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President or prince?
Written by Kevin Pringle, partner
7 November 2020
This week, our eyes were fixed firmly westwards in seeking inspiration for the theme of Read on the Street. Most of the pieces are about different aspects of the United States – the election, history, foreign policy, etc.
Watching the drama of the results coming in – or, to be more exact, the drama of the projections and commentary – I was reminded of a short story by John Buchan about how the US could have avoided presidential elections altogether.
In 1908, Buchan wrote The Company of the Marjolaine. It’s about a group of senior American politicians at the start of the country’s independence, who eventually track an elderly Bonnie Prince Charlie down to an inn in Italy. Their outlandish mission is to ask him to take the throne of the new nation. As the leader of the delegation says: “What more potent appeal to American pride than to say, ‘We have got rid of King George; we choose of our own free will the older line and King Charles’?”
Unfortunately, when they finally get an audience with the prince, he is lying in a stupor: “On the floor was a broken glass, wet stains still lay on the boards, and the place reeked of spirits.” They close the door very gently and return to America and a republic.
And rightly so. Whatever the excesses of a president, unlike a prince they can be removed from position. This election has severely tested America and democracy – but not, I think, to destruction.
1. An American election spurs British reflection
While the pandemic had affected our everyday lives, many feel that it has also our disrupted our ‘inner’ lives and mental wellbeing. There has been talk of lockdown ‘brain fog’ when we are awake, as well as reports of more frequent, vivid, and bizarre dreams when we are asleep. By forging a link between our waking and dream lives, this article aims to explain why.
Read in: The Conversation
2. Imagine a world without the USA
It is difficult, perhaps even downright impossible, to imagine a world without the United States of America. And yet, this article traces the origins of our modern world to the Mississippi Bubble saga and John Law — a Scottish economist credited for the adoption of paper money — to set out a compelling tale.
Read in: Unherd
3. A shifting Middle East and North Africa
If Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president on 20 January, it will have implications for countries around the world. In this piece, a series of experts consider how US policy towards the Middle East and North Africa may shift.
Read in: European Council on Foreign Nations
4. A picture is worth a thousand words
From a Bomba dance performance outside a polling station in Alafaya, Florida, all the way to an “I Am Change March to the Polls” group prayer in Graham, North Carolina, these photos capture the final days of the election.
Read in: National Geographic
5. Peer pressure
A new phenomenon was at large this election season, led by an organisation called Vote Tripling. People stand outside polling places and ask voters to call or text three friends or family members to urge them to vote. This bite size canvassing has the potential to have a huge impact: your power to persuade loved ones will far exceed that of any political campaign.
Read in: The New Yorker
And finally… The Prime Ministers
Returning to this side of the Atlantic, the events of the past week have shown how the phrase or deed of a moment can make, or break, the place of leaders in history. For the long view, then, I recommend this new podcast by LBC radio host Iain Dale, who interviews an expert on each of Britain’s prime ministers.
Listen on: Apple Podcasts