Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Inauguration = Coronation, only more frequent

While Washington DC is buzzing with rehearsal stress, the rest of the world awaits Barack Obama’s coronation, oops, inauguration. But is there really any difference?

The pomp, with which Obama will be crowned president is nothing short of that of any 19th century Monarch. The "Potus" - President of the United States – will swear a holy oath on a 150 year old bible, watch a military parade and be honoured by a 21 gun salute. A US Marines Band will intone "Hail to the Chief". As the Queen is head of the armed forces of Australia (and Her other realms), Obama will become commander in chief of the US forces.

The Joint Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies handed out 240,000 colour-coded tickets that give entry to areas right in front of the Capitol in Washington, where the swearing-in will take place. When the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II took place on 2 June 1953, more than twelve months after her accession, hundred of thousands of Britons and over 200,000 tourists from other countries descended upon London for the coronation.

Has anybody criticised the cost of the four-yearly US show? The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II cost £ 3m (the equivalent of £ 60m today, based on retail price index). A government paper of that period gave an insight into the government's struggle to afford a £3 million coronation in the aftermath of the Second World War. At one point, ministers considered charging guests at Westminster Abbey 16 shillings a head for the food. Churchill later dismissed the idea as "shabby".

Records reveal Queen's 'cut-price' Coronation
The Queen’s Coronation was in danger of becoming a cut-price affair in which the government even briefly considered charging VIP guests for their coronation lunch, according to records just released.

But seats in spectator stands were put up for sale, at a cost of £4-6 each, in order to cover the costs of erecting them. The cost-cutting plans were discussed as the Conservatives, who took over austere Britain at the end of October 1951, immediately faced a financial crisis, struggling to keep even a basic programme going to pay for food imports, housing and defence, the notebooks reveal.

The crowning of the monarch on June 2nd, 1953 attracted an estimated viewing audience of 20 million and gave the new TV networks a most welcome boost, wrote the SundayHerald.

Unlike in political campaigns, there are no legal restrictions in the USA on the amount that one can contribute to an inaugural celebration. The 2005 inauguration saw numerous corporations contribute $250,000 to George W. Bush's second inauguration, which cost more than an estimated $40 million, while Obama's inauguration is expected to cost $40 million from Obama's Presidential Inaugural Committee and "near $50 million" from the city. Barack Obama's inauguration committee set a $50,000 contribution limit to underscore their "commitment to change business as usual in Washington." As of January 6th, 2009, the committee had raised over $27 million and at least 378 gave the maximum $50,000. Although the committee is not accepting donations from PACs (political action committees), federally registered lobbyists, or corporations, they are accepting donations from individuals with active lobbying interest such as Google and Microsoft executives such as Eric Schmidt and Steve Ballmer.

People, who complain about the cost in a Monarchy, never take into consideration that the Monarchy of the United Kingdom had one coronation in 56 years, while the USA have their inauguration every four years. Multiply this year's cost by 14 and you see how much cheaper the Monarchy effectively is.


racketmensch said...

First, thank you for dropping off the list of Monarchy links on my blog. As I said there, I'm quite unfamiliar with European history in general and Monarchy in particular, and I'm groping towards an understanding of how the American republican experiment has gone so wrong in such a relatively short time. It almost seems that the more I discover, the greater my ignorance appears. Most of what's on the net is really kind of a celebration of lost worlds, but I think I am gaining an understanding of the philosophical and historical background that until recently I've only seen as an abstract curiosity, never aware of what might have been lost in gaining independence, or indeed that anything had been lost.

Second, I'd like to say that our Inauguration ceremonies are a transparently empty attempt to lend some dignity to the elevation of a generally ordinary but unusually ambitious scoundrel to an office that was originally intended to be the servant of the people, whereby he swears on the Bible to uphold the Constitution, and then proceeds to ignore both for 4-8 years. I hope Obama will prove to be an exception, but I am not hopeful, if you know what I mean. The expense is the least of it.

Lastly, I'd like to thank you for your efforts to preserve for your Countrymen, what we have discarded, and warn your republican brothers that being a subject is almost surely better than being a "citizen" of a decadent and cynical democracy. Millions of dead French and Russians might agree that there's a baby in the bathwater.

Nuno Castelo-Branco said...

Not speaking about Portugal's case. The presidente cost it's around up to 17 muillion Euros/year, not including his salary and the fees of the other ex 3 presidents. We know that the spanish king has a budget 30% lower and we can not even compare the international status os mr. Cavaco Silva and king Juan Carlos. And what about all that industry who depends of the monarchy? And the taxes collected by the governments for the selling of this products?
By the way, would you buy an tea china service with the coat of arms of the french republica? :) Non, merci...

Julian said...

The difference is, the President, unlike the Monarch, is democratically elected...

radical royalist said...

Julian, that he grabbed his office after a 1 billion US $ electoral campaign seems to excuse everything, doesn't it?