A while back, Zoe was going over some terms with me. A mayor is in charge of a town, a governor is in charge of a state, etc.
“So it’s mayor, then governor, then president, then king or queen?” she said.
“Well, no,” I said. “King or queen and president are equivalent. They’re both in charge of a country.” We discussed monarchy vs democracy for a bit. Then I added, “Actually, a lot of countries with kings or queens also have democratic leaders. Like England has a queen, but it also has a Prime Minister.” (For purposes of a discussion with a seven-year-old, I didn’t bother making the distinction between England, Great Britain, the UK, etc. Sue me.)
“If they have a Prime Minister, then what do they need a queen for?”
I laughed. I said, “Many people in England wonder the same thing!”
But then I thought about it, because I like to give her more than one perspective on these things, so I said, “Many people feel they should not bother having a royal family any more. But some people really like it. And I guess they do two different things. Like, the Prime Minister, he (this convo was pre-Brexit) represents England when they’re talking to other countries, and he guides the laws that get made, and stuff like that. But the queen and the royal family members – like Prince William and Princess Kate – they do things that are more symbolic. Host national holiday stuff, go to funerals and weddings of foreign leaders or other important people. Their babies’ pictures are in magazines. And they are sort of representatives of British identity. It’s like they’re team mascots.”
And then I started thinking, you know, that’s not such a bad idea. To separate the role of “Person who Actually Makes Decisions about How to Rule a Country” and “Country’s Mascot.” We’ve combined them into one person, the president. For the last eight years, that sort of worked out. Obama wasn’t a bad mascot, with his charisma, and his bad-ass wife and two adorable kids, and he was a pretty good Grown-Up in Charge. But the eight years before that, we elected Guy You’d Have a Beer With over two Insufferably Boring Grown-Ups. That wasn’t great. And the eight years before that, we had a guy who was good at convincing everyone he was Guy You’d Have a Beer With while being secretly a mostly pretty good Grown-Up.
And right now we’ve got a Really Very Good Grown-Up who can’t convince anyone you’d enjoy having a beer with her, vs. Mascot EXTREME (for better or worse). Imagine if we just separated the roles. Imagine if we’d let someone who’s good at being a grown-up actually make decisions, and someone who’s very good at entertaining us (or terrifying us) just keep doing that in some fashion. That wouldn’t really be terrible, would it?