A well-deserved blow to the Kennedy political dynasty
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Nicholas Goldberg is associate editor and OpEd columnist for the Los Angeles Times.
Last Tuesday, Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III became the first Kennedy to lose an election in Massachusetts.
I have nothing against Kennedy. By many accounts, he was a good congressman and a reasonably humble man, ready to listen and learn.
But it’s great to see a dynasty thwarted.
This Kennedy, of course, is the son of Joseph P. Kennedy II, who also served in the House. Her grandfather, Robert F. Kennedy, was a United States Senator from New York. His grandfather’s brothers were President John F. Kennedy and Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Her cousins include Patrick Kennedy, Ted’s son, who served in the House, and former Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy.
Some people like this family story. I do not.
It has always seemed odd that the United States – a country that led a revolution to free itself from the rule of hereditary kings – is so enamored with political dynasties. Although we are talking a good game of meritocracy, and most of us would vigorously oppose nepotism on principle, we have voted to keep power within some families since the early days of the republic.
This obviously dates back to the early 1800s, when John Quincy Adams followed his father to the presidency. But there are also the Roosevelts – including, but not limited to, Teddy and FDR, the Longs in Louisiana, the Bushes (starting with George HW’s father, Senator Prescott Bush), the Rockefellers, the Udalls. (mainly in the southwestern United States), Tafts, Cuomos, father and son. At the state level, there are many other such families across the country.
According to economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz (doing what looked a bit like an estimate at the bottom of the envelope in 2015), the son of a governor is about 6,000 times more likely to become a governor than the American. Medium. The son of a senator is approximately 8,500 times more likely to become a senator.
Of course, sometimes a governor’s son or daughter is the best fit for the job. But I don’t think we want to be a country where power is passed so steadily from generation to generation within one family just because they seem safe or familiar or because we recognize the name. (For the record, the oldest dynasty in the world today is the Yamoto family, which has been the imperial family of Japan for at least 1,500 years.)
And speaking of dynasties, was I the only one who got cold feet watching Donald Jr. and Ivanka at the Republican convention? Maybe I’m wrong, but I saw something in their behavior that was screaming, “You haven’t seen the last of us. “
Obviously, every American has the right to run for office, regardless of what their parents did for a living. And some of the younger members of dynastic families brought a lot to the job, in part because they grew up – like Jerry Brown and Andrew Cuomo – watching their parents rule.
Moreover, it is quite common in all kinds of fields for children to follow their parents who are successful in the family business. Just ask Michael Douglas or Angelina Jolie.
But in a democracy, it is somehow unhealthy that just because a candidate for office has a particular name and pedigree, voters think they know what they are standing for and how they are going to do their job. . It seems unfair that newbies to big brands come forward with such undeserved advantages. And most importantly, voters are doing themselves a disservice when they draw such conclusions.
In 2011, Boston-based pollster Steve Koczela asked Massachusetts voters for their opinion on a fake Kennedy – a “Matthew Kennedy” who had never actually existed in Massachusetts politics. Without further information, according to Koczela, 25 percent of voters polled said they had a favorable opinion of him. Only 1% had an unfavorable impression.
This is the advantage of the name.
By all means, those born with privilege – or with a good marketable name – should do what they can to make the world a better place.
But voters should beware. Do not buy the new model based on the old model.
And for the record, I don’t look forward to the prospect of future clashes between Donald Jr., Eric, Ivanka, Chelsea, Malia and Sasha.