Speaking from their new home in California, the two take it in turns to perform a static script. “Every four years we are told the same thing”, says the Duchess, earnestly. “That this is the most important election of our lifetime. But this one is.” Her husband, as we have come to expect, says much the same thing, in much the same manner. “As we approach this November, it’s vital that we reject hate-speech, misinformation and online negativity.”
The video is widely understood to be a thinly veiled campaign against President Trump and, by proxy, an endorsement of Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden. Before Meghan was royal (and before she wasn’t again) Meghan Markle, as she was in 2017, was interviewed on The Nightly Show. “Of course Trump is divisive”, she told host Larry Wilmore, before labelling the President “misogynistic” in the same breath.
A presidential election in the United States may be looked upon as a time of national crisis. – Alexis de Tocqueville
Trump has also reacted in the manner that we have come to expect. Never one to shy away from impulsive comment, he has spoken out in response to the Time 100 video. “I’m not a fan of hers [the Duchess of Sussex]” he said at a press conference yesterday evening. “I wish a lot of luck to Harry. ‘Cause he’s gonna need it.”
The video comes with a courtesy reminder that life, Prince Harry feels, has been unfair to him: “this election, I’m not going to be able to vote in the US. But many of you may not know that I haven’t been able to vote in the UK my entire life”. Buckingham Palace has responded: “The Duke [of Sussex] is not a working member of the Royal Family and any comments he makes are made in a personal capacity”.
Meghan and Harry are not the only well-known faces to have spoken out about the importance of voting and registering to vote, in advance of 3rd November. Last month, former First Lady Michelle Obama issued an 18-minute video in which she urged Americans to “vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris like our lives depend on it”. “We have got to grab our comfortable shoes, put on our masks, pack a brown-bag dinner, and maybe breakfast too, because we’ve got to be willing to stand in line all night if we have to”, she added. Actor Tom Hanks, fast becoming the poster boy for absolutely everything, has also pleaded with the public to vote via video message: “when we vote, we prove we are a democracy … we determine who leads us, and how they lead us”.
The message is clear. And the Duchess of Sussex is right – every time an election rolls around, both in the US and the UK, its importance is emphasised throughout the campaign and we are told that this election is the most significant one of our lifetimes. However, we could do without Meghan’s patronising approach which is not so much inspiring, but insipid: “your voice is a reminder that you matter. ‘Cause you do. And you deserve to be heard”.
Your voice is a reminder that you matter. ‘Cause you do. And you deserve to be heard. – Meghan, Duchess of Sussex
But beneath the gloss and the glamour and the two-man mission to put the world to rights – whatever “right” may be for the Sussexes – it’s likely a combination of the buzzwords we’ve heard them parroting over recent years: “compassion”, “positivity”, “equality” (all of which have merit), with the “tools” that push through “glass ceilings” and “inspire”; it’s here that they have a point. One sentence in amongst the schmaltz delivered by the Duchess is “When we vote, our values are put into action and our voices are heard”.
Meghan is correct – it is important to vote and every vote counts. In 1840, French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville noted in his extensive examination of the political system in the USA, Democracy in America, that “a presidential election in the United States may be looked upon as a time of national crisis”. Sound familiar?
“As the election draws near, intrigues intensify, and agitation increases and spreads”, wrote Tocqueville. “The citizens divide into several camps, each behind its candidate. A fever grips the entire nation. The election becomes the daily grist of the public papers, the subject of private conversations, the aim of all activity, the object of all thought, the sole interest of the moment”.
In amongst all the chaos, in this “feverish state”, there is at least comfort in the knowledge that our attitude to elections has hardly altered in the last two centuries. It is only a shame that today, the spokesperson for our times is a celebrity princess and not a Christian thinker of great mind.
Constance Watson is assistant editor of the Catholic Herald. She also contributes to the Literary Review, The Oldie, The Telegraph, Standpoint, The Spectator and others.
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