Funny thing is, I mostly mean it.
The monarchy is a silly institution, no matter how hard Netflix tries to convince Americans that it serves an important social function. But if Britain is determined to invest this web of faceless personalities with quasi-spiritual meaning, surely it would be better to have a king who cares about some issues.
there is a king in charles who cares deeply about climate changeThe most important political issue of our time. Will any of his siblings talk about net-zero goals from the throne?
That argument usually makes some heads spin. Not energetic compromise, but a version of: Well, that’s fair enough.
The political reporter in me can’t help but admire King Charles III for one other reason, and that’s his sheer durability as a public figure over decades of humiliation (much of it self-absorbed) and public disdain. .
In that sense, he is a fitting emperor for our times.
We live in a golden age of male political stamina. It’s a trait the 74-year-old Charles richly embodies: not just longevity, but a kind of stubborn resilience that slowly heals political wounds and obscures personal shortcomings as time passes.
In America we are surrounded by men who defied the political actuarial tables and endured years of ridicule to claim great power at the end of their lives. Chief among them are Joe Biden and Donald Trump, two old men who have been prematurely buried too many times to take them less seriously.
He has so much company: Bernie Sanders, once a perennial candidate in Vermont and now at 81 the leader of a powerful national movement; Mitt Romney, kicked out of Massachusetts and defeated in the presidential election, entered his late 70s as the trumpeter of moral clarity on the right; Jerry Brown, the quirky “Governor Moonbeam” of the 1970s, continues to be an acclaimed politician now 85 Strong warning about US-China relations,
This brand of political tenacity is not exclusively male. Nancy Pelosi in her 80s, a dozen years after first being ousted from the speakership, enacted some of the biggest climate, technology and social-welfare legislation in modern times, cementing her status as the most productive legislative leader Sealed. in generations. But in our society, there’s no question that this kind of staying power is far more easily given to men. Rarely is a man in his 50s asked if he has passed his prime.
Patience is not a trick that anyone can pull off just by hanging on. The political landscape is littered with men who missed out decades ago and lost their chance to put a dignified end to their careers. Consider Rudy Giuliani, now fixed in memory as the shuffling front man of the Four Seasons Total Landscaping news conferences and other self-abusive stunts. The hair dye on his scorched face will continue to run in the minds of the public for generations.
It helps to carry yourself with dignity as you age.
It also helps to be very right about one or two big things – to have some pretty good ideas that validate your judgment and intelligence over time.
In Charles’ case, that consideration has been environmental sustainability. For most of its lifetime, it was regarded as a niche occupation, aging hippie stuff and public-television liberals. There has been no political gain from focusing on organic farming or the problem of plastic waste. (“I was considered rather dotty, to say the least,” Charles recalled in 2020.)
Global political consciousness has moved in their direction, with widespread recognition now that averting climate catastrophe is the only governance challenge this century.
When his mother died last fall, the question was not raised about how the UK would cope with having an amateur farmer on the throne, but rather the cause of protectionism once Charles had taken up an apparently non-political role. Who will pick up
This issue worked in a similar way for Jerry Brown. Decades later his green mindset and new-age vernacular helped make him a cartoon character for many Americans (when he Meeting with a young Prince Charles in Sacramento) Brown returned to office in 2011 as an accomplished seer.
Sanders moved from the activist periphery to the center of power with a resounding message about economic inequality. Biden sheds his image as a Sunday-show blowhard – mocked by Obama administration allies, ridiculed by Robert Gates for being wrong on every major national security issue – in grave alarm about the health of American democracy Engaged with a campaign.
Of course, some stains are more difficult to remove than others.
I was born after Charles’ marriage to Diana Spencer; I have no direct memory of his emergence as a global cultural phenomenon or his isolation or his death. He died when I was 11, but the royal family was not an important topic in my household. I was not engulfed in the feelings of indignation and betrayal shared by many American observers of the monarchy.
I’m old enough, though, to remember the years following Charles’s divorce as a heel in American discourse: the Drudge Report about the remarriage of Camilla Parker-Bowles to the headlines, foreign-sounding His passion for fuel, speculation that the succession could skip a generation and go directly to William and so on.
Charles is no longer the target of unbridled ridicule and disdain. His attendance is sought at climate conferences, his views on religion and agriculture are seen as matters of public interest. Biden’s decision not to attend the coronation was covered in Britain not as an embarrassment for a hapless new king, but (surprisingly) as an act of disrespect by an Irish-American president.
King’s later life is a bit of a reversal of that line from the Batman movies: You either die a villain or live long enough to find yourself portrayed by Dominic West as a complex character.
It has helped Charles that he is virtually immune to public opinion. He cannot be thrown out of office or censured. None of Britain’s major parties is keen to abolish or radically change the monarchy. His version of endurance is not a model most leaders can follow.
But breaking royal taboos against scandal and divorce and decades of shenanigans to become a more or less conventionally accepted monarch in the media is no small feat. To do so while earning respect for its social and environmental values is a real achievement.
Maintaining that delicate image on the throne would be a different challenge. This is a Charles equipped to match any 74-year-old alive.
Still, there is a reason why the anthem says God save the king.