What’s in a political name?

I am unenthusiastic about Jeb Bush as a presidential candidate for several reasons: his position on immigration reform, his position on the common core, and the fact that his last name will make him difficult to elect.

Some conservatives have advanced another reason to be unenthusiastic: the fact that his father and brother have both been president. Political dynasties are unseemly, if not un-American, we are advised.

To me, apart from the question of electability, this objection to Bush’s candidacy has no resonance. Nor does the parallel objection to a Hillary Clinton presidential run.

To be sure, if Bush is nominated, the Republicans will have had a Bush at the top of the national ticket in five of the last eight elections. And a Bush will have been on the national ticket in seven of the last ten.

Even the trio of Richard, Tricia, and Julie Nixon wasn’t this ubiquitous.

But so what? Jeb Bush served two terms as governor of a big state. It is his performance in that capacity, not his name, that makes him a presidential contender.

It’s possible that if his father hadn’t been president, Jeb Bush wouldn’t have been a governor. But it’s also possible that if his brother hadn’t been president, Jeb Bush would have already been nominated at least once by his party to run for president.

As for Hillary Clinton, she is a legitimate presidential contender by virtue of her time as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. Sure, she might not have attained either position if she hadn’t married Bill.

On the other hand, prior to her marriage Hillary was on the fastest of fast tracks (Yale law school, staff member on the House Judiciary Committee) at just the time when women were starting to break through in law and politics.

Who is to say that Elizabeth Warren would have beaten Hillary to the top of the greasy pole if Hillary hadn’t married Bill?

Such speculation is beside the point, though. America desperately needs a first rate president, and it isn’t brimming with politicians likely to fill the bill. It makes no sense to eliminate presidential prospects due to their lineage.

Should Democrats prefer a first-term Senator who pretends she’s an Indian to a two-term Senator and former Secretary of State, simply because the latter was married to a U.S. president. Of course not.

Should Republicans reject a successful two-term governor in favor of, say, a first-term Senator whose biggest claim to fame is paving the way for a partial government shutdown that accomplished nothing, simply because the former is the son and brother of former presidents. Of course not.

There’s nothing un-American about political dynasties as long as birth doesn’t trump merit (and in a democracy, it’s never likely to). Two of our first six presidents were from the Adams dynasty, and Charles Francis Adams would probably have made rather a good president.

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