To be frank I care little about the release from prison of the convicted Lockerbie bomber sent home from Scotland to Libya to die of pancreatic cancer. But an article concerning it, in the British newspaper, The Telegraph, caught my attention because it crisply expresses a more fundamental concern that, as an old person, (75) I have been noticing more and more often here in the United States.
Janet Daley, in writing of the different ways in which Gordon Brown, the Labor Prime Minister of Britain and David Cameron, the Tory, Shadow Prime Minister, have spoken of the release of this prisoner, has clearly encapsulated a new sort of political relationship between heads of government and the populace who vote them in or out of office. (It is also worth noting that the British seem to have a command of the English language that American journalism can only aspire to.)
She says that Brown "has been hit hard while Mr. Cameron has benefited." And she goes on to explain that the non-obvious reason for that is that Cameron seemed more genuine when speaking of it than Brown:
There is now an accepted (if largely unconscious) compact between political leaders and the electorate: to refuse to speak to the people, to fail to give them the common courtesy of an explanation, an opinion, an expression of feeling, anything at all to indicate what you really think about a matter of national concern, is no longer acceptable. For this is the truth about modern politics: it is seen (constitutional purists will disapprove) as a relationship between the people and their leaders of an almost domestic kind.
There is a strong ring of truth to this notion, and it is I think more noticeable here in the United States than it is in Britain: we (the people) lately seem to wish for a relationship with our heads-of-state that resembles that which the British have traditionally reserved for their Royalty. This would certainly surprise the founders of our country.
If a hurricane occurs we want our President to personally console us as well as to take charge of handling the disaster. The governor of the state in which the disaster occurred, and in whom responsibility is constitutionally vested, is sidelined, excused or, at the very most, seen as an assistant to the Royal Manager.
When a recession occurs, it seems to belong to the President, and the Secretary of the Treasury plays the bit part of assistant to the Royal Manager who takes as his role that of the confidence builder who bucks us up, and encourages us to see the crisis through without being discouraged.
One day I noticed these several articles concerning President Barak Obama in RealClearPolitics; they illustrate this tendency: Is He Weak, Obama Saved the Economy, The President Seems Lost.
We seem to have deified our presidency in some needful way. We have become a nation for whom feelings have become paramount, a people who require a National
Shrink as much or even more than an Executive. Individual rectitude and assignment of responsibility among States and other formerly primary elements of government seems to have melted away.
Be careful what you wish for…