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Thu

25

Dec

2008

House of Lords or U.S. Senate?
Thursday, 25 December 2008 09:20

by Timothy V. Gatto

I can’t believe how clever the political pundits are getting lately about the possible appointment of Carolyn Kennedy to replace Hillary Clinton. The entire debate about appointing Ms. Kennedy to the Senate seat is in its own way more important than the actual appointment itself. We all understand that Governor Patterson will appoint a Democrat, and we are all aware that the fundamental make-up of the Senate will not change. What has changed is the parameters of the appointment, and that is opening a debate about a practice that has gone on for far too long; the nepotism that runs rampant throughout the Federal Government.

I am not going to argue for or against Caroline Kennedy, I don’t know her nor have I read anything of any consequence about her views on anything specific. I’m a former New Yorker that is living among the right-wing evangelical community that people call South Carolina. The political views of Ms. Kennedy are secondary to the real question that is poised by the prospect of her appointment; is she qualified to be a Senator? What are the qualifications for a Senatorial seat? Is the Kennedy name a sufficient prerequisite to represent the people of New York?

If we listened to the Republicans on the Sunday morning talk show circuit today, it is readily apparent that selecting Kennedy based on her family name is something we should all be aghast over. The idea of using bloodlines and pedigree to determine a political appointment has some Republicans comparing the Senate to the House of Lords in the UK. The questions and the criticism that the Republicans use to disparage Ms. Kennedy all seem to be valid and genuine…until you look at the history of this nation. Just as it is apparent that Ms. Kennedy is using her family tree to gain political favor, it is just as apparent that this way of doing business in our nation is as old as the nation itself. There should no hint of surprise in any politician’s reaction to the possibility of Kennedy’s appointment to the seat her Uncle once held.

When politicians started to throw their hats in the political ring in the latest presidential race, I started to look at their biographies. One of the first was Senator Evan Bayh. I knew that his father was Birch Bayh. I wanted to know about Birch Bayh’s political career but I found nothing in Evan’s biography about his father except that Evan was born the son of a “farmer” and knew what hard work was all about. No mention that his dad was a U.S. Senator. I wonder why the people that put together his biography left that information out. In my mind, I really can’t blame the Bayh political people. The citizens that knew Bayh Sr. held the same seat that his son now held didn’t need to be told. The citizens that didn’t know Evan’s Dad had been a Senator also, probably wouldn’t find out on their own, therefore, not telling them was a politically astute thing to do. The part that I can’t get my head wrapped around is that how could anyone that lived in Indiana not know that Evan’s father Birch Bayh had been a Senator? This one example of political maneuvering is a picture perfect example of how the political minds behind Evan Bayh operate; it also sends a clear message of how ignorant the voters of Indiana appear to be. Since the issue (as far as I know) has never been brought up, not mentioning the Bayh family business in Evan’s biography seems to have worked as planned. Some days I wonder if writing about politics actually accomplishes anything. It’s when I come across items such as this that convinces me that this nation needs even more political writers.



There are so many more political dynasties that relatively few Americans know about. The first dynasty was the Adams family. First there was Sam Adams, a local rabble rouser in New England that brought his cousin John Adams into the fold. John became the second President. His Son, John Quincy Adams became the sixth President. We can safely assume that John Quincy’s rise to power was not mere coincidence. The very idea of coincidence is more likely however than it is now, just because there are many more Americans now than there was in John Quincy’s time. It would appear that because our population has grown to over 340 million more than the population was during the last Adam’s presidency, you would believe that it was less likely for relatives to occupy the same political seats. In this however, it isn’t the case, there are far more government positions occupied by members of the same family than there were years ago when the mathematical probabilities made it far more likely.

I have read many pages of diligent research into the political dynasties of America. It is curious that most of the articles and papers I have read all point out that these families were willing and able to serve their nation. There is no mention of nepotism or power mongering among these proud American families. But then again the victorious write the history books. Looking back at the families that held power in this nation through a form of political dynasties, we seem to have been very fortunate to have had those that used familial power to achieve high office in the U.S. Apart from the current President, most of these families produced fine leaders and legislators. While I don’t subscribe to a point of view that encourages political family dynasties I can’t condemn them either.

In the long run, it seems apparent that political office in a democracy (or a representative republic) that allows families to hold political power for an extended amount of time should not be encouraged. This country has been fortunate in that some families may have wielded an inordinate amount of political power at times, except for a few political morons, we have been lucky in that most who used family connections to grease the skids into power have been fairly capable. The current President however, shows why family political power should be avoided whenever possible. During the Kennedy era when Jack and Robert held so much power between them, it was understandable why JFK would want Bobby for his Attorney General. There are times when there is nothing wrong with families holding considerable political power.

There are times when family political dynasties have ushered in dictatorships and a return to rule by “royalty”. America has never accepted rule by royalty and we should all remain vigilant to protect the people’s representation in government. The time we lose representation is the time we start taking it for granted. We just can’t assume that any family or any individual wants as a matter of course, what is best for the country. The way to keep our representative republic is to assume there are those that would like to remove the citizenry from government. I don’t believe Carolyn Kennedy wants to become a dictator, but I also think that a good discussion about political power in the hands of select families benefits us all



timgatto@hotmail.com http://liberalpro.blogspot.com http://blogtalkradio.com/headingleft/liberalpro

 

 

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