The PJ Tatler

No More Bushes, No More Clintons

Glad to see the Financial Times agreeing with me:

In its early days, the United States was beset by rumours about plots to install a monarchy. Thankfully, in George Washington it had a president who understood the power of precedent. He removed his general’s uniform and gave up power after two terms. Thus was sealed the world’s most enduring republic. More than 200 years later, the US is bracing for the most dynastic contest in its history. The chances that either Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush will become its 45th president are high. The country’s elections are far more democratic than in Washington’s day. But there are grounds to worry that America is becoming less of a republic…

Yet there is something profoundly disturbing about the prospect of another Clinton or Bush presidency. Should either win in 2016, then by the time he or she completed their second term, the US would have had a Bush or a Clinton in the White House for 36 of the previous 44 years. There are inbred autocracies with richer blood circulation than this. Nor would that necessarily be the end of the Bush-Clinton story. Chelsea Clinton has consistently refused to rule out running for elected office. In recent years she has taken an increasingly high-profile role at the family’s philanthropic organisation, the Clinton Foundation . Bright though she clearly is, it is hard to believe she was picked on merit. In an age driven by philanthrocapitalism, Chelsea has inherited a starring role.

The Bush story is multi-generational. Jeb Bush’s son, George Prescott Bush, 38, was elected in 2014 as Texas land commissioner — a state wide position that is a springboard for higher office. He takes his middle name from his great-grandfather, who was a US senator. He takes his first name from his grandfather and uncle, who were both US presidents. A couple of weeks ago, George P’s grandmother, Barbara Bush, 89, shed her apparent reluctance to see yet another Bush in the White House: “Our problems are so profound that America needs a leader who can renew the promise of this great nation,” she wrote in a mass email. The former first lady concluded by saying she was launching a financing vehicle called the “Run Jeb Run fund”. It is hard to imagine this happening in another democracy…

But here is the thing. At a time of rising inequality — and in an era where the rich tend to be hard working — those who do well in today’s US tend to be the offspring of those who do well on merit. They are given every educational advantage. US society is taking on the character of a hereditary meritocracy. It is far preferable to the indolent aristocracy so rightly abhorred in Washington’s day. But in one respect it is more insidious. Those who believe they have succeeded on merit alone are often free of self-doubt. This can blind them to the perceptions of others. If 2016 is indeed to be a Clinton-Bush contest, we should expect a low turnout.

Neither Hillary Clinton, who has accomplished exactly nothing in her life other than to somehow manage to stay married to Bill Clinton, nor Jeb Bush, whose familial act is already wearing its welcome — and who both, in any case, are charter members of the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party — should ever be president.