Monday, 1 September 2008

The Joys and Scares of Republicanism

Contrary to the bright future in flourishing democracy and in prosperity that republicans claim "an" Australian republic would be, this is what a direct elected presidential system could hold in store. In a letter to The Age of 1st September 2008 a reader expressed these fears:

I am perturbed, no, I am absolutely terrified when I think of the ramifications of McCain’s selection of a running mate. If anything should happen to John McCain, and let’s face it, he is 72, we would then have an untravelled, inexperienced, pro-gun, anti-abortion, pro-death-penalty (these on their own seem to be a contradiction) pro-creationist, pro-drilling in the Alaskan Wilderness, woman with an accent that could cut glass as president of the most powerful country in the world. Does the world really want or need this? I certainly hope not!
R. H., Beaumaris, Victoria

A rather scary portrait of a possible US vice president or even US president. An elected monarch for four years with men and women nobody knows waiting in the shadow to take over the administration not only of the 300 million US cititens, but to a large extent, of us all. Instead of a cabinet or a party leadership with lots of names the US voters vest all their hopes – or fears – on four people. Who will form the next US administration? Nobody knows. That’s an even scarier thought than the potential vice president Sarah Palin becoming president.

Although our Monarch exercises very little power at her own discretion, the Queen is the central cog in the machinery of state, the common link between executive, legislature, judiciary, civil service, military, and other institutions. The Crown embodies the central authority under which these other bodies operate; it gives the final stamp of approval, the Royal Assent, to legislation. The Crown is the source of all state authority (although it is still subject to the law of the land - its authority is not absolute).

The existence of a hereditary monarch keeps the politicians in their place. However eminent a Prime Minister may become, (s)he is always subject to a higher personal authority. Ambition, politicking and intrigue can never take someone to the highest office in the land, and he can never aggrandise himself by claiming to be the head and ultimate representative of the nation. A Prime Minister can be verbally mauled in the legislature, and summarily dismissed by it, with a level of disrespect which few nations would be happy to show to their Head of State, but might like to inflict on their lesser politicians. Although, in practice, it is always the politicians who give the orders and run the country, if they go far beyond their authority, others can, in theory, defy them by claiming allegiance to the higher authority of the Crown, which is duty-bound to uphold the democratic order without personal interest or favour.

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