Tuesday, December 02, 2008

All-in-the-Family Politics

The colonists who left England to escape hereditary rule would be surprised to find so much of it in American politics two centuries later as jockeying begins to fill Senate seats vacated by members of the Obama Administration.

Name recognition has been important in contested elections, but it seems to be a major factor in appointed positions as well.

For Hillary Clinton's Senate seat, those being considered include former New York Governor Mario Cuomo's son Andrew, Robert Kennedy Jr., Caroline Kennedy--and even Bill Clinton. For Obama's vacated position in Illinois, the front runner is Jesse Jackson Jr. and, in Delaware, the newly appointed Ted Kaufman is widely believed to be keeping the seat warm for Joe Biden's son Beau in 2010.

Nepotism has produced mixed results in recent American politics, as the histories of George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton suggest, but it's disconcerting to find inherited star quality playing so big a part in naming members of Congress' upper chamber.

Barack Obama's success this year was an important victory for meritocracy in American life, but the aftermath is showing that family connections still count.

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