January 20, 2013

The day America imitates the British monarchy

Jonathan Freedland, Guardian, UK -  America will on Monday witness its quadrennial act of political alchemy. The base metal of a previously partisan candidate is transformed by the incantation of a few, solemn words into gold, becoming not just a head of government but a head of state – the only figure capable of transcending low politics and representing the republic itself.

That, at least, is the idea. Inauguration day is when the American presidency is revealed as not merely an executive office – even if, still, the most powerful in the world – but also a kind of secular monarchy. On Monday the avowedly egalitarian United States – which rejected all things regal when it broke from the British mother-country, insisting its president be known not as His Majesty but as plain Mister – anoints its leader with as much ceremony and ritual as it can muster. The oath, the address, the anthem, the parade: all that's missing is the Queen's golden coach.

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