Monday, October 08, 2007

Peggy Noonan Frets About the Power of Political Families--Or At Least One of Them

As you know, the Bushes are the fourth family to have members of two generations serve in the U.S. presidency, the others being the Adamses, the Harrisons, and the Roosevelts. Along with the Kennedys--who had only one president but who have had several senators and representatives over two generations--these are generally considered the great American political dynasties.

Now there is a strong possibility that a second member of the Clinton family will be elected president. This doesn't really qualify as a "dynasty," since we are not talking about a second generation. And unlike all those true dynasties we just listed, the Clintons did not inherit position, wealth, or fame. Still, it's unusual and notable that a second Clinton might serve in the White House less than a decade after her husband. And this has our serious thinkers deeply concerned:

It is the nature of modern politics. A political family gains allies--retainers, supporters, hangers-on, admirers, associates, in-house Machiavellis. The bigger the government, the more ways allies can be awarded, which binds them more closely. Your destiny is theirs. Members of the court recruit others. Money lines spread person to person, company to company, board to board, mover to mover.

The most important part is the money lines. Power is expensive. The second most important part is the word "winner." The Bushes are winners; the Clintons are winners. We know this, they've won. The Bushes are wired into the Republican money-line system; the Clintons are wired into the Democratic money-line system. For a generation, two generations now, they have had the same dynamics in play, only their friends are on the blue team, not the red, or the red, not the blue.

They are, both groups, up and ready and good to go every election cycle. They are machines. There are good people on each side, idealists, the hopeful, those convinced the triumph of their views will make our country better. And there are those on each side who are not so wonderful, not so well-meaning, not well-meaning at all. And some are idiots, but very comfortable ones.

Is this good for our democracy, this air of inevitability? Is it good in terms of how the world sees us, and how we see ourselves? Or is it something we want to break out of, like a trance?

It would be understandable if they were families of a most extraordinary natural distinction and self-sacrifice. But these are not the Adamses of Massachusetts we're talking about. You've noticed, right?
Peggy Noonan isn't the only right-wing concern troll to furrow her brow about this topic lately. And of course they are all motivated by sincere worries about the future of democracy, the evil effects of concentrated power, the shallowness of a public that can't seem to get beyond mere family ties--right?

Then again, it seems a bit odd that no one on the right ever expressed any concern over the perpetuation of the Bush dynasty into a third generation (remember that paterfamilias Prescott Bush actually launched the sequence back in the 1950s). They haven't even uttered a peep of protest over the many, many suggestions that Jeb will someday be the third Bush president.

I guess, for some odd, purely coincidental reason, only Democratic dynasties raise these serious historical concerns about the course of our Republic.

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