The institution of monarchy as a way of running a nation is still deeply ingrained in our cultural DNA. I’m not particularly shocked at our media frenzy over the royal wedding just consummated in London. I am, rather, getting a bit smug at this confirmation of what I already knew.
A sharp division based on heredity between a ruling class led by a king, and other mortals, was the default way of organizing most of the world’s more successful societies for several millenia. We broke the mold in the USA by establishing a new and more egalitarian kind of government, but that was less than a quarter of a millenium ago. You cannot wish away cultural values and attitudes that have been evolving since the time Egyptian monarchs first started building pyramids just by writing a new constitution. What you can do, and we did, is adopt a new system and then make it work. This, I submit, is the true justification for our sense of American exceptionalism. (See my essay, “The Second American Revolution“.)
That’s the real success story, making the new system work despite the fact that in many ways it still runs counter to deeply ingrained popular instincts. That our instinctive love for monarchy persists is revealed not only by our adoring attention to the ceremony in London but in many other ways. I could comment here on the very large number of quite ordinary Americans who voted for Republicans in the last congressional election, thus greatly enhancing the possibility that we too would turn our society back into one where the very wealthy few dominate a nation of helots. But that might get the discussion onto an even more controversial track. Suffice it for present purposes to say bravo! to the Brits, and congratulations. You have defanged your monarchy while retaining enough of its symbolism to provide periodic ritual occasions for public venting of nostalgia for the bad old days. Rather the way we have done with pro football, providing a harmless way of venting our still very strong instinct to make war.