The plot hatched in Connecticut to dethrone Donald Trump
- Credit: AFP via Getty Images
Amid the impeachment drama, BONNIE GREER discusses another threat the to Trump presidency.
The fact that the late, great Katharine Hepburn was born in Connecticut would have come as a surprise to no one in America. She was descended, after all, from a Mayflower Pilgrim.
Connecticut is perceived as one of the more regal states, although it has its poverty and homelessness like any other.
But the Connecticut most Americans know about is Fairfield County in the southwestern corner of the state, close to New York City. It is known as the 'Gold Coast'. The Stepford Wives is set there and that is Connecticut, to many, in a nutshell.
Hepburn - from Hartford County - was considered so Connecticut back in the 1930s, that she was labelled too upper class for the working class folks who bought movie tickets. A survey of exhibitors called her "box office poison".
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So she bought out her contract and attached herself to a play that she helped bring to the screen, a play that sent her class up, and Connecticut, too.
Although set in Philadelphia, it is really about New England posh, New England aristocracy. It is called The Philadelphia Story and after that, this great star never looked back.
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Americans may adore The Crown, the Netflix series chronicling the Windsors, but they like neither aristocrats nor kings in real life. Which is probably why George W. Bush played up his Texan upbringing. Because Dubya is as American posh as it gets.
The Mayflower, the ship that set sail from Plymouth bound for America and religious freedom, contained around 65 passengers. Known to Americans as the 'pilgrims', these people are part of the foundation story of America. On board that ship, the males signed what is known as the Mayflower Compact. While stating that they submitted themselves to the king, this was clearly a document about self-governance. Anti-kingness.
So anyone descended from those who were on that boat, which arrived in what became the US in November 1620, and who also signed the Compact on board, are pretty much the US equivalent of the present Earl Marshal: Edward Fitzalan-Howard, the 18th Duke of Norfolk. He holds the highest hereditary position after the royal family and greets the Queen at the state opening of parliament.
Let me state again: Mayflower descendants are America's aristocrats.
Faux 'good ole boy' George W. Bush has not one Mayflower ancestor, but two: One on his mother's side and one on his father's.
Bush money is old and Bush roots are deep. It would have been the political equivalent of box office poison if any of that had been foregrounded in his presidential campaign or his presidency.
Any emphasis on aristocratic roots, any attempt at kingship, is a big no-no in the USA.
Which is why Richard Blumenthal, Democratic Party senator from Connecticut, is suing Donald Trump. And why his lawsuit, after Trump is impeached and must head for the senate for trial, may get the 45th president in even deeper trouble.
Blumenthal is suing Trump under Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the US constitution, known as the emoluments clause. It is also called the Title of Nobility clause.
It prohibits the granting of titles of nobility and also restricts members of the government from receiving gifts from foreign states without the consent of congress.
The framers of the constitution had a two-fold intent: To prevent nobility ever taking hold in the US, and to protect the republic from foreign influence.
Alexander Hamilton, one of the framers, stated that: "One of the weak sides of republics, among their numerous advantages, is that they afford too easy an inlet to foreign corruption."
Hold that thought and flash forward to real estate mogul and president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.
In Blumenthal v Trump - one of many, many lawsuits pending against the president - the plaintiffs allege that he has violated the emoluments clause. Which, by the way, is an impeachable offence.
The suit accuses Trump of profiting from his office through his luxury Washington hotel. It is just a few streets from the White House and is an iconic structure formerly known as the Old Post Office. Now known as Trump International Hotel Washington, the marketing says it is "Luxury Reimagined. History Reawakened". It also happens to get business from foreign governments and their representatives, and is housed in a building that Trump's company leases from the US government.
The lawsuit filed by Blumenthal - and about 200 other Democratic lawmakers - argues that this means Trump is illegally profiting through his hotel. It makes the case that on this and related issues, congress must approve, or withhold, consent before the president accepts payments or benefits from foreign governments.
The president's defence is that he cannot be sued while in office. In other words, his office puts him above the law. Sort of like a monarch.
The initial case was filed in 2017. A federal judge ruled that the suit could go forward. That it was constitutional.
But a three-judge panel, all nominated by Republican presidents, threw the ruling out. They ruled that the suit lacked standing to pursue a claim against a sitting president. A motion from Trump to dismiss was denied in July. A higher judge stayed the case, pending an oral appeal, which will be held in December.
One of the first issues that the newly-created United States senate dealt with was the title of the president. Most senators wanted nothing to do with anything that resembled a monarch. Vice president John Adams wanted 'His highness, the president of the United States, and protector of their liberties'. Others wanted 'His elective majesty'. But James Madison, of the lower house, called Congress, and who later himself became president, would have none of it. He said that 'Mr President' would do just fine.
The ancestors of George W. Bush, Katharine Hepburn, Clint Eastwood, Marilyn Monroe, Alec Baldwin, Richard Gere and a host of other Americans did not brave that rough Atlantic crossing in the 17th century to wind up with a home-grown king.
This is what Richard Blumenthal, graduate of Connecticut's Yale Law School, is fighting to prevent. This is what the present impeachment inquiry is all about: To show the American people and the world that no matter how it looks, no matter how things go, the US is still government of the people by the people.
The irony is that the 45th president is descended from a man who wanted to escape imperial Germany to make his fortune in a land where there was no king. No monarch.
By the end of the year, at the same time arguments are being heard about his alleged violation of the emoluments clause, Trump will know the verdict on the matter of impeachment rendered by, we the people, as assembled on Capitol Hill, Washington D.C.
When Benjamin Franklin was asked whether the new United States was a monarchy or a Republic, Franklin replied: "A republic. If you can keep it."
Posh Connecticut will help to keep it.
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