“If we can’t find more than two or three families to run for office, that’s silly, because there are great governors and great eligible people to run. And I think that the Kennedys, Clintons, Bushes — there are just more families than that. And I’m not arrogant enough to think that we alone are raising (presidential candidates).”
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- Barbara Bush
There’s something very refreshing about Barbara Bush’s resistance to her son Jeb, running for president in 2016. But while Mrs. Bush is accurate that over time the selection of leadership from a narrow talent pool is not optimal, there are two reasons why, over time, succession by heredity and bloodline wins out. The two primary reasons are the ability of some ‘families’ to find consensus between distribution and growth and the avoidance of revolution which comes from peaceful selection within a family unit.
Since the principal source of political experimentation is the resolution of unavoidable tensions between income growth and income distribution, politicians with a temperament to moderate extreme liberal and conservative impulses and identify points of consensus are often deemed superior by the electorate. In that sense, the tendencies of Presidents John F. Kennedy, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush to triangulate; adjust previously hardened positions; and exhibit a tone of open-mindedness are highly attractive.
Though styled as a die-hard liberal by most, it was President Kennedy, before Bill Clinton, who was the last Democratic President to advocate a lower capital gains tax. His efforts were opposed by fiscal conservative Republicans who cast them as irresponsible. His open display of sympathy for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a ‘redistributionist’ civil rights movement while supporting a policy which contributed to a stock market boom and economic growth, demonstrated superior leadership abilities which opened the electorate to further consideration of the Kennedy bloodline.
President George H.W. Bush’s politically-fatal decision to reverse his pledge to not raise taxes, showed the broader electorate that he would listen to the concerns of those outside of his own political party; the kind of qualities an electorate looks for in choosing an open-minded father – something Mitt Romney showed he lacked with his ‘47% comment’. ”H.W.’s” political gaffe accrued as a credit to his son George W. Bush, who was elected on a platform of ‘compassionate conservatism’ – a concoction which infuriated many on the Right who accused “W” of watering down the pristine ideology. What they missed was that he was striking a tone of consensus which the electorate consistently craves over partisanship, over time.
President Bill Clinton is perhaps the most impressive in how he triangulated with a ‘mending’ of affirmative action, signing of the crime bill, and joining with Republicans on the 1997 Taxpayer Relief Act, which lowered capital gains and advanced another stock market boom. It is truly amazing to see liberals, civil rights advocates and progressive embrace President Clinton when one considers the extent to which he abandoned and even undermined their favored policies.
For these reasons, at a time, when the electorate wants better balance between growth and distribution, I’m convinced that a ‘moderate’ Republican, like Jeb Bush is likely to win the White House in 2016. Similarly, the Left is likely to offer a centrist Hillary Clinton, but because consensus is swinging toward a greater need for growth, the country would probably lean toward another President Bush.
The other major reason the electorate chooses genetic political dynasties lies deep in our psyche.
Jude Wanniski articulated it accurately in his classic The Way The World Works, “In earliest civilizations, when succession to the throne was among the most traumatic political events, electorates encouraged heredity as the general rule for succession as a way of avoiding genocidal transitions. Bloody warfare as the method of finding the most superior political leaders is no doubt the most expensive system. Heredity at least offers the rough probability that successful political instincts can be transmitted, genetically and through careful education, and what the electorate may lose by occasionally turning up a lemon it more than gains in the avoidance of violence.”
Tragically, one can’t help but think that this was a factor in why the presidential campaigns of Senator Edward Kennedy never reached critical mass.
Nevertheless, ‘keeping it in the family,’ can be quite an effective political efficiency.
Many cringe at the thought of an American political dynasty but we certainly have something which borders upon one.
Regardless of the type of government – socialist, democratic, theocratic -the impulse toward hereditary aristocracy is universal and simply can’t be avoided.
A Communist-Socialist regime in Cuba has an element of it with the Castro family. Democracies in America have had shades of it for centuries with the Adams, Harrison and Roosevelt families (among others) before the Bush family. And the Islamic world continues to feel its effects over the raging Shi’a – Sunni argument over whether or not the Caiph Abu Bakr or the Caliph Ali – Prophet Muhammad’s Son-in-Law – should have been first in a line of succession.
Even 32nd and 33rd degree Masons in America who are known as Shriners (several of whom like Gerald Ford have been U.S. Presidents) have weighed in on this epic debate, in support of hereditary aristocracy, on the side of Ali.
Barbara Bush is right, but it’s complicated.
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