Tuesday, October 09, 2007


A few days ago The Opinionator shared some bloggers' thoughts on Hillary Clinton as an example of nepotism and dynasty. They close with a comment by Andrew Sullivan:
A reader responds to Andrew Sullivan’s approving link to Wheatcroft’s column by writing, “And is there any chance George W would have risen to anything more than a district sales manager at a photocopy company if his Daddy hadn’t been president?” Sullivan’s retort: “None. And your point is that Dubya has proven that nepotism and dynasticism don’t matter?”
As I read the comment, the point is that Mr. Sullivan had none of these concerns when he actively supported G.W. Bush in his first campaign, even though G.W. Bush was chosen for that job principally on the basis of his family name - and even within the family was deemed a suitable second choice only after older brother Jeb lost his first gubernatorial election. Concerns about reaching the presidency principally because of family name and connections apply in both cases, but should have been far more pronounced in relation to G.W. Bush. Did Mr. Sullivan even whisper a concern at that time?

Perhaps in retrospect, Mr. Sullivan recognizes the folly of his embrace of the underqualifed Bush. Sullivan's retreat from Bush seems to be primarily one of policy, particularly in relation to gay rights. Has he ever said, "I should have seen at the outset that Bush was unqualified, and was propped up as a Presidential candidate merely because he shared his daddy's surname"? (I admit that I don't follow Sullivan or his blog, but I don't recall that he has ever made such a statement.) If he disagrees with that position, his consternation over Hillary Clinton would seem hypocritical.

As I see it, there is a big difference between the ascendency of G.W. Bush and Hillary Clinton. In the former case, the selection was made and the primary process was constructed to lead to the nomination of the pre-approved candidate. In the latter case, while name and relationship similarly helped Hillary Clinton get the necessary résumé, opportunity and financial support to enter the race, she entered with a lot of negatives, is up against other candidates who still have a legitimate chance of defeating her for the nomination, and has managed to (largely) overcome those negatives (so far) and take the lead. Her party is not handing her the nomination. When Sullivan sneers that "modern, developed, Western societies" don't "actually bestow[] political office on women because they were once the wives of presidents", he may wish to take note of the fact that none exclude them from seeking office.

If she does win, perhaps the proper question is not how she got into the race, but why she was determined by the primary process to be the best candidate for the Presidency. If you take the position that she is not, you can examine how she managed to win, and the extent to which her name and marriage may have factored in. If you take the position that she is, then even if she advanced herself on her name and marriage, we still got the best candidate of those who ran.

I personally have some real problems with Hillary Clinton's ascendency, but they aren't about dynasty. With no offense intended, as good as the Democratic slate of candidates looks when contrasted with the Republican slate, is this truly the best we can do? I think not, so perhaps it is time for our nation to spend some time thinking about why those we would truly like to serve as President are turned off of politics, or are unable to get any traction within the major political parties. With no slight intended to Ms. Clinton as compared to anybody else in national politics, if our political system were currently elevating our best and brightest to the leadership positions of our nation we wouldn't be having this discussion.


  1. Sullivan supported GW Bush. He excused the light intellectualism of GW by focusing on the Policy team he inherited from his father, and all the experience he gained by hanging around the White House.

  2. Sullivan was fine with everything GOP until his own ox was gored.


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