Quote of the Day: Nepotistic succession in the political class

>> Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Senate alone -- to say nothing of the House -- is literally filled with people whose fathers or other close relatives previously held their seat or similar high office (those links identify at least 15 current U.S. Senators -- 15 -- with immediate family members who previously occupied high elected office). And, of course, the current President on his way out was the son of a former President and grandson of a former U.S. Senator.
Isn't this all a bit much? It's true that our political/media class in general is intensely incestuous and nepotistic. Virtually the entire neoconservative "intelligentsia" (using that term as loosely as it can possibly be used) is one big paean to nepotistic succession -- the Kristols, the Kagans, the Podhoretzes, Lucinanne Goldberg and her boy. Upon Tim Russert's death, NBC News excitedly hired his son, Luke. Mike Wallace's son hosts Fox's Sunday show. The most influential political opinion space in the country, The New York Times Op-Ed page, is, like the Times itself, teeming with family successions and connections. Inter-marriages between and among media stars and political figures -- and lobbyists, operatives and powerful political officials -- are now more common than arranged royal marriages were among 16th Century European monarchs.

But this fixation on parent-child, sibling and spousal succession for elected office is particularly problematic. It's certainly true that one can find, in individual cases, instances of self-sufficiency and merit even among those benefiting from nepotism and family names. But the fact that it is now so commonplace -- almost presumptively expected -- for political power to be passed along to close family members is quite anti-democratic. The number of families possessing some sort of aristocratic-like claim to elected office is clearly increasing. By definition, that diminishes the role of merit and the need for democratic persuasion in how elected leaders are chosen. And this dynamic, in turn, fuels how insular, incestuous, unaccountable and bloated with entitlement the Beltway culture is.

Glenn Greenwald; December 3, 2008

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