The Royalist Party of America (yes, there is one) is on to something.
They want the United States of America to rejoin the Commonwealth and recognize Queen Elizabeth as Head of State. Something like Canada. Canada is a democracy but its Head of State is not elected. The Queen is a unifying figure above politics.
But that’s not what they are on to.
If you look at their Face Book page, you will see that they are worried about the state of this republic. They point out that, historically, republics do not last very long. Eventually, republics become terribly divided between two factions. Using an analogy with marriage, eventually the two sides exhibit “irreconcilable differences” and divorce is inevitable. When that happens, democracy is in danger and dictatorship looms.
Witness Rome 2,000 years ago; more recently, the Weimar Republic in the 1920’s. Or any African republic in the last 50 years.
(For clarity, it should be pointed out that, outside of the United States, a republic is simply a country with a president rather than a king.)
The United States is very divided between what you might call the traditionalists and those who wish to take the country on a different, more secular, path. In other words, Republicans and Democrats.
But it’s not just America.
Ukraine is a republic that seems on the verge of civil war. Again, there are two factions.
Roughly half the country wants to strengthen ties with Russia, the country that ruled them for two centuries. The Russians, led by Vladimir Putin, are certainly in favor of this, willing to spend billions propping up the Ukrainian economy. There’s a sentimental attachment with Ukraine, as Russia owes its origins to the Kievan Rus who embraced Christianity in the latter years of the tenth century.
But the people in the western half of the country want links with the European Union, which has done so much to develop other former communist countries and to strengthen their democratic institutions. Russian democracy is an oxymoron.
The latter have been demonstrating for over two months now. The pro-Russian police force has been too heavy handed, killing some protesters, Russian style.
In a sense, this is part of the ongoing historical struggle between Germany and Russia.
The two countries have fought over Ukraine a number of times in the last hundred years, notably in both world wars. This time, they are not using tanks or planes. The battle this time is economic. The EU is the world’s biggest trading bloc and can offer Ukraine a great deal. It’s also a champion of human rights and basic freedoms, which new members are required to embrace. This is in stark contrast to Russia’s shortcomings in these areas.
It’s going to be interesting to see the outcome of this struggle.
France is another republic in danger of falling apart, rather like the new president’s marriage (or, rather, non-marriage as the couple never actually tied the knot).
News sources have revealed that France is the latest subject of concern for the British and German leaders, who are concerned the Fifth Republic may collapse. As this is the “fifth” Republic, it should be remembered that the country has tried a number of different constitutions since the overthrow of the ancien regime in 1789. Not only have they tried five republics, there were brief periods of monarchy, dictatorship and foreign control in between. France has, arguably, been the most unstable country in western Europe during the last two centuries.
President Hollande is not helping, with economic policies that are only making austerity worse. A 75% tax on the wealthy is only going to drive money away (easy when France shares the euro with all its neighbors!). Other socialist measures will also make things worse but Hollande is a socialist and has to answer to pressure from his support base, so change is not likely. Without change, collapse is increasingly likely. Germany may have bailed out Greece and other smaller members of the eurozone, but cannot bail out France, the fifth biggest economy in the world.
And, if France falls, chaos in Africa will only increase.
Last year, M. Hollande, to his credit, sent French troops into two African republics, both violently divided between Muslims and Christians. The two nations, Mali and Central African Republic, are both former French colonies. While things have stabilized for now, a French withdrawal could easily lead to fighting flaring up again. Terrible acts of depravity have taken place, including cannibalism. France’s colonial role was often described as a “mission to civilize” – hopefully they can restore a veneer of civilization to these two nations whose people have suffered so much.
Sadly, France’s military missions cost money, which only exacerbates the problems at home. Reuters reported today that Germany wants to help support France’s military missions in Africa. In contrast to the 1920’s, Germany today seems a model republic – the two main parties of left and right are cooperating and have formed a coalition government. It’s hard to imagine such a development in the United States.
Back to the new Royalist Party of America. Their Face Book page quotes from “Democracy Watch,” an international organization that monitors developments around the world. A recent report showed that the seven most democratic countries in the world are all constitutional monarchies, including Canada, Australia, and Norway.
The Economist magazine has long described the US as a “corporate democracy,” with a government that is unduly influenced by corporations and where the people have little or no say. It hasn’t always been that way but it has become so.
That’s certainly something to think about.
But lest those in the constitutional monarchies get too smug, it is clear that they also have their divisions. And, if the American republic falls, it’s unlikely they would survive!