What's in a name? A future president?
Am I the only one? With the 2016 election cycle starting to gear up, the prospect of another Bush/Clinton White House contest, this time between a wife and a son and brother of former presidents, makes my skin crawl. If memory serves, wasn't the American Revolution fought, in part, as a repudiation of the British monarchy, in which political power and leadership were passed down by lineage? At least Jeb, the younger brother Bush, has a record as a successful and popular two-term Florida governor. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton has a paper-thin resume of lofty titles and a record of incompetence and failure that hearkens all the way back 40 years to when she was fired from her job as a staff attorney for the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate investigations for unethical practices like lying. Ring any 2015 bells for anyone?
The only thing Mrs. Clinton seems to do successfully is deny and squirm out of a seemingly endless number of Clintonian corruption scandals. Just weeks in – as past is prologue – the American people have already been treated to coming attractions: Hillary's Nixonian Server-gate, except Mr. Nixon never destroyed half of the tapes in his cover-up. (Indeed, it isn't necessary for non-tech-savvy Hillary to make any "hard choices" when one can simply have one of her minions wipe the server clean of anything potentially incriminating.) Then there is the unresolved Benghazi scandal, and nobody yet knows where she was for that 3 AM phone call. And as the hits keep on coming, most recently is Charity-gate: 1,100 foreign donors mysteriously not reported by the Clinton Foundation, her and Bill's supposed family charity. That little nugget comes right on the heels of Peter Schweizer's exposé of the Hillary Clinton-Bill Clinton fiscal shell game, Clinton Cash, of bartering favorable U.S. government treatment through the State Department she headed (her role) to the mostly foreign donors who gave exorbitant six-figure speaking fees to Bill (his role) or otherwise donated large sums of money to the charity à la George Stephanopoulos.
Is Hillary Clinton with her sordid name recognition and unrelenting sleaze-factor really the best that the Democrats can offer? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. She is running against the unelectable radical Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), an outspoken Socialist, as well as political opportunist and former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley (whom SNL spoofed as sounding like a Simpsons cartoon character). Indeed, with chutzpah and to collective crowd boos, Mr. O'Malley announced his candidacy in Baltimore, a city both coming apart at its economic seams and embroiled in racial conflict à la Ferguson, Mo. Apparently, Mr. O'Malley was untroubled by Baltimore's current chaotic condition, this being a city he was formally mayor of. Of Baltimore, he said: "The hard truth of our shared reality is this: Unemployment in many American cities [like Democrat-run Detroit and Chicago] ... across the United States is higher now then it was eight years ago. Conditions of extreme and growing poverty create conditions for extreme violence. We have work to do." Excuse me, but wasn't Mr. O'Malley the very person supposedly doing that work in Maryland for eight years? Whom can he realistically blame now besides himself?
Like Hillary, Mr. O'Malley believes in political social promotion. Therefore, to their ilk, impressive-sounding job titles rather than a track record of actual accomplishments entitle one – by osmosis – to higher and higher elective office. Results don't matter when one can run on such boogeymen, empty platitudes ("I believe the people in Iowa are looking for alternatives"), and specifically the scare tactic of demonizing Republicans. In truth, there is no appreciable philosophical or political difference among Obama, Clinton, Sanders, and O'Malley. Pick your progressive poison if you want more of the same.
This running primarily on name recognition (coupled with superficial identity politics mixed in, like race or gender) makes things easy on the politician regarding the low-information voter, but it raises an interesting and somewhat unfortunate dynamic of nepotism in American politics: the branding of a family name and the elitism and sense of entitlement it confers. Historically, the most significant examples are the two generations of Adamses: John Adams and John Q. Adams, both one term U.S. presidents, and the unsuccessful run of grandson Charles Francis Adams. In the 20th century were fifth-cousin presidents Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) and FDR (1933-1945). The modern era brought us the unrealized Kennedy political dynasty of JFK and RFK of the 1960s, known colloquially as the American royalty of Camelot, which likely would have continued if not for their tragic assassinations. Present examples abound, such as the father-son link of the Cuomo family in New York, the Dingell family line of father-son-wife in Michigan, and the aforementioned Bush clan, which includes Prescott S. Bush, U.S. senator; his son, George H.W. Bush, one-term U.S. president; George W. Bush, two-term U.S. president; and George W.'s brother Jeb Bush, current likely presidential hopeful.
When politics is the family business, this group of so-called public servants operate more like an entitled ruling class. The American people, whichever way they vote, should make informed decisions when electing leaders, not based upon the superficial consideration of anyone's surname.