I’m going to attempt what you might consider the last word on a dead queen if only because the Washington press corps’ attention span will drift elsewhere before Elizabeth’s body is in the ground.
Let’s begin with Richard Stengel, a former undersecretary of state in the Obama administration, a former editor of Time magazine and a current political analyst for MSNBC. Last Thursday, Stengel said:
Why are American news networks dedicating all this time to Queen Elizabeth’s funeral? I think it’s a good question. There’s a weakness in the American character that still yearns for that era of hereditary privilege, which is the very thing that we escaped from.
I agree. There is something here that yearns for hereditary privilege. It’s the same privilege that fueled the domination of Ireland, India and other places, the inhabitants of which last week were indifferent or perhaps jubilant on hearing news of the queen’s death. It’s no accident that these same people are considered (Indians), or were considered (Irish), racially inferior compared to the “English race.”
I do think some white Americans would rather be ruled than bother with the difficult upkeep of a republican form of government. But I also think some white Americans believe this theoretical ruler would favor them while disfavoring people they already don’t like.
So I think a focus on monarchy without an equal focus on white power is whitewashing both while fully understanding neither.
We’re really not getting it if we don’t understand that:
- monarchy is the right to rule by blood.
- monarchy’s blood is white.
- hereditary privilege is white power.
- monarchy is the ultimate form of white power.
I don’t want to quibble about the varieties of monarchy. I’m talking about kings and queens who possess political power that they were born with and that therefore didn’t require their subjects’ consent. This dynamic applies, I think, to any variety of authoritarianism.
READ MORE: Monarchs belong in the dustbin of history
In fairness to Richard Stengel, he did speak to the reason critics raised the bloody history of British colonies around the world during the queen’s long reign. Elizabeth spoke in Capetown in 1947, he said:
“That was the year that apartheid took effect in South Africa. That was something British colonialism ushered in.” Stengel added: “British colonialism, which she presided over … had a terrible effect on much of the world. It was something people revolt from.”
I trust that Stengel knows the history. He surely knows what’s missing here – that “much of the world” included America and that the “people” who “revolt” from British monarchy included Americans.
And he surely knows something else — that the right to rule by blood, aka hereditary privilege, did not go away once the American colonies “escaped from” monarchy. It continued in the form of white power.
From this context we can profitably read his remarks: “There’s a weakness in the American character that still yearns for that era of hereditary privilege, which is the very thing that we escaped from.”
In other words:
- White Americans yearn for hereditary rule.
- Hereditary rule is white power.
- The American character is white Americans.
- White power is a weakness in the American character.
We never really escaped.
To be sure, our constitution forbids granting royal titles. It puts power in elected office, not elected officials themselves. The law and the Constitution are furthermore the land’s highest authority, not someone, like a criminal former president, who merely claims it.
But let’s not be naive.
That we allow the existence of billionaires in this country means we don’t believe that no one is above the law. We tolerate a kind of aristocracy without admitting that that’s what we’re doing. Sure, no title of nobility has been granted to Jeff Bezos. But why would he want that when his riches eclipse that of any noble in history.
More importantly, we never escaped hereditary privilege because white Americans did not want to. Many of their descendants still don’t. As long as democracy reinforces white power, democracy is dandy. But now that it threatens it, democracy has to go. My US senator, Chris Murphy, rightly calls it “the monarchist new right.”
Again, I don’t want to quibble over labels. Whatever you call it – I have called them redhat fascists and authoritarian collectivists – we’re talking about the same people believing the same thing. They believe, just as monarchs the world over do, that they have the right to rule because of their blood. Elections don’t confer them power.
Power is already theirs.
Put another way:
- White is might.
- Might is right.
- Democracy be damned.
Is there any question about the straight line from British monarchy, hereditary privilege, colonial conquest and white power to the criminal former president who tried to take over America?
If so, consider Texas Congressman Ronny Jackson, who said:
“Retweet if you want the MAGA King back now!!”
Richard Stengel has a point. The American news networks dedicated all this time to Queen Elizabeth’s funeral because there’s “a weakness in the American character that still yearns for that era of hereditary privilege.” But it’s not a yearning for the white power of the past.
It’s a yearning for its future.