Politics Society

FT: How the US left the UK behind on aristocrats in power

Interesting commentary on FT.com about America’s aristocracy problem here Some highlights:


We think of America as having distinct mores from Britain — but there are traditions she retains, even after Britain has let go of them. Hunting with dogs was outlawed in Britain more than a decade ago. But on winter mornings in Maryland and Virginia foxhounds streak across the fields, pursued by riders who rally to the horn. The American aristocracy are clannish and bullish. They have to be. They are an aristocracy in a meritocracy — which is brazen by definition, and has been ever since Jefferson endeavoured to end slavery while retaining hundreds of slaves.

The American aristocracy gives a substantial damn about what people think. Unlike the British noblesse, their entrée comes from popularity and populism, not peerage. From politics to culture to business, the modern American aristocracy need the American people to choose them in the voting booth, worship them on social media and buy such unaristocratic commodities as fast food and gasoline. “An aristocracy in a republic,” said Nancy Mitford, “is like a chicken whose head has been cut off: it may run about in a lively way, but in fact it is dead.” America’s headless chickens have come home to roost. They rule the roost. Americans thought they got rid of family governance when they sent the monarchy packing. But, instead of the Firm, they now have the Apprentice. The Court of Trump reigns ascendant in politics, popular culture and business. Their aristocratic ambition is a three-headed Cerberus, simultaneously amassing intergenerational wealth, ruling the country and dominating our screens.

No contemporary British political family holds a spatula to the roaring grill on which the American aristocracy rotate their relatives like hot dogs. The Bushes alone are a meat feast: five generations, two presidents, two governors, one senator and a state supreme court justice. In a bid to recapture the castle, the House of Clinton has been waging the Wars of the Rose Garden since Bill left office in 2001. Imagine the equivalent scenario in Britain. Donald Trump defeating Hillary Clinton at the recent general election would be like Alan Sugar — who stars in the same role as Trump on the UK Apprentice — winning against John Major’s wife, Norma. Imagine one of Margaret Thatcher’s twins being elected to lead the country, as George Bush was, eight years after his father left office. Imagine Cherie Blair.


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