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Bush vs. Clinton race? A ‘merger between political and economic power’

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush addressing the Wall Street Journal CEO Council on Dec. 1.

Jeb Bush has gone, in the matter of the time it took for him to tweet his weird oh-so-21st-century announcement that he would be seriously “exploring” a 2016 presidential candidacy, from a guy whose wife might really keep him home to the status of front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Of course, the evanescent status of frontrunner doesn’t always last, as the Republicans demonstrated multiple times in 2012 before eventually making their way back to the original front-runner, Mitt Romney.

Hillary Clinton seems to have a hold of the most dominant frontrunnership of any non-incumbent in history. We’ll see how that turns out. But get used to various observers observing that, while we have had “legacy” candidates before, we’ve never had both major parties each nominate for president in the same cycle someone closely related by blood or marriage to someone who has already been president.

This thought will be coming up a lot, sometimes as a wisecrack or a curiosity, but often as a feature of a democracy that has lost its way. Writing for The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald portrays the new fact as seriously troubling, thus:

Having someone who is the brother of one former president and the son of another run against the wife of still another former president would be sweetly illustrative of all sorts of degraded and illusory aspects of American life, from meritocracy to class mobility. That one of those two families exploited its vast wealth to obtain political power, while the other exploited its political power to obtain vast wealth, makes it more illustrative still: of the virtually complete merger between political and economic power, of the fundamentally oligarchical framework that drives American political life.

Then there are their similar constituencies: what Politico termed “money men” instantly celebrated Jeb Bush’s likely candidacy, while the same publication noted just last month how Wall Street has long been unable to contain its collective glee over a likely Hillary Clinton presidency. The two ruling families have, unsurprisingly, developed a movingly warm relationship befitting their position: the matriarch of the Bush family (former First Lady Barbara) has described the Clinton patriarch (former President Bill) as a virtual family member, noting that her son, George W., affectionately calls his predecessor “my brother by another mother.”

If this happens, the 2016 election would vividly underscore how the American political class functions: by dynasty, plutocracy, fundamental alignment of interests masquerading as deep ideological divisions, and political power translating into vast private wealth and back again. The educative value would be undeniable: somewhat like how the torture report did, it would rub everyone’s noses in exactly those truths they are most eager to avoid acknowledging.

Greenwald’s point is a serious one. Barack Obama was not born to wealth or status. But Mitt Romney was, so was John McCain, John Kerry, George W. Bush, Al Gore and the first President Bush.

Comments (16)

  1. Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 12/18/2014 - 08:47 am.

    It takes money to move in those circles . . . .

    And it continues to take increasing amounts of money to reach and sustain those rarified heights (which is going to be exacerbated by recent campaign finance limit changes in the year-end omnibus bill).

    The number of people who can and do move in those circles is small and will probably keep getting smaller. Where everyone knows everyone and a kind of “inbreeding” sets in.

    We’re well on our way to establishing an American version of royalty. I can’t imagine the Founding Fathers would be very pleased with this turn of events.

    (BTW, from the Greenwald passage above “one of those two families exploited its vast wealth to obtain political power, while the other exploited its political power to obtain vast wealth”. Brilliant!)

  2. Submitted by Kurt Anderson on 12/18/2014 - 09:17 am.

    Hear hear !!

    Because MinnPost tells me that a “Comment field is required”

    Hear hear !!

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/18/2014 - 09:52 am.


    it befits an increasingly imperial state that we are now looking – and sadly, not with horror – at not just aristocracy in the form of the 1%, which is bad enough, but at the creation of dynasties. Should these front-runners continue in that role, November, 2016 will feature a tweedle-dum/tweedle-dee presidential race in which neither candidate (and quite possibly neither political party at the national level) will represent the interests of the majority of citizens.

    Our experiment with democracy, already on increasingly-thin ice, may well drown in a sea of campaign money.

  4. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/18/2014 - 09:53 am.

    It’s a question of -which-

    big money aggregates are backing the respective candidates.
    There’s big money on both sides (at some point down the road all candidates need it), but not necessarily -the same- big money with the same vested interests.

  5. Submitted by Doug Gray on 12/18/2014 - 10:15 am.

    Meet the new big money with vested interests, same as the old big money with vested interests. Jenna Bush and/or Chelsea Clinton 2040!

  6. Submitted by Ross Willits on 12/18/2014 - 11:15 am.

    Since 1980…

    There has been a Bush or Clinton running for president or VP every election since 1980 except 2012.

    1988–GHW Bush
    1992–GHW Bush/ WJ Clinton
    2000–GW Bush
    2004– GW Bush
    2008– Hillary Clinton (didn’t get nomination, but got close)

    I think it’s time for more Clintons & Bushes in 2016. It’s their turn.

  7. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/18/2014 - 11:31 am.

    Hillary gave him cover

    Jeb Bush can now run without having to answer to the “legacy” question because Hillary takes that issue off the table.

    But I don’t know any conservatives who will vote for him in the primaries, so there’s that.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/18/2014 - 02:40 pm.

      That means

      that he’ll easily get the nomination.
      Your definition of conservatives are a minority even in the Republican party elite, who still would like to win an election sometime during their lifetime.

  8. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 12/18/2014 - 11:41 am.

    Here come the royalty? wow.

    Whatever way you view it wrapped in their royal vestments and investments, Bush and Clinton are a picture of ‘exceptionalism’ exposed in all its superficiality… which is no choice at all.

    Read a piece by Pepe Escobar over at Asia Times; a genius of news and critique of same

    …and does remind one of the diplomatic trips not too long ago where Hilary pretty much destroyed our credibility as a diplomatic messenger by playing Mary Poppins in her meetings with Russia and China

    …talking down is not the way to go. Yes being firm on our foreign policy is one thing, but treating others as if she were patronizing China and Russia’s leaders like pushing them around in a perambulator?

    Not great for a diplomatic figure talking down; not the way to go…leaves us out in the cold as some others now see us as the “empire of chaos”?

    At least we have time and space to create a better field of candidates with a little more dignity in their foreign policy attitudes, eh…stripped of their royal pursuits?

    I may be stretching a bit here but Pepe E makes one powerful assessment whether you agree or disagree whatever…

  9. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 12/18/2014 - 03:54 pm.

    Clinton and Bush

    I saw someone on Twitter say something like ‘If we could just get a Bush to marry a Clinton, we could stop having elections all together’.

    I get the concerns about money, but let’s remember that it’s actually votes that count. There has been pushback on the GOP side about the prospect of Jeb Bush. The Hillary! campaign doesn’t have to be a coronation. If the family dynasty angle is too awful, go in a different direction.

  10. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 12/18/2014 - 07:12 pm.


    A good point here is that Obama was not born to power or money and still became a president over all those with money and power – so the democratic system works! Except, of course, it would have been better for the country if he lost to those with money and power (and I don’t mean Hillary). Having money and being a part of the political dynasty should not disqualify anyone from running for a public office – how many Kennedys did we have? Re-electing the same guy or gal to that public office just because he or she brings more pork to his voters is much worse…

    Mr. Brandon, you usually say that Republican party is so conservative that it lost touch and has no real points to make… and now you saying that conservatives are a minority there?

  11. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/18/2014 - 07:42 pm.

    But -which- votes?

    Remember President Gore.

    • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 12/19/2014 - 08:13 am.

      You mean Losing Presidential Candidate Gore?

      The one who would have failed under any fair recount?

      And my larger point stands. If voters in either party think that the dynastic family thing is a problem (and I do), they can go a different route. Jeb Bush starts out with a tremendous disadvantage based almost solely on his name. I’d be shocked if he winds up as the nominee.
      Dems can choose someone else, can’t they? I know that Hillary has a huge advantage in early polls but that’s almost all name recognition. I can’t imagine that many people have sat down and made policy comparisons between her and, say, Elizabeth Warren.
      As to the comment about the thin Dem bench, yeah, it seems thin to me too. But I can’t imagine that I’d be voting for one of them anyway so my opinion is certainly skewed. If some of the reliable Dem voter commenters here want to make the pitch for other candidates, I’d certainly be interested to hear who else is out there.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/19/2014 - 09:48 am.

        First of all

        Bush did not receive a plurality of votes nationally; Gore did.
        Bush won only in the electoral college.
        Second, that rather rambling Beast article at best said that there are conceivable circumstances under which Gore loses Florida (I don’t believe that a statewide recount or revote was one of them).
        It glosses over the unprecedented action of the Supreme Court overruling a State court (before it had made a final decision) in regard to an election (see the Constitution on the States’ role in elections).

        As for ‘dynasties’, that’s for the American voters to decide.
        Noting in the Constitution forbids it.
        A Bush or a Clinton would have to win an election; they would not be handed the office by right of birth as in a hereditary monarchy.

        • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 12/19/2014 - 12:44 pm.


          By 7-2 the Supreme Court decided that the (all Democratic) Florida Supreme Court couldn’t decide to simply do a recount on the counties that the Gore team thought would benefit them most. They decided that was an equal protection violation and really, who could disagree with that?
          And yes, after months of looking at ballots, it seems a way was found that would have given Gore the most votes in Florida. Anyone care to guess why such a method isn’t workable in the ten weeks between a general election and inauguration? As Mcardle says in the article, we decide on the rules ahead of time because changing them afterwards is inherently unfair.
          As to the popular vote vs electoral college, it’s really tough to tell what would have happened differently if the 2000 election was run with the popular vote winner taking the presidency. Voting totals would have changed in all of the ‘safe’ states. I don’t have any guesses as to the outcome. In any case, the election wasn’t run under those rules so the point is moo.

          I think we’re saying the same thing about dynasties. The voters have the right to create them and the people (like myself) who don’t like them, are free to argue against them.

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