Perhaps George Santayana was wrong: Today’s Americans know their history well enough—and if they aren’t exactly eager to repeat it, they seem to at least be resigned to repetition. How else to explain a situation that looks ever more possible by the day: a Bush vs. Clinton presidential election in 2016? (Again.)
Jeb Bush, son and brother of former presidents, made that scenario a bit more likely when he announced Tuesday on Facebook that he was “actively exploring” a bid for the White House (whatever that means). That won’t quiet the will-he-won’t-he game already afoot. Many candidates have dipped their toes in the water at this stage, decided it was a bit too cool for a swim, and retreated back onto the sand. There are also reasons to believe—both political and not—that Bush might back out, but his gesture can't be ignored. Meanwhile, despite a flurry of excitement about a Massachusetts senator who insists she isn’t running, Hillary Clinton’s path to the Democratic nomination still looks clear.
This might feel like a rerun of recent history, but it actually has much longer roots. As Matt O’Brien points out, the Republican Party has not won a presidential election without either a Bush or a Nixon on the ticket since 1928. Clintons have been running for president on and off since 1992, and Bill Clinton reportedly nearly ran in 1988. The prospect of a sequence of presidents that runs Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama-Clinton/Bush has already created oodles of angst over the prospect of a hereditary duopoly in American politics—interrupted only briefly by Barack Obama, who might easily appear in retrospect as something of a novelty candidate. It's not quite royalty, one might conclude, but it's close enough: Isn’t this why colonists fought a revolution to escape the British monarch? It’s no surprise that the prospect would be upsetting, particularly in an age of yawning inequality and calcified social mobility.