The chair of the New Zealand Republican Movement, Lewis Holden, discusses the thinking of "real monarchists" and their motives.
Benjamin Jones recently railed against the "real monarchists". According to Benjamin they're the true believers who are:
"...people who oppose a republic, not because of any perceived faults, but because they actually approve of the monarchic system."
IN MY EXPERIENCE, the vast majority of supporters of the monarchy aren't "real monarchists", they support the monarchy for what they see as practical reasons. They're happy to listen to reason and sometimes come on your side, especially as their fears and assumptions (things like Commonwealth membership, model of a republic or who might be head of state) are discussed and corrected.
The real monarchists – those who run the monarchist leagues of the Commonwealth – know that such discussion are the biggest threat to the monarchy. Preventing any debate is their current modus operandi in Australia and New Zealand. That's why real monarchists in New Zealand vehemently opposed Head of State Referenda Bill with a hyperbolic campaign – disingenuously claiming they're interested in saving the taxpayer money, while at the same time they appear to not be able to read budgetary documents plainly showing the Governor-General of New Zealand is more expensive than foreign (head of state) equivalents – or make up ridiculous arguments to justify spending $200,000 of taxpayer's money for a young royal to cut a ribbon. And where they do engage in debate, they offer contradictory and inconsistent arguments, which is explained by Craig Young as being nothing more than "lazy, populist anti-intellectualism".
But there will come a time when the real monarchists have to engage, and it will be more of the same. Aside from trying to divide and rule supporters of a republic, their other strategy is to attack democracy, politicians, the 'political elite' and the political process (aka the 'system') to show that these things are against the interests of the 'little people' and that the monarchy is in their interests, keeps politicians in check and 'holds back' the political class. Of course the real monarchists know that none of this is true and indeed most of them are a part of the political class and understand the value the disguise the monarchy brings them.
A comment at The Monarchist on a post titled 'The don't of the elephant' back in February (interestingly, now deleted) disclosed the extent of this thinking. The post itself was by David Bryers, country convener of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, very much a "real monarchist". While discussing whether it's best to defend the monarchy or attack republican proposals, one commenter put forward a very telling strategy for defeating a republic:
"A safer, and more aggressive strategy would be to attack a republic as a corruptive form of government. I'll list a few possible arguments:"
What follows is an all too common set of arguments, which appear to be common fodder amongst real monarchists.
"A republic demands competition for all political offices by those who desire power, while those who do not desire power never run. Would you rather someone who desired power, or one who doesn't? You'll never get one of the latter as president in a republic (the counter argument is very weak; some monarchs are power hungry but that doesn't change the fact that all politicians, no matter how pure their intent, are power hungry)."
A nice sound-bite, for sure. But what if you've got a position, as proposed very often, that is powerless, why would the power-hungry go for it? And why would the electorate vote for someone obviously power-hungry for a role that has limited constitutional power? Overseas precedents give us some answers, of course, and they make this sound-bite easy to refute.
The problem for real monarchists is that they've already answered these questions. In 1999, they complained that the likely candidates for the role of head of state would be boring, uninspiring people who were elected for proclaiming their neutrality and couldn't compare to the Queen. Fundamentally this argument, once again, says that the electorate is stupid and democracy is a bad thing.
"In democracy, there is competition; one winner, and many losers. How are those who supported the losers (upwards of 40% of the electorate) supposed to be represented by the winner? Thus the idea of a "unifying republic" is a contradiction and an oxymoron."
This argument is a reflection of the oft-repeated claim that the Queen unites all of us, even republicans. Of course this is nonsense. It's the 'divisiveness' of elections that are the issue. Once again it has to be asked why monarchists take issues with electoral processes and voters - it's clear once again that this argument is distinguished by an unhealthy dose of anti-democratic sentiment.
"In a system such as ours, Crown and Parliament have established a constitutional balance. In a republic, this balance is upset, and a president (especially an elected one) would seek to enforce the mandate they believe (however rightly) to be theirs."
As above, this is a nice sound-bite, but not one borne out by reality. The "balance" between Crown and Parliament is a fallacy: the Crown grants parliament everything it asks for, and only rarely tells the head of government (the Prime Minister) to cease and desist. Just take interventions by the monarch in the Commonwealth: they're non-existent.
The Crown is the ultimate guarantor of the Australian [or New Zealand or Canadian] Constitution. You violate that and you get dismissed. This makes it the ultimate check against Parliamentary tyranny. A president may actively support Parliamentary tyranny, or may be unable to oppose it due to constitutional hamstringing (remember the dismissal clause in 1999?).
Yes, we all remember that utterly stupid piece of spin - the argument that the Prime Minister could (and would) dismiss the President with no notice, as if that's not the case under the status quo with the Governor-General. One of the reasons why Gough Whitlam was sacked in 1975 was he reminded the Governor-General he could have him sacked, just by sending a letter to Buckingham Palace. I say stupid, but it was effective, at least in the minds of real monarchists.
Now, it's difficult to respond to the above spin, as every republican, of course, believes in checks and balances against the power of parliament. The real monarchists don't really believe we're so naive to think that a republic must remove from the head of state the ability to remove the head of government in extreme circumstances. The differences are not in the frequency that the reserve powers would be used - rather the legitimacy of their use. Part of the reason the Whitlam dismissal won't go away is the question of the legitimacy of the Governor-General's actions.
A simple question of trust - a politician, or your Queen? The Queen regularly appears on the "most trusted" lists that get put out each year (usually in the teens, IIRC). I doubt any politician gets onto them.
This is a great piece of spin, so long as the Queen is alive.
"...these arguments take the fight to the republicans and demolish their case. Muddying the waters doesn't do it; we need to comprehensively destroy the philosophical basis of republicanism in order to end the republican push, once and for all."
Credit where it's due, these arguments do present challenges to the republic case. I wouldn't have highlighted them unless I thought they're worth taking note of. However, that's not because I think they're good, well thought out arguments. It's because they reveal a lot about the thinking of the "real monarchists" and their motivations.
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