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.