Hillary Clinton and the Problem of Political Dynasties
I have not yet decided who I will support for President in 2008, but I am pretty excited about the quality of the Democratic field. I must say, however, that I have some discomfort about Senator Hillary Clinton's candidacy, however, and it has nothing to do with her qualities as a candidate. Indeed, I think she would be a great President. My discomfort instead arises from the fact that if Clinton is elected President, we would have just two families controlling the White House for 24 years. I don't like that, and either does Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, who expresses the same discomfort in his column:
Before I get to the “but,” let me say that Hillary Rodham Clinton would make a terrific president.
She has spent decades wrestling with public policy questions about poverty and health care. She is smart and pragmatic on foreign policy issues. And while it would be tough for a liberal or centrist woman to be elected (it’s much easier for a conservative like Margaret Thatcher), the rising Democratic tide increasingly makes her look electable.
But ... there is another issue at stake, one that goes to the heart of what kind of a nation we are.
If Mrs. Clinton were elected and served two terms, then for seven consecutive presidential terms the White House would have been in the hands of just two families. That’s just not the kind of equal-opportunity democracy we aspire to. Maybe we can’t make America as egalitarian and fluid as we would like, but we can at least push back against the concentration of power. We can do that in our tax policy, in our education policy — and in our voting decisions.
The political aristocracy in this country is more fluid than past nobility, and that is how the Clinton family entered it. But the benefit of membership in that aristocracy has probably increased over time, as larger Congressional districts and the rising cost of campaigns make it harder for an unfinanced unknown to rise in politics.
Particularly after George W. Bush rose to the White House partly because he inherited a name and rolodexes of donors from a previous president, we should take a deep breath before replacing one dynasty with another.
Read it all (subscription required). Of course, this should not be a disqualifier for Clinton, but in a field of very talented alternatives, this is a major concern.