In an online discussion of the upcoming elections in the US my friend Ryan Burke, currently serving in the US military, mentioned that he does not vote while on active duty. When asked whether not voting while on active duty is “a thing”, he gave the following answer (quoted with permission):
It’s not an actual rule, but it’s not uncommon. It’s out of concern involvement in presidential politics could interfere with objectivity. Patton put it something like “if I vote for the loser, I voted against my Commander in Chief. If I vote for the winner, I’ve been bought.” Marshall wouldn’t even let FDR call him by his first name, lest he get too chummy and feel constrained from offering criticism of his proposals.
Now, Ryan and I have been arguing about political philosophy for years. As classmates at Thomas Aquinas College we carried on a monarchy vs democracy debate in the student magazine Demiurgus. So I couldn’t resist the obvious response:
That is beautiful. What you said about not voting… But it should be universalized: no-one should vote. We should have an hereditary monarchy.
The head of state should someone to whom everyone can look as the personification and guarantee of the unity of the nation, and as I have argued before,
this function… is fulfilled much better if [the head of state] is the descendent of the kings for whom my ancestors shed their blood, than if he’s just some bloke elected by a party to which I don’t even belong.
Today is the Nationalfeiertag in Austria, so we sang the current national anthem, and I was struck by the verse Hast seit frühen Ahnentagen / Hoher Sendung Last getragen (“Since the early days of the ancestors thou hast borne the burden of a high mission”). If only we had a ruler who’s family history were the embodiment of that statement.