The US is descending into a fiefdom of presidential familiesby AC Grayling / March 26, 2015 / Leave a comment
Published in April 2015 issue of Prospect Magazine
There is a Byzantine list of people you cannot marry, according to rules on consanguinity and affinity. Some make sense—a man cannot marry his grandmother (and now that we have same-sex marriage presumably a woman cannot do so either).But it does not make sense that a woman cannot marry her husband’s sister’s son, or a husband’s mother’s brother, or indeed her father-in-law. Whereas prohibitions against consanguineous marriages make sense, those against affinities by marriage do not. In politics it is the other way round, it seems. Helping relatives to official posts or political advancement is seen as dubious practice at best, nepotism or corruption at worst. But be married to a former President (as is Hillary Clinton), or be both the son and the brother of former presidents (as is Jeb Bush), and not only is there no barrier to running for the presidency but it appears to be an advantage.There are two major signs of a political order becoming corrupt and effete. One is that it manifests infection by lunacy, as in the cases of Roman emperors Caligula and Nero, and the United States Republican Party. The other is that it begins to unravel from a republican order into a dynastic order, when the siblings or offspring of rulers take up the reins of power in succession. No doubt in Saudi Arabia and North Korea the idea that the next President of the US will be a Clinton or a Bush makes unimpeachably good sense. Indeed they must laugh up their sleeves at the absurdity of democratic orders in which power alternates between unrelated people and even—heaven forfend—people of different political opinions, with all the short-termist, electoral-cycle-bound, electability-sensitive forms of feeble and press-hounded government that result.If next year’s US presidential election is between a Bush and a Clinton, the Saudis and North Koreans will think that sense has at last begun to dawn on the benighted Americans. When in 2024 Chelsea Clinton is standing against Noelle Bush (Jeb’s daughter), the Saudis and the North Koreans will start preparing for a coronation in Washington. By that time the US might be ready for its own version of the Wars of the Roses, peace only being attained when a scion of the House of Bush weds a scion of the House of Clinton, unifying the crown.
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