Saturday, December 06, 2008

Dynasty: The Kennedys

Now, Edward Kennedy may pass the torch to Caroline Kennedy. Who next, David Eisenhower? I cannot believe my eyes. But Robert Kennedy Jr. may have popped the bubble with this:
Robert Kennedy said his extended family would come out en masse for her if she does get the appointment and has to run for election in 2010.

"If she runs, you will see more Kennedys than you have ever seen in your life," he said.
It’s at least as bad as Bill Clinton’s’ two for the price of one. But maybe I underestimate the Americans’ love of royalty and court intrigue.


Jan Moren said...

Let's see, what generation career politician/daimyo is Mr. Aso? Fukuda? Abe? Koizumi? Methinks the US isn't the only country with a penchant for the trappings of nobility.

Jun Okumura said...

Janne: I’ve presented Japan’s case often enough on this blog. No, this post is strictly about the United States with its well-documented American fascination with royalty, European royalty actually, and its home-grown pseudo-royalty. It has continued to baffle me given its foundation on the basis of then-revolutionary republican principles—George Washington explicitly rejected kingship—and Talleyrand remarked on the egalitarian inclinations of its people. It is particularly striking in this case, given the stage and the actors. For here they are in New York, the most cosmopolitan and multiethnic of states, and the prime candidates—if, perhaps, only in eyes the media— to replace a Clinton are a Kennedy and a Cuomo. And Robert Kennedy, Jr. the son of one of the Kennedy senators, is telling the public that the Kennedy clan is going to the mats for her. At least the two are New Yorkers, unlike Robert Kennedy’s father, and Hillary Clinton when they chose a New York Senate seat to launch their elective careers.

The dynastic impulse is deeply embedded in the human psyche. Ross and I once discussed this in the Japanese context—the heirloom Diet members. He suggested that it is rooted in the social need for stability. There are the practical demands of maintaining the status quo that he referred to; my guess is that we have evolved the emotional tendencies that support this.

Jan Moren said...

Yes, sorry; I realized just after posting my comment that you naturally were fully aware of the parallel.

Anyway, I got to wonder why most European countries I know of don't have dynastic politics to nearly the same degree. There is a bit of course due to the simple mechanism of people going into the same profession as their parents, and people meeting their partners on the job. But I can't think of any example of a third-generation professional politician there.

I did consider that the existence of royalty works as a safety valve or diversion of sorts, where people can dote on them as symbols of continuity. But then, Japan has a royal family as continuous as they come and that doesn't seem to have helped here.

Jun Okumura said...

Janne: As you can see, I've responded to your comment with a separate post.