Do We Need Any More Clintons or Bushes?

Political dynasties are not necessarily good for America. 

Hillary Clinton (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images); Jeb Bush (Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images)
Hillary Clinton (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images); Jeb Bush (Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images)

(The Root) — Largely overlooked amid the wall-to-wall coverage of the Boston terror attacks was some intriguing and potentially important political news. Former President George W. Bush weighed in on speculation regarding his brother former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s presidential prospects, saying that he hopes his sibling runs for the nation’s highest office in 2016.

If Bush runs, it is unlikely that he will be the only familiar name on the ballot. It is widely believed that former first lady-turned-Senator-turned-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will also run. This means that regardless of political party, the White House could soon be occupied by a familiar name and family. 2016 might just end up feeling a bit like a flashback from A Christmas Carol — except, instead of all of us taking a stroll down memory lane to revisit Christmases past, we’ll be visiting elections past.

Here’s a question for American voters: Are political dynasties actually good for America? 

One of the core principles that are supposed to distinguish America from monarchy-ruled countries in Europe is that in America, political power is supposed to be earned, not inherited. Yet from the earliest days of our country’s existence, political power has been concentrated among already powerful families. The earliest example is the Adams family. John Adams served as the country’s first vice president and second president, while his son John Quincy Adams served as the country’s sixth president.

It would be more than a century before this feat would be repeated, with George H.W. Bush serving as the nation’s 41st president and his son George H.W. Bush becoming the nation’s 43rd president. But throughout history, there have been countless sons, daughters and spouses succeeding their mothers, fathers, uncles and aunts into state legislatures and Congress.

Within the Bush family, Prescott Bush, the first President Bush’s father, served in the U.S. Senate. Barbara Bush, the former first lady and mother of the second President Bush, is descended from Franklin Pierce, the 14th president of the United States. In addition to Jeb Bush’s possible presidential run, his son George Pierce Bush is running for office in Texas.

The most comparable Democratic counterpart to the Bushes is the Kennedy family. The Kennedys count one president (John F. Kennedy), one attorney general (Robert F. Kennedy), three senators (John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Edward Kennedy) and three congressmen (Patrick Kennedy, Joseph Kennedy II and his son Joseph Kennedy III), one lieutenant governor (Kathleen Kennedy Townsend) and two ambassadors (family patriarch Joseph Kennedy, who served as ambassador to England in Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, and his daughter Jean, who was an ambassador to Ireland during the Clinton administration).

According to reports, the family could soon count another. It is rumored that the Obama administration is considering nominating John F. Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy, ambassador to Japan. The family also includes one mayor: John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, President Kennedy’s maternal grandfather, who served as mayor of Boston and is the earliest prominent political figure in the family’s history. 

A few of America’s other notable political dynasties include the Landrieus of Louisiana (who include two New Orleans mayors and one senator), the Hutchinsons of Arkansas (one congressman and one senator), the Pryors of Arkansas (two senators), the Meeks of Florida (two members of Congress), the Kilpatricks of Michigan (one congresswoman and one mayor), the Carnahans of Missouri (two congressmen, a governor and a senator), the Gores (two senators, one who became vice president) and the Udall family, which includes multiple members of the Senate, the House, city councils and various other offices spanning both major political parties over more than a century.