even when signing routine documents, Trump makes sure the camera is on before he flourishes the pen and carefully “carves” his name, holding it up for the camera to get a close-up of the black-black ink he uses and assuring any children who may be watching their president does know how to spell his own name.
It is unfortunate that the founding fathers who authored the Constitution didn’t provide a quicker and easier method of removing a president from office than complicated impeachment proceedings. In countries operating under the British parliamentary system, if the leader of the governing party becomes an embarrassment, a leadership convention is called. Complaints are debated and the leader either wins a vote of support or earns a sentence of non-confidence. If it’s the latter the chief minister is gone and a replacement elected as party leader and – automatically – prime minister.
Critics suggest this isn’t a fair system because the party ends up electing the prime minister – not the people. It’s a point, but when weighed in the balance with a leader spouting wild Trumpian accusations and theories, it would be a safety valve to cherish. It doesn’t change party beliefs and principles, but it does curb a leader’s bad manners and royal dictates.
For sure, US political leaders must find a quick solution to their presidential problems. In these troubled times we need strong USA leadership with steady guidance and the courage to make tough decisions because they are the right decisions. And, we need leaders who seek peaceful solutions rather than bigger buttons to push or smarter missiles to fire.