Inside the Capitol

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Political Dynasties Shouldn't Be Much of a Worry

MON, 3-10-08

SANTA FE - There has been far too much worry about political dynasties. Recently the fretting here and abroad has been about two families controlling the White House for at least 24 years if Hillary Clinton were to become president.
It appears Democrat voters have taken care of that problem, but quite frankly, a string of Bushes could be back in four years. Jeb Bush appeared to be in line to be a candidate in 2000, but then it became more advantageous for George W. to run that year. Jeb still will be available in 2012 and after that, some of the impressive next generation of Bushes will be ready.
That would be more than a sufficiency of Bushes, for sure, but it's not like Poppy ran his son's presidency. By the time Dick Cheney picked himself as the vice-presidential candidate, it became the Cheney administration.
Dad was out. He wasn't consulted on anything and had he been, his advice often would have run counter to George W's actions. When George W. won the GOP nomination as a compassionate conservative, it appeared father and son's administrations would look much the same. But it didn't work out that way.
And no one can argue that Bill Clinton's eight years between Bush father and son carried forward Bush policies. So what's the reason to start fretting quite yet?
Electing Hillary in 2008 would present a different problem. First, keeping the presidency in the same generation doesn't technically qualify as a dynasty.
The fear here was that a husband is running his wife so he can hang onto the presidency. It's likely a factor working against Hillary. Recently in Argentina, a wife did succeed her husband.
After Hillary and Bill, the Clintons don't leave those who are bothered by the threat of a Clinton dynasty much to worry about. Chelsea Clinton wasn't out front campaigning for Mom.
She was always there, standing silently, possibly to discourage any rumors that she was estranged from the family, as some other candidates have had to face. But neither was she firing up audiences as some other offspring have done.
In his excellent book, Adopted Son, the story of the relationship between George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette, historian Dave Clary, of Roswell, notes that the United States was saved from the very real threat of a dynastic takeover by the fact that George Washington had no children.
John Adams, our second president, did have a son, John Quincy Adams, who did become president. But in between the two Adams were Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe, none of whom had sons. That and the fact that both Adams were one-termers, effectively eliminated any threat that dynasties might become a tradition.
Presidents Harrison and Roosevelt, both of whom occurred twice in our history, were related, but not closely enough to pose any dynastic threats. The Kennedys tried. They had money and large families but it didn't work out.
New Mexico is not without its dynastic fears. Most worrisome has been the King family. What a name to build a dynasty around. Bruce King was elected governor three times back in the days when state officials could not immediately succeed themselves.
King's brothers, Sam and Don also held elective office for many years. Son Gary has run for governor twice, Congress once and currently is attorney general. Nephew David (Sam's son) has been state treasurer and currently is on the Public Regulation Commission. Niece Rhonda (Don's daughter) holds the House of Representatives seat that Gary, Don and Bruce all held.
That's three Kings who currently hold public office. All three could go higher, as could Jerry (another of Sam's sons) who has held Sam's old spot on the Moriarty School Board.
That may be a fearsome number of people. But as far as I can tell, they're not bent of ruling New Mexico. They just have politics in their blood.

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