This twenty-first year of the new millennium, America remains burdened by aristocracy. Not quite England’s effete policies under George III that created the American colonies Brits fled to America en masse beginning in April, 1607, but by our own political royal linage to which we nonsensically continue to pay homage by electing them to govern us.
Presidential historian Stephen Hess documents in his 2015 book, America’s Political Dynasties: From Adams to Clinton, the families that have loomed large over America’s political history. He argues that our nation was created in rebellion against nobility and inherited status. Yet from John Quincy Adams onward, dynastic families have been conspicuous in our national polity.
Essentially, Americans of both parties elect someone they like and then continue to elect their progeny when the opportunity arises.
This counters Adrian Woodridge’s new book, The Aristocracy of Talent: How Meritocracy Made the Modern World, for this is our political world where noblesse oblige seldom carries the day and politically unearned privileges extended to their children despite character or intellectual flaws.
It’s time to end our fascination with and support of America’s political aristocracy. It has largely been dislodged in Europe and it hasn’t worked so well in America although like Groundhog Day, our political legacies keep reappearing, often inopportunely from both parties.
The Kennedy Dynasty
When JFK was elected as President in 1960, he brought the Kennedy political aristocracy front and center. This included JFK’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy who during the 1933 presidential election, helped finance and support Franklin D. Roosevelt. For his efforts, Kennedy was rewarded with the chairmanship of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 1934. Shortly thereafter, he was appointed as chairman of the U.S. Maritime Commission.
In 1961, on Jack’s coattails, brother Bobby became the 64th United States Attorney General until September 1964, and then as a U.S. Senator from New York until his assassination in 1968. Brother Ted became a Massachusetts Senator in 1962 until 2009. Ted Jr. is a state senator for the 12th District of Connecticut; Joseph P. II, grandson of Bobby, served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from the 8th congressional district of Massachusetts from 1987 to 1999. Chris Kennedy, Bobby’s son is running for Governor of Illinois this fall. Jack Kennedy Schlossberg, Carolyn Kennedy Schlossberg’s son has coyly said he isn’t ruling out a political career either.
The Bush Dynasty
The Bush family is not to be outdone as American political royalty. It began nearly 60 years ago with Prescott Bush, U.S. Senator from Connecticut (1952-1963), George H. W. “read my lips, no new taxes” Bush debuted in 1966 as a U.S. Congressman from Texas, serving two terms, then as Reagan’s V.P. from 1981-1989, Director of the CIA and Ambassador to the U.N. and President from 1989-1993. Son, George W. served as the 46th governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000 and 43rd president of the United States from 2001 to 2009. Youngest brother John Ellis (Jeb) was Texas Land Commissioner and an excellent governor of Florida who challenged Donald Trump in the 2016 election and was humiliated as “Low Energy Jeb;” the Bush family uniformly dropped their support for Trump. Furthering the Bush political dynasty is George P. Bush, Jeb’s son, groomed for the political stage from a young age.
The Clinton Dynasty
President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary have had more press, both fawning and disastrous, that bears repeating summarily. Bill was an infamously successful politician, serving as the Attorney General of Arkansas (1977-1979), Arkansas governor from 1979-1992 and was elected to the U.S. Presidency from 1993-2001. Wife Hillary served as the First Lady of Arkansas from 1977-1992, First Lady of the United Stated 1993-2001, U.S Senator from New York 2001-2009 and U.S. Secretary of State 2009–2013. She came a hair’s breadth from being elected as our 45th President. Her belief that she “deserved” the presidency and her bumbling of Benghazi and less than lackluster campaign style doomed her fate, despite her dirty tricks that would make Nixon’s shenanigans look tepid. In 2010, Chelsea Clinton married investment banker Marc Mezvinsky in Rhinebeck, New York. Mack is the son of former members of Congress Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky and Edward Mezvinsky. There is no reason to believe that like her mother, Chelsea won’t one day step into the world of politics as may her two children, Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky and first son Aidan Clinton Mezvinsky. Dynasties endure.
The Romney Dynasty
The Romney family continues their political ambitions. Patriarch Gaskell Romney ran as Salt Lake City County Commissioner 1931; his son, George W. Romney, was a two-term Governor of Michigan and a presidential cabinet member; his grandson, Mitt Romney, ran poorly in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections losing to Barry Obama both times. Mitt served one term as governor of Massachusetts and currently serves as a U.S. Senator from Utah. In 2016 he bowed out of the Presidential field after referring to Trump as ‘A phony, a fraud’. His great-granddaughter Ronna Romney McDaniel is currently chair of the Republican National Committee. Four of Mitt’s five sons have expressed interest in running for political office one day. Youngest son, Craig speaks fluent Spanish and Josh, is deemed the most likely to run for political office.
The Biden Dynasty
King Biden and Dr. Jill inhabit the White House, for how much longer is problematic since everything he is touching turns to sh*%–our Southern border crisis, leaving Americans in Afghanistan during his hasty withdrawal, our anemic economy, Covid-19 and its variants along with their myriad effects on the American economy, his genuflecting to the leftist woke agenda, blaming the police for the racial violence within America’s inner cities, the rise and spread of critical race theory and wokeness throughout our government, educational institutions and even our hapless military. Biden was grooming son Beau for politics before his passing in 2016, believing his son’s political prospects were bright–“I was pretty sure Beau could run for president someday…he could win.” Hunter Biden is SOL.
America has, for the past nine months, been truckin’ down a dangerous new road, and as the Grateful Dead once sang, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” Many of our political problems rest with the concept of noblesse oblige. Politically noble ancestry constrains politicians to politically honorable behavior. But if their ancestors haven’t behaved nobly, how likely will they? Just because a politician is likable doesn’t mean his/her ancestry will be worth a tinker’s damn. In fact, you should be doubly wary of their assumed privilege
Michael Barone reminds us many non-dynasty presidents are able to make smart adjustments by adopting policies from the opposing party, “Carter also, in time, got two of the very biggest issues right…Inflation… Carter yanked his former appointee from the Federal Reserve and installed civil servant and Nixon appointee Paul Volcker.”
It is definitely time we leave political aristocracy behind us.