Mencken Day 2022

Remember when American became a monarchy?

The abdication of Congress is certainly not as overt and abject as that of the German Reichstag or the Italian Parliamento; nevertheless, it has gone so far that the constitutional potency of the legislative arm is reduced to what the lawyers call a nuisance value. The two Houses can still make faces at Dr. Roosevelt, and when a strong body of public opinion happens to stand behind them they can even force him, in this detail or that, into a kind of accounting, but it must be manifest that if they tried to impose their will upon him in any major matter he could beat them easily. The only will left in the national government is his will. To all intents and purposes he is the state.

We have thus come to a sort of antithesis of the English system, under which Parliament is omnipotent and the King is only a falseface. It would be rather absurd to call the change revolutionary, for it has been underway for more than a hundred years. Since Jackson’s first election, in fact, Congress has always knuckled down to the President in times of national emergency. After 1863 Lincoln ruled like an oriental despot, and after 1917 Wilson set himself up, not only as Emperor, but also as Pope.

My gifts as a constructive critic are of low visibility, but the state of affairs thus confronting the country prompts me to make a simple suggestion. It is that a convention be called under Article V of the Constitution, and that it consider the desirability of making Dr. Roosevelt King in name as well as in fact. There is no constitutional impediment to such a change, and it would thus not amount to a revolution. The people of the United States are quite as free, under Article V, to establish a monarchy as they were to give the vote to women. (“Vive Le Roi! 1933)

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