When Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated, he sought to dismantle the evolving Federalist tradition of pomp and circumstance. In a ceremonial sense, royalism seemed to have been restored, or so it appeared to him. As this blogger put it, “Dressed in simple attire, Jefferson walked over to the Capitol with a phalanx of riflemen, friends, and fellow citizens from his home state of Virginia.”
In these last days of the American Empire, such austere republicanism would be considered impossibly quaint. Having long ago morphed into Jefferson’s worst nightmare, the closer we get to the end, the more glamorous our inaugurals become. The poorer we are, the more millions we’ll throw at a ceremony that is really the crowning of a monarch — and not just any old king, but an emperor bestriding the globe.
Appearances must be kept up. Like a bankrupt living on a palatial estate — one step away from foreclosure — we bask in imperial splendor even as the repo man comes knocking at the door.
At a time such as ours, the spectacle of jeweled and gowned courtiers feasting on inaugural canaps is beyond tacky. The Bourbons partied, too, right up to the eve of the French Revolution. Amid all the sounding of trumpets and the hailing of the chief, however, there is something hollow about all this unseemly extravagance.
The Obama cult has imbued our new president with superhuman powers: they expect and enjoy the spectacle. Yet the relentless lionizing of this messianic figure is ironic, because here is an American chief executive who will doubtless become aware of his own limitations rather quickly. America is a bankrupt empire engaged in two overseas wars, with troops on every continent and bases ringing the globe. It’s unsustainable, and our ruling elites know it.
Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.