Political dynasties scare me

Posted by Ryan Jerz on Wednesday May 16, 2007.

I once told a friend of mine, when we were arguing over whether Hillary Clinton would run for president (he swore she’d never do it, I said she already was — this was in 2004 or 2005) that I’d never vote for her. A main reason for that was that she had gotten to where she was on the back of her husband. The argument is overly simplified. Another part of my reason was that I had been shaped by only seeing one side of the argument for far too long. At that time, I was way more open than I ever had been, and my openness continues to grow today, but the remnants of that conservative pundit shaping was still very evident.

As I look at candidates today, I have some immediate reactions about a lot of them. As a registered Republican, I have tried to think about who I’d vote for if the primary was held tomorrow. That will be a horrific primary for me simply because I can’t find much about any of them that I like. And because of what I see and read today, the Democrats seem far more interesting as a lot, and a lot of that has to do with Hillary Clinton.

I can’t even remember now how I came across the article in The Economist the other day, but I immediately printed it out to read closely later. It’s short, but I wanted to make sure I paid a lot of attention to it. It’s a topic I’m fascinated with and have thought about at length before.

In 2000, I had reservations about voting for George Bush. I am not a fan of political dynasties and with Bush being elected, there was a shot of his family – father, brothers, and him – sitting in a room and chatting. Whoever the commentator on TV was said something like, “an American political dynasty.” I cringed. I had helped elect him, and I was not entirely happy with what I saw there, especially when people started mentioning Jeb running at some point. But let’s not forget that I was very much influenced by the very information I mentioned before.

As it stands now, Hillary is sitting in a strong position in relation to her primary opponents. Also, she makes a great impression on people who aren’t entirely predisposed to love her. Those facts, coupled with a general tiredness of Republicans (and a lack of really good candidates) could mean a new Clinton in the White House. Is that acceptable?

If I was willing to overlook my distaste for political dynasties for George Bush, I’d like to think I’ve learned my lesson. There was enough for me to vote for him again in 2004 (I like to justify that by saying John Kerry was totally unacceptable to me), but today there is no chance I’d do it. There is so much wrong with his administration, and I can’t help but think it’s got something to do with how connected he has been his entire life. I worry that the same could happen with Clinton. She has been a part of Washington life for 15 years now and even when they first got there they weren’t a squeaky clean couple of people. Wouldn’t being president increase the amount that can go horribly awry at the hands of a very connected person who owes a lot of favors?

With that as my thinking, is it fair for me to discount the possibility of voting for Clinton simply because I don’t want another dynasty to find its way into the White House? I do pay attention to what she says and what she has done, so it’s not like I’m discounting her completely. I worry most about this quote from the article:

The dynastification of American political life is weakening America’s claim to be a democratic beacon. These days political dynasties are usually associated with the young democracies of South Asia rather than mature republics. The dynastification of its political life also points to a deeper problem: the fact that America is producing a quasi-hereditary political elite, cocooned in a world of wealth and privilege and utterly divorced from most people’s lives.

I don’t want that at all. It’s probably really naïve to think that it can be a perfect system where only the best people to lead are elected. We know we’ve often got to settle for the “best available” and we’re lucky if we know who fits that bill. I’m currently leaning toward not voting for her because I think it needs to stop now. I can change, and believe me, it’s a big deal for me to come to the realization that she could be the best candidate for me out there, but I just don’t want to fall into the trap of continuing to elect the same names over and over.

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."

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