Here is an interesting article from the "Lexington" column in the current issue of The Economist.
With the very real possibility that Hillary Rodham Clinton might be elected President of the United States in 2008, a lot of people are starting to take notice that if she does win, then every president who has served since 1989 will have either been a Bush or a Clinton.
An important observation made in the article from The Economist is that "the dynastification of [America's] political life also points to a deeper problem: the fact that America is producing a quasi-hereditary political elite, cocooned in a world of wealth and privilege and utterly divorced from most people's lives."
Not to keep picking on Hillary Clinton, but the sentence I quoted above made me recall her first campaign to represent my state of New York in the United States Senate. The Clintons purchased a house in Chappaqua, in Westchester County north of New York City, to establish their residency in the state. I remember reading, in The New York Times I believe, where she expressed shock at how high the property taxes were in Westchester County. "Thanks for pointing out the obvious!" the rest of us could have told her. But why were astronomical property taxes such a shock to the then First Lady? The answer is simple, from 1983 until the purchase of the house in Chappaqua in 1999, Hillary Clinton lived in either the Governor's Mansion in Little Rock, Arkanas, or the White House in Washington, D.C. She did not have to contend with paying property taxes, electric bills, or a monthly mortgage.
Of course, this does not mean that a politician such as Hillary Rodham Clinton or anyone else from a politically prominent family such as the Bushes or the Kennedys is incapable of understanding the lives and problems of ordinary folks (though one can't help but remember episodes like George Bush Sr. expressing fascination with a barcode scanner when he visited a supermarket during his presidency) or of crafting good policies to help better the lives of low income workers and middle class Americans. Neither should the spouse or relative of an elected official have their background used against them if they can demonstrate that they are qualified and competent candidates.
Still, I don't believe it is a healthy thing for political life in America to be increasingly dominated by a handful of political families. One need only read this article on the BBC website about how many powerful families in the Philippines often obtain a lock on provincial elected offices and the violence that can stem from it. The article closes with the BBC correspondent asking a Filipino worker how he feels about the same families dominating the provincial government of Masbate province for so many generations. "What can we do?" he tells the correspondent, "No-one else but the big families will run because no-one else has enough money."