Tuesday, June 03, 2014

American Presidential Dynasties

With the possibility of a Hillary Clinton-Jeb Bush presidential campaign in 2016, people are talking about political dynasties in our supposedly democratic nation. The truth is that, by and large, American dynasties have been pretty much failures. My criteria two family members elected president. So, no Kennedys.

The Bush Family
In addition to the two President Bushes, this family has Prescott Bush who was so distraught at the election of Franklin Roosevelt that he tried to organize a "cocktail putsch" in 1933 and impose a fascist military dictatorship. Nothing much came of it, no one was arrested, but Prescott saw his bank seized by the government in 1942 for its financial dealings with the Nazis.

George Bush Senior got to the top the old fashioned way, he inherited it from the sainted Ronald Reagan. In four short years he took the Reagan Revolution and a successful Iraq War and turned it into the worst result for a president seeking reelection since William Taft, getting just 37.5% of the vote.

George Bush Junior probably stole the presidency in 2000 when the Supreme Court ordered a stop to the vote count and gave him the office. When he left office he was thoroughly hated by both left and right. He has been reduced to painting childish art.

The Adams Family
Sorry, wrong picture.
John Adams was a founding father and helped pen the Declaration of Independence. Elected to succeed the sainted George Washington, John grew to hate the open debate of democracy and signed the Sedition Act that outlawed criticizing the government and used it to throw some members of Congress into jail. He ended up losing his reelection to Thomas Jefferson.

Son John Quincy Adams was the sixth president but he stole it from Andrew Jackson in the House of Representatives even though Jackson won both the popular vote and a plurality but not majority of the electoral votes. Like his father, Quincy was a one-term president.

The Roosevelt Family
The only successful family in US dynastic history. Teddy was popular while in office but was not Republican enough for the party when he tried to replace William Taft as the Republican nominee in 1912. Still, Teddy ran as a third party candidate and nearly pulled off a victory.

Franklin was Teddy's fifth cousin, but family is family. He was so popular he won election four times. Effectively, FDR was his own dynasty. Between them, Roosevelts controlled the White House for almost 20 years.

The Harrison Family
The most pathetic dynasty on the list. William Henry won the election of 1840. Famous for killing Native Americans in the Indian Wars of 1811 and not much of anything else, he still won. At the age of 68, he delivered a two hour inaugural address in a driving rainstorm and caught his death of cold. Literally. His cold turned to pneumonia and he died exactly one month later.

Benjamin Harrison was William Henry's grandson. He beat incumbent Grover Cleveland (trivia: the city of Cleveland was named after a distant relative of Grover's) in 1888. Benjamin's signature accomplishment was greatly increasing the tariffs on imported goods, which was the 19th century equivalent of a massive tax hike. After one term, he was unpopular even within his own party and was defeated by the man he had beat earlier, Grover Cleveland. This dynasty manged to rule for just four years and one month.


Katy Anders said...

This was a fantastic overview of the Presidential families.

I don't see any upside to another Bush or Clinton.

Although, hell, we already have the same guys behind the scenes pulling the strings every time their party goes up to bat. How many consecutive Republican Administrations have Cheney and Rumsfeld been part of?

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