It is not unusual to hear people say that the United States is a different kind of country because we do not have a “ruling caste.” We are a democracy, not subject to the dynastic rule of families that play dominant roles in politics year after year.
My casual investigation shows that these people are sadly mistaken.
First, the democrats.
The Daley family has made the fine city of Chicago its fiefdom—Richard J. Daley ruled the Windy City as mayor for 21 years, from 1955-1976. His youngest son, William M. Daley, served in President Clinton’s cabinet as Secretary of Commerce from 1997 to 2000, and then became Al Gore’s campaign chairman.
Another son, Richard M. Daley, followed in his father’s footsteps and became mayor of Chicago in 1989. Yes, that’s 16 more years of Daley rule—this from a party that decries privilege and nepotism.
But the Kennedys have more than kept pace with the Daleys.
JFK was president, of course, and RFK would have been, were it not for an assassin’s bullet. There has been a Kennedy in the U.S. Senate since 1952; perhaps the least compelling member of the dynasty, Teddy, has been there nearly 50 years. And we have not heard the last from the next generation, which is already represented in the House of Representatives.
On the republican side, there is no single family quite like the Kennedys … but an interesting factoid shows the endurance of elephant families as well.
Take a look at the republican tickets in the presidential contests since 1950. Three family names stand out from the rest, do they not?
See what I mean? With the sole exception of the election of 1964, EVERY campaign in the past half century has had a Nixon, Bush, or Dole on the republican side.
With this in mind, is anyone willing to rule Elizabeth Dole out of the running for a spot on the republican ticket in 2008?