Recently, I fired a few hot political takes into the Twittersphere:
What weirds me out about America's political dynasties (Clinton/Bush) is that people root for them like they would for a football team.
— SpacaB (@SpacaB) March 7, 2015
There's something really creepy about two families dedicating their lives to manipulating public opinion in order to achieve their goals.
— SpacaB (@SpacaB) March 7, 2015
It seems that the 2016 presidential election news cycle is well underway, and I’ve been feeling a little uneasy about the fact that the early favorites for the Democratic and Republican nominations are Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.
While I have qualms with both candidates’ official stances on various positions, I’m more concerned about the emergence of what are clearly, at this point, political dynasties in the United States.
As most people know, Jeb Bush is the brother of former President George W. Bush, and the son of former President George H.W. Bush (who served eight years as Vice President under Ronald Reagan). Hillary Clinton is the wife of former President Bill Clinton. She also narrowly lost the 2008 Democratic nomination to President Barack Obama, and served as Secretary of State for five years in the Obama Administration.
Those facts should be enough to raise some eyebrows.
Here are more fun facts: the Republicans have not won a presidential election without a Bush on the ticket since 1972, when Richard Nixon won the presidency. The Republicans have not won a presidential election without a Bush or Nixon on the ticket since 1928. While I do study applied math, it doesn’t take much sophisticated analysis to detect a pattern here.
To be clear: this post is not a criticism of the Clinton family or the Bush family, but rather a criticism of political dynasties, the current political environment in the United States, and partisan politics.
Which is why it’s so alarming to me that we are staring at another Bush vs. Clinton race. As an analyst, my first instinct when I see a pattern like this is to ask questions and get to the bottom of it. What is it about these two families that make them such attractive executive candidates? Is it something genetic? Do they know the right people? Are they simply the most genuine and sincere families in America? What exactly makes them more “qualified” than any of the other highly educated, successful, high-profile Americans out there?
(Maybe the question we should be focusing on is this: What makes somebody qualified to be President of the United States in the first place?)
“Okay Steve, but who would you rather put in office? You’re really good at telling me who we shouldn’t elect, but give me some examples of people we should elect!”
I agree that it’s easier to shoot somebody down than it is to actually come up with a reasonable solution on your own. Though none of these people are running for president, I’d like to hear some of the reasons why we should elect a Bush or a Clinton instead of successful modern business executives like Paul Allen, Tim Cook, or Larry Page.
My big fear with these dynasties is that it only strengthens the emotions that drive partisan politics. The whole idea behind our Democratic Republic is that we give a vote to every citizen because that’s the fairest way to elect the candidates that represent our interests. Power is balanced and decentralized with checks, balances, and elections. And an important assumption behind it all is that citizens will vote for the candidates that best represent the country’s political views and interests.
But partisan politics makes it such that people aren’t voting on the issues as much as they are voting for their political party (we’d be better off calling them “political teams”). And political dynasties only make it more personal. Instead of rooting for a party, now you’re rooting for a family—a family that *probably* prioritizes their own interests over those of the voting population.
Nothing screams “centralization of power” like the existence of royal families. America was born out of contempt for the king. It’s eerie to see it end up like this.
(But it’s not too late.)