The US Presidency is not quite a hereditary monarchy

As Obama pulls ahead of Clinton in the race for the democratic nomination, there are signs of more people in the US wishing to get away from the alternation of the Presidency between the houses of Bush and Clinton that has characterised the last two decades.

The US Presidency is a curious amalgam of the ancient and modern. Like an old monarchy, the President is Head of the armed forces. In the more modern UK in this respect, the professional heads of the armed forces report to a middle ranking Cabinet Minister, the Defence Secretary, who in turn reports to a senior cabinet Minister, the Foreign Secretary, and to the Prime Minister.The UK has long enforced the seperation of the armed forces from politics, and has had a fear of standing armies.

Like a modern republic, the US President is Head of State as well as Head of government. He is also a modern King – the titular Head of the country and the unifying presence for times of national celebration or grieiving, as well as head of the executive.

It would not be healthy for this very powerful post – 3 jobs in one – to become hereditary. US politics has certainly been baronial if not monarchical during my adult lifetime. The Kenendy dynasty rose in the 1960s, the Bush in the 1980s and the Clinton in 1990s.

I have been criticised for changing my mind on Obama. I see nothing wrong with changing your mind if the sutuation changes, or if you learn something new of importance. I try to learn something new each day. On this occasion, however, I have not changed my view. From the beginning I said I thought his anti Washington anti politics campaign was great, and would represent a strong challenge. I always thought he could win but was not sure he would win. I still have the same view.

I also always said I did not like his policies to the extent that he had revealed them. I do not believe he would live up to his fine rhetoric in power, as I do not believe he knows how to make government smaller and more responsive, two essentials if we are to tackle the disillusion with big party politics on either side of the Atlantic.


  1. Stuart Fairney
    February 13, 2008

    Describing Obama's campaign as anti-politics is very clever, and highly accurate. I think though, as ever, the Democrats will keep slugging away at each other, and leave the field free for McCain. Odd though it sounds, I think that McCain will emerge victorious in November. It's one thing getting the Democratic nomination without any policies, quite another getting the Presidency and I'm not sure his platform (if he has any policies) will have enough time to establish itself with any credibility after the Democratic convention.

  2. Neil Craig
    February 13, 2008

    There must be something deep in human nature that responds to hereditary rule. What we are seeing worldwide is very similar to the sort of monarchies that existed in the early Middle ages where the system had not been codified in the rule of primogeniture but the king was elected by the powerful from among one, or sometimes several families.

    As Douglas Adams said "the main problem with government is who you get to do it". Hereditary rule means you are not particularly likely to get an ambitious charmer & that, if the father was good, he is more likely than not to be of above average competence & certainly with some experience of the job. If I wished to encourage monarchy here I would insist that heirs to the thone have to marry people of a higher tier of intelligence rather than the upper classes as happens now.

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