The promise of the populist president

From this extremely astute essay by Isaac Reed:

A widespread ideational feature of monarchical societies (variably realized) is the investment of the common people in a king or queen as their protector against the predations of the aristocracy. The peasant, immediately subject to his lord, reaches to the monarch—the ultimate location of the sacred, the place where the body politic meets the body natural—as a shield against the unfairness and violence of the world, and in particular as a shield against the exploitation of the poor by the rich. In modernity, one may hazard, it is society itself, and its complex institutional environment, that embodies this promise of protection. This was articulated and felt, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, through belief in the nation in a way that is not obviously available today for those who seek an institutionally well-developed version of an open and fair society.

However, we should be clear that the crisis is not only the crisis of “the nation,” but also—and perhaps more urgently—the crisis of all of the institutional developments that replaced the image of the king as the defender of the weak against the strong, and, in their very development, made social life not only about the strong and the weak, but also about justice as fairness, and equality as the precondition for the pursuit of distinction.