Amid the circus that is Washington, the Muellar grand jury news, the West Virginia rally, and all the rest, you may have missed a couple of stories about our European allies. One was about Prince Phillip. As reported by Robert Palmer in the August 3rd British Express:
As the heavens opened over Buckingham Palace, Prince Philip said farewell to a life of public service after almost 70 years, waving warmly to crowds outside the railings and acknowledging their cheers.
At the age of 96 he said he was ready to sit back and take things easier and pass on the baton to a younger generation.
So, the “prince consort” was stepping down in Great Britain --- a symbolic figurehead riding into his twilight.
Just as Oscar Isaac is portraying Shakespeare’s “melancholy Dane” at NYC’s Public Theater we actually have had a real Danish Prince story in the news! According to Martin Selsoe Sorensenaug in the August 3rd NY Times:
Prince Henrik of Denmark has been married to the country’s queen for 50 years, and he has been carrying a grudge the whole time. Now, in an act of protest, he says he no longer wishes to be buried by her side, the Royal Danish House announced on Thursday.
Henrik, now 83, married Queen Margrethe II in 1967, and was later bestowed with the title of the queen’s prince consort. But what he really wanted was to be king — or in this case “king consort.”
Queen Margrethe II, 77, serves as Denmark’s head of state and is responsible for signing all laws passed by Parliament. But the country’s legislative powers have been in the hands of elected governments since 1849.
While not “resigning” as “prince consort,” Henrik, in the words of the NY Times headline “Plans an Eternal Protest.” The story is humorous, of course, and in our nation where noble titles were banned from Day One, we can look at it all from afar and chuckle. But I would contend that looking at Great Britain and Denmark (as if they were in our mirror) might be far more relevant than many of us would like to admit.
Beyond the fact that we have now a government that, like Denmark’s, has a powerless executive who can only sign laws passed by the legislature, we might be more like Great Britain than we think. Here’s what I would posit (and there’s a history lesson in here): Let’s get in the WayBack Machine and travel to Great Britain in 1970. It is 25 years after the conclusion of World War II and England, whose Empire had never seen the sun setting upon it, was no longer a major player on the world stage. As presciently predicted in Alexis deTocqueville’s 1832 classic Democracy in America, the United States colossus and the Russian Bear had emerged as the Superpowers determining world affairs. The Cold War was roiling, the Vietnam War was raging, and all eyes were on the Global heavyweights as they circled one another warily. Flash forward to 1989: the Berlin Wall comes down and, within two years, the U.S.S.R. falls apart; the Cold War is over and the U.S. has won. The next year, the citizens of the United States elect their first Baby Boomer President. That was 25 years ago.
Consider this analogy: Great Britain in 1970 = The United States in 2017.
What? Have I lost my mind? “You’re saying the greatest military and economic power in the world in 2017 is similar to a declining imperial power in 1970? You must be deranged!” No historical parallels are perfect and I believe the military might and economic strength we believe place us atop the world are illusory, to a great extent --- and it isn’t simply because “Trump” is President. Like Great Britain after World War II, I would contend that since the end of the Cold War the United States has actually been trending downward for the last quarter century and Trump is a logical product of that trending.
Starting with Bill Clinton’s abandoning the FDR progressivism and moving the Democratic Party toward the “center” (making it “Republican Lite”), the healthy political dialogue began to wane. Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” was the seed that produced the Tea Party in later years and the polarization that we now consider “normal” had begun. The 2000 election, determined by 5 Republican appointed Supreme Court Justices contributed to the almost imperceptible decline in democracy we now clearly see. 9/11, of course, distracted us while allowing untrammeled piracy to occur for well over a decade as “private contractors” made unfettered fortunes in Iraq and Afghanistan and the power of lobbyists and moneyed interests grew ever larger --- only to be reinforced by the Supreme Court (again!) in the Citizens United decision. Our blind eye to outright torture from 2001 through 2009 should also have been “red flags” as to our declining morality as a “leader of the free world.”
Despite the momentary belief in “Hope and Change” that our first African American President instilled, the reality was far from the sloganeering. With an even more divided nation and legislature, along with our “wars without end,” the Obama years, while well intentioned, moved us further in the direction of decline. By summoning the hidden well of our nation’s deep seated racism, Obama provided the platform for a television huckster to become the standard bearer of the loathsome “birther” movement and the racist dog whistles were now full-throated. The election of Trump simply confirms that our Empire is seriously declining and the “America” that many of us have believed in has, in fact, become an illusion, a mirage in an Orange desert. Money talks and bullshit walks, as they say, and we are reaping the seeds sown years ago.
After World War II Great Britain was divested of its Empire and therefore its wealth and power. After the Cold War we have watched the United States become divested of its soul. At best, we have regressed to Thomas Nast’s world of monopolists in the Gilded Age whose money called the tune. With technology and communications what they are today, however, we are worse off than that. The 1% could care less about the rest of us. The so-called “Christians” only care about being “keepers” for some of their “brothers.” And China is laughing all the way to the Bank.
I could be wrong, of course. There may be a fabulous American Renaissance right around the corner. But given the dismantling of our environmental protections, the wild card approach to our foreign policy, and a clearly bigoted domestic program, I’m going to be betting with Renminbis (Chinese currency) as we move forward.