Hillary Clinton is an ambivalent member of a political dynasty — at least when she’s talking to reporters.
In an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel, Clinton insisted for the umpteenth time that she hasn’t made up her mind about running for president. But more interesting was this question posed to Clinton, which framed her potential run as evidence of the quasi-aristocratic nature of the presidency [emphasis mine]:
SPIEGEL: For the past 25 years, there were two families that were very prominent in politics, your family and the Bush family. First George Bush was president for four years, then your husband led the country for eight years, and then George W. Bush was president for eight years. If either you or Jeb Bush were to win the election in 2016, once again a member of these two families would become president. Will the American democracy turn into a monarchy?
Clinton: We had two Roosevelts. We had two Adams. It may be that certain families just have a sense of commitment or even a predisposition to want to be in politics. I ran for president, as you remember. I lost to somebody named Barack Obama, so I don’t think there is any guarantee in American politics. My last name did not help me in the end. Our system is open to everyone. It is not a monarchy in which I wake up in the morning and abdicate in favor of my son.
Clinton’s right — we do not live in a monarchy. But it might seem like it, surveying the field of popular Democrats who want to run in 2016 whose initials are not HRC (cue crickets).
Which raises the question: Do dynastic families have more of a genetic commitment to public service, as Clinton suggests, or is it just the family business? Blake Carrington would never claim to “just have a sense of commitment or even a predisposition to being an oil tycoon.”
Still, one recent study found that inherited political power is more about nurture than nature.
Researchers at Brown University found that political power in Congress is self-perpetuating, and that the longer a politician holds office, the more likely he or she is to see relatives become politicians. They found that, from 1789 to 1996, 8.7 percent of members had relatives who previously served in Congress.
The authors of the study concede that “unobserved family characteristics” could contribute to politicians’ dynastic powers. They also found that children of politicians aren’t necessarily more likely to become miniature versions of their parents — nor does having political parents give them a predisposition for public service. But if these political offspring do decide to go into politics, they’ll have a leg up on the competition:
We find that dynastic politicians are less likely to start their career in the House, suggesting they have the ability or means to enter directly through the Senate, a much smaller and more prestigious body. This difference cannot be attributed to a later entry into Congress: dynastic legislators enter Congress at about 44 years of age, just like non-dynastic legislators. Dynastic legislators are not more likely to come from a state different than the one they represent and are significantly less likely to have previous public experience, although they are more likely to have a college degree.
Americans generally have a love-hate relationship with political dynasties — we say we don’t want the same families to continue holding office, but as soon as names are named, we flock to their corner. In a recent survey on dynasties, a majority of respondents said they hope the Bushes and the Clintons of the world don’t dominate the 2016 presidential race. Ironically, most respondents also reported favorable views of the Clinton and Bush families.
Liking a political family is, of course, different from voting one’s members into office cycle after cycle. But data presents a startling disconnect between how voters want democracy to work in theory and in practice.
Whether or not having a household name helps your election chances, belonging to a political dynasty certainly conveys some privileges that no-name candidates don’t have. Practically, it’s easier to raise money and organize supporters as a candidate when you are (or your family is) a known commodity, potentially with a ready-made support network already at your service. And psychologically, the power of incumbency cannot be underestimated, as political reputations trickle down from patriarch or matriarch to family members.
Of course, this effect could also backfire for politicians whose names bear negative associations. Jeb Bush publicly acknowledged earlier this year that his name was “an issue.” Then again, it appears that time can heal many wounds — George W. Bush is more popular today than he was during his last three years in office.
Are political dynasties different from other types of dynasties? In U.S. culture, the first family takes on de facto royalty status in a way that other family empires rarely do — unless your last name happens to be Kardashian. But unlike in a monarchy, what America’s royalty does with the power conferred upon them is completely up to them.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”