January
9th 2008
Nepotism and the Presidency

Posted under: American history, Gender, nepotism

wonka_gold_ticket2.jpg Historiann regrets that my comments about Senator Clinton’s “Chatelaine” status might mark her as unusual. However, a speedy review of the history of the U. S. Presidency suggests that of course, as ususal, it’s men who benefit far disproportionately from nepotism. The Presidency has been marked by father-son and other intrafamily male Presidential dynasties: John Adams and son John Quincy Adams; William Henry Harrison and grandson Benjamin Harrison; Theodore Roosevelt and distant cousin (and nephew by marriage) Franklin Roosevelt; John Kennedy and his brothers and would-be presidents Bobby and Edward M. Kennedy. And, of course, George Bush and son George W. Bush. (Am I missing any others? I went only for the low-hanging fruit of identical surnames.)

So, if she wins the nomination and is elected, Hillary Clinton would be the first wife to succeed a husband to the presidency, but only the latest in a long line of presidents who have benefited from brand-names. (Check out Crayzee Chris Matthews’ latest theory about Hillary Clinton’s political success: the Senate seat is her jilted-wife consolation prize! If he’s right, then I wonder why Barbara Bush isn’t a Senator from Texas, or why Newt Gingrich’s two exes aren’t the Senators from Georgia, or why Mrs. Larry Craig doesn’t run for her husband’s soon-to-be-vacant seat in Idaho? I think we could fill the Senate with women married to politicians who have been steppin’ out.)

Question for the demos: why do you think that it’s only bad or mediocre (or short-lived) presidents who get a family mulligan in the presidency? It’s interesting to consider that many of the most important presidents had children or grandchildren who did something else with their lives (or, they didn’t have children at all.) George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan were all the end of their bloodlines in the political mojo department.

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