Widgets Magazine


Not another Clinton, not another Bush

“Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.”

So sang Roger Daltry in The Who’s classic “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” which decried the futility of political change. The USA seems to be taking this sentiment a bit too literally as the 2016 election cycle approaches: Two of the presidential front-runners, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, hail from powerful families that have dominated the political landscape since the 1980s.

Clinton is, according to most polls, the clear favorite to win the Democratic nomination. This apparent inevitability was the subject of a New Yorker cartoon, in which Hillary was depicted as a giant surrounded by diminutive political adversaries. Bush enjoys no such frontrunner status, but polls have him within the top tier of Republican candidates. Former President George W. Bush praised his brother’s leadership skills in a recent interview, and said that he was “all in” if Jeb were to run. This all adds up to a very real possibility that our next president will be named Clinton or Bush.

That is a very bad thing.

What would it mean if Hillary or Jeb were to win the White House? In the case of a two-term presidency, it would mean 44 years of nearly uninterrupted Bush-Clinton political hegemony. George H. W. Bush became Vice President in 1981. Since then, a Bush or a Clinton was President or Vice President until 2008.  In the past few years, between Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, George P. Bush’s high-profile entry into the conservative political scene and the former Presidents’ elder statesman roles, the families have continued to exert disproportionate influence. That kind of stranglehold on power is usually only seen in countries with less stable (or nonexistent) democracies, like India and the Philippines.

Political dynasties should make Americans uncomfortable because they undermine the idea that this country is a meritocracy. Children are often told when they are young that, with hard work and some luck, they could run the country some day. At a certain point, even a child has to begin questioning that sentiment. There are more than 300 million people in America. Why are all the leaders coming from the same two families? A recent op-ed, with tongue only partly in-cheek, took the view that the United States is actually a monarchy: “There’s the King, the Queen, and the peasants. Only a few have access to the political pot of gold. Its all in the name.”

The Clinton and Bush camps are both trying to combat the notion that their political capital has been anything less than fairly earned. George W. Bush, in reference to Jeb’s potential candidacy, declared: “I think you have to earn your way into politics. I don’t think anything is ever given to you.” The idea that Jeb Bush has had nothing handed to him throughout his political ascendancy is laughable. He was educated at Phillips Academy, an elite boarding school with hundreds of famous alumni. His earliest political experience was working on one of his father’s campaigns. Perhaps most importantly, Jeb’s status as a Bush gave him the kind of name recognition which political observers recognize as crucial to winning campaigns.

The notion that Hillary Clinton has earned her way in politics holds more water. Her career prior to being First Lady is littered with impressive accomplishments: She was president of the Wellesley Young Republicans, graduated from Yale Law School, was a member of the impeachment inquiry staff during the Watergate Scandal and worked as a lawyer in Little Rock, Arkansas.

However, it was Hillary’s tenure as First Lady that launched her political career and made her a household name. Her work on the 1993 health care initiative, which allowed her to showcase her leadership skills and legislative acumen, came about because she was appointed to the position by the sitting President, whose name was also Clinton. Add to that the connections, fundraising network and name recognition that Bill Clinton’s presidency made possible, and it becomes clear that Hillary Clinton’s campaign momentum is at least partially derived from the political dynasty to which she belongs.

Some pundits will say that it does not matter if presidential candidates are part of a dynasty as long as they are the most qualified for the job. This argument is nonsense. Familial control of the American government is damaging to our democracy, no matter how accomplished or talented the members of those families are. By allowing ourselves to be ruled by so few elites, we undermine the notion that the American government is of the people, by the people and for the people. With trust in the government at an all time low, now is not the time to elect the same old names.

Support a new candidate in 2016. Let’s not get fooled again.

About Joel Gottsegen

Joel Gottsegen '15 is an opinions columnist for the Stanford Daily. He studies computer science, with a focus on artificial intelligence. He writes short stories sometimes but doesn't show them to anyone. He writes songs sometimes and incessantly shows them to everyone. Joel thinks that despite his country's increasing polarization, it is still possible to have reasonable political discussion. You can reach him at joeligy@stanford.edu.
  • 99rider

    Hillery is a Clinton by marriage where as Bush is Bush by birth. Cons are pushing the argument that she would be a dynasty, but only Cons are listening, but who knows our media for idiots will probably bite. Either way, stupidity seems to be the rule of the day.

  • MarkMarkarian

    Hillary is a Clinton, Jeb is a Bush. Period.

  • rockytwyman

    world coming to an end soon. the Spirit of God is being withdrawn from this earth as we speak. all political system is broken. everybody read the great controversy by Ellen White on line. we are at the end of time. there could be a major earthquake that would destroy you all campus at any time may God have mercy on us all as we near the end of time. we must pray like never before

  • Brian Harvill

    The author is dreams ng of an america that is long dead. The nation is not a meritocracy, its about money pure and simple. Especially in the days of citizens united…
    Even if this were a meritocracy, who’s to say that Clinton and/or Bush don’t deserve their turn? Simply because of their name they should be discredited or ineligible for candidacy?
    I am no fan of the Bush brand and certainly favor Hillary in 2016, yet that choice is based on more than their name.. its because of her politics.

  • Candid One

    JG, are you an only child? Surname is hardly a indication of cloning. Bush-43 was not the same as Bush-41, the brocolli notwithstanding. The family legend is that Jeb is the smart one. Uh-huh. No, I didn’t vote for any of them.

    As for your surname linkage for bridging marital bonds…have you ever been married? Among the college educated, intelligence is often similar in a marriage but that’s hardly a basis for support of your thesis. Artificial intelligence is still less complicated than the real thing.

  • Candid One

    Hillary is a Rodham.

  • Hillz

    Hillary Clinton is the only shot Democrats have at winning a third consecutive term in the White House. Elizabeth Warren may be a progressive’s dream, but she’s not going to win a general election. Hillary, far more than Jeb Bush, has charted her own path and proven her own worth as a candidate. It isn’t fair to equate her with a family political dynasty like the Bushes–she was not born into it, she married into it and worked her way from it to define her own character and record.

  • Jesus


  • Bob

    People being from the same family ≠ same person. I don’t understand why people get caught up in this populist demagoguery of “No dynasties.” It’s clearly NOT a dynasty if they have to get elected in a democratic vote each time. Why should having one’s parent or spouse have a position disqualify one from seeking that office? That seems unfair to Jeb and Hillary as individuals. The United States is fundamentally based on individualism, not families. Just because two presidents have the same last name does not mean that that the family “controls” the White House.

    Americans should vote for the most qualified person for office, regardless of their last name. If you want to make the case against voting for Jeb or Hillary, do so on the basis of their track records and their policies, not something arbitrary like their last names.

  • Caitie Karasik

    I see your point about dynastic power, but I disagree that the benefits of refusing “to be ruled by so few elites” outweigh the benefits of having a presidential candidate, given the current political climate, who is the most qualified. Sure, a government restricted to the few is not indicative of our national principles, but I’m not sure that this idea merits rejecting a Clinton or Bush candidacy. For me, this restricted power may be dysfunctional, but really is more symptomatic of inequality than it is causing inequality. Certainly something to think about either way!

  • Nukeman

    Nice job of totally ignoring the Obama years, as it should be.

  • Nukeman

    Please elaborate on Ms. Clinton’s record. What has she accomplished?


    She hid emails, lied about Benghazi, she lied about being under sniper fire, whitewater, etc.,etc, etc…she is a crook and a liar


    A vote for either Clinton or Bush keeps the agenda on path, why do you think the mainstream media loves these two worthless scumbags….Wake up and quit drinking the mainstream media’s kool-aid and vote for an individual not supported by the machine……

  • no mas bush no mas clinton