The latest story about Donald Trump–that he told aides after the 2020 campaign “I’m just not going to leave” and “How can you leave when you won an election?” – is a reminder of how incredibly polarized the country remains.
After all, the CNN excerpt from New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman’s forthcoming book reminds us that a year and half later part of the country thinks that Trump was robbed and another part views that as a pernicious lie.
Never mind that lawsuit after lawsuit, investigation after investigation, has failed to prove Trump’s stolen-election allegations, but here we are arguing in the fall of 2022 about whether the election really will be stolen in 2024 based on the fallout from 2020. And here is Joe Biden denouncing MAGA Republicans as semi-fascists and insisting that’s not political because he’s not targeting “mainstream” Republicans (even though Trump dominates the GOP).
All this made me appreciate the sense of unity that Queen Elizabeth brought to Britain – especially after anchoring live coverage of her casket’s final journey in Scotland on Sunday.
I’m not a fan of the monarchy, given its long history of dysfunctional-family scandals and the basic question of whether it’s a costly anachronism in the 21st century. But the outpouring of love and grief for the 96-year-old monarch when she died last week made clear that she reached people around the world on a deeply emotional level.
Britain’s parliamentary system is just as messy and chaotic as in most other places–Theresa May dumped for Boris Johnson dumped for Liz Truss, not to mention a struggling economy, Brexit and Covid issues, and a national identity crisis.
But for seven decades, the queen managed to float above all that, becoming a feminist icon at a time when men held all the top political jobs. She was remote enough to maintain her dignity – the most famous person about whom we knew very little – and that added to her mystique.
But for all the symbolism of the monarchy, the Queen also exercised “soft power,” especially when undertaking delicate diplomatic missions such as her visit to Ireland.
One British journalist told me during Sunday’s show that there may be some royal envy here in the States, an attraction to the fairy-tale life of queens and castles and palaces, even though the various scandals have ripped the scab off the myths.
By the way, are American cable networks going a bit overboard in covering the queen’s passing? Do we really need hours and hours of analysis of whether Harry and William, now next in line for the throne, are going to make up? How will the far less popular King Charles fare in his new role?
I think the answer is it’s gone too far – little other news can break through – but there are times when cable news executives have to give the people what they want. And if the ratings weren’t strong, you’d probably see a different decision.
When I shift my thoughts to our political paralysis, I don’t think we need some kind of monarch – that, after all, is what we rebelled against in 1776. But with Trump and Biden forces each painting the other side as a dangerous threat to democracy, I do wonder what happened to our sense of shared values.
Both sides are lying. Both sides want to destroy America. That’s why we’re bombarded with, day after day, and the social media megaphone constantly amplifies that.
No wonder there’s a yearning for the grandmotherly figure who was calm, reassuring and always there.