Last year, when it seemed likely that the next general election for president of the United States was going to be between another Clinton and another Bush, there was much handwringing about political dynasties. The Economist observed that America had been subjected to a decades-long “double helix of two dysfunctional political families,” and Time featured George W. Bush and Bill Clinton on the cover with the headline “Game of Thrones.” Of course, the 2016 campaign has not ended up as a boring rematch. Eleven terrifying months after the first candidate declared his intent to run for president, America’s electoral process more and more resembles the tea party—from Alice in Wonderland. A choice between two serious, professional, political leaders with even temperaments and years of training and experience might seem quite welcome.
So why do Americans so fear and dislike political dynasties?
Most American political leaders, of course, are elected without the benefit of family name recognition, but when they are, a worry bubbles to the surface: that birthright instead of merit is the reason they were chosen. In a nation that promises the hardworking an opportunity to succeed, Americans understandably fear triumph based on unearned qualifications. It likely originates with hostility to hereditary monarchy. In their final death rattle, the inbred and incompetent crowns of Europe plunged the world into an inconceivably bloody war and precipitated the rise of both Soviet and National Socialist totalitarianism. But is that really what Americans endorse when they elect a Bush or a Kennedy, a Taft or a Chafee?