I had to recall one of my pet sayings when I read this post: Jeb Bush leaves open White House bid:
The one thing we were never supposed to have in America is inherited political power.
Think George III, royal idiot and bane of the American colonies. Now we have Bush I and Bush II, and here is the press wondering about Bush III.
We may presume that King 1.0 came up by merit, even if that merit was measured in ambition and ruthlessness as well as ability; but Kings 2.0 and beyond ascend to the throne purely by accident of birth, often combined with palace intrigue by powerful court figures. Incompetence, stupidity, serious character defect, and even madness in the royal line have been apparent throughout history. This method of passing along political power may help explain the extraordinary influence of Dick Cheney behind the scenes during the reign of Bush 2.0.
Even a democracy is prone to inherited political power because of name recognition and the raising of the children of the powerful in well-connected and well-to-do circles of associates.
It is so easy, too easy, to create and jump on a bandwagon pulled by a candidate who is already rich in the currency of celebrity. I must confess I did it once myself in the past; but now I see that growing up in the shadow of power can create tendencies that are not optimal and that can cause a politician to fall short in ways that either impair him in office or would likely cause him to lose to a worthier opponent somewhere on the way up the ladder.
For a while I advanced the facetious idea that political heirs inheriting name recognition should pay the same sort of inheritance tax on the votes they receive at the polls that they supported families having to pay in money after a death in the family. There's a certain logic there, however unworkable, in equating fame and money as two resources families have to promote their members' interests in life.
John Quincy Adams was a very effective Secretary of State but shared his father John Adams' impetuous, intense and often vehement temperament and had a relatively ineffective single term as President, losing to Andrew Jackson. Benjamin Harrison, grandson of William Henry Harrison and a Congressman's son to boot, was elected despite losing the popular vote but, unable to surmount budget and trade problems, was defeated for a second term by Grover Cleveland.
In our time, George Bush I being followed by George Bush II, who led us into another pre-emptive war even more clearly unjustified than his dad's and whose initiatives brought back huge budget deficits, shows me that inherited political power in a democracy can be downright dangerous and is best avoided. I am fully aware my position has implications for Bill and Hillary "Carpetbag" Clinton.
In our celebrity-driven culture, American voters should make themselves a personal pledge not to support relatives of a famous government official for political office. Otherwise, we may wind up with only a handful of royal families competing at election time. The rest of us, with all our ideas and abilities, will just be shut out of the process. Think about it.