TODAY IS Ronald Reagan's 74th birthday What can we give him? What does he want? What does he need? Of course. Ronald is a simple soul, sure to be satisfied with the buckets of jelly beans he will receive today, but what he really needs is a crown.
Yes, we should crown Ronald Reagan king. It is rather late to make America a monarchy true, but this coronation will simply recognize a falt accompli: Ronald Reagan has become our royal pet. What a magnificent image he projects! Thousand, perhaps millions revere him. Even his enemies call him the Great Communicator. As long as he is fed fine speeches by the tele-prompter and--with the right lights--looks bracingly American, no one cares if he rides horses when he should be working, or is fed lines by Nancy at press conferences. In all honesty, he would be a great ruler if he were not running the government--something which is even now in question. Were he king, we would sleep soundly as professional ministers handled the challenge of American government.
His enemies also call him the Teflon President; no spills or grime can stain his radiant image. This is a useful quality. Although as king he would enjoy many quaint and archaic privileges, he would also shoulder enormous responsibilities; he would symbolize the nation. At home and abroad, disgruntled people would grumble not against America but against "King Ronald," or, rather.
Rex." All the troubles of America would be blamed on him, pinned to his purple cloak. But there they would disappear in the glare of the royal, Reagan glow. A Teflon King makes a great scapegoat.
Besides, is there anything duller than democracy? Where is the pageantry, the fanfare, the inspiring queen, the court intrigue? We have made a cult of monotony, a national religion of similitude: same duties, same opportunities, same rights, same made from. TV ideas. Picture a coronation procession on Pennsylvania Ave., a blast of trumpets for the king, hautboys off-stage, Reagan Rex on a fine Arab charger with Queen Nancy by his side, and the classical monuments of Washington D.C. providing the perfect setting for majesty. All the royalty of Europe would be there, having loaned their jewelry to the tenderfoot from the New World. And think, we could reverse Britain's economic depression by renting all the Crown Jewels at once. No more navy-blue suits in the White House: strictly doublet and hose and beware the jester. Maybe Eddie Murphy could play that part.
We are in danger of becoming a drab, average. B-nation. Universal suffrage is a clever idea, but it protects, us not only from the few fools who choose the worst candidates but also from the wise who choose the best. The result, quite predictably, is consistent mediocrity in office. Ronald Reagan's own election is the most eloquent argument for abandoning democracy.
PERHAPS. ON A small Pacific island or in the youthful America of Frank Capra's movies, democracy is a viable option. There popular vote could quickly solve any conflict over statehood, fishing rights, or coconut claims. But today's burgeoning bureaucracy hides the reins of power from the people beneath greasy, matted layers of agencies, offices, and aides; everyone is involved but no one knows what they are doing. Like crowds of cooks busy with broth, democracy will surely contaminate the soup of state.
The mood of the nation, too, is distinctly undemocratic. A successful democracy must trust the common man. But do we trust ourselves? Of course not. The questioning of the 1960s have left America with a highly critical self-perception. I'm not OK; neither are you.
But wait. Have we not lost the knack of royalty? Does it not take years of grooming--a grooming America does not provide--to form a king, to develop the royal flair? True, but all the more reason to take advantage of President Reagan's acting experience. Admittedly, in the past, we have not manufactured royalty, but we have not manufactured illusion. Now, Hollywood can make its first contribution to American culture. A movie star is just the man to be America's first king.
No president in recent years could possibly have been king. John F. Kennedy might have made a decent prince, but Jimmy Carter on his peanut farm? Richard Nixon whining about Checkers on national TV? Gerald Ford? Imagine how foolish they would look with ermine robes, crowns, and sceptres--not to mention the difficulties which mounting a throne might present poor King Gerald. No, they could not be kings. But in Ronald Reagan we have a rare, historic opportunity. As they say in the movies, it may be crazy, but just might work.
Happy Birthday, Gipper!