Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Perhaps we should do away with voting altogether and just annoint some princesses and princes?

Much has been made of Ruth Marcus's recent column advocating the appointment of Caroline Kennedy to the US Senate, and especially to her gushing endorsement of Kennedy mostly due to the "fairytale-like" quality that such an appointment would have. I doubt Miss Marcus was expecting quite the outpouring of disdain when she penned the column, but ever last drop of ink, every last pixel of it is true. We shouldn't be foisting dynastic politics on Americans. We've seen plenty of the Clinton's, the Bush's, and quite frankly, the Kennedy's, too.

I was talking with my wife about the appointments Obama has made thus far, and while we both agree that the choice of experienced people is a good thing, a wise move in general, we're also both a little perturbed by the Clintonian shape this administration is taking. Another Kennedy in the Senate, maybe Jeb Bush too? Jesse Jackson Jr.?

Daniel Larison has these words of wisdom:
Many Palin critics mocked her selection as something out of a cheesy Disney movie; Caroline Kennedy’s advocate in Ruth Marcus is openly declaring her desire to have Enchanted performed in the Senate.
Now this made me laugh (I thought Enchanted was excellent, by the way) but isn't it true? And on that note, have we begun electing mere caricatures? Palin the down-home mom's mom from Alaska; Kennedy the princess; Obama the savior; McCain the soldier....perhaps we've been doing this all along, I'm not sure. I've only been voting this century, really.

Well let's read a bit of Marcus's post:
What really draws me to the notion of Caroline as senator, though, is the modern-fairy-tale quality of it all. Like many women my age -- I'm a few months younger than she -- Caroline has always been part of my consciousness: The lucky little girl with a pony and an impossibly handsome father. The stoic little girl holding her mother's hand at her father's funeral. The sheltered girl, whisked away from a still-grieving country by a mother trying to shield her from prying eye.
How romantic.

Ross responds quite aptly:
This is, of course, a pretty good distillation of the case against dynastic politics: Namely, that it transforms the business of republican self-government into a soap opera, in which the public/audience thrills to the "intriguing subplots" involving a President's daughter, a President's wife, and a Governor's son who happens to be the President's daughter's sister's ex-husband ... and sighs, enraptured, at the "fairy tale ending" when the President's daughter grows up to have a Senate seat handed to her as a reward for having endorsed the President-elect.
Now, admittedly, this would be less aggravating if it were simply a call for Caroline Kennedy to run for the US Senate. One can choke down dynastic politics if they also happen to be the will of the electorate. When discussing appointments however, meted out by Governors, to one of the most important political positions in the country, one cannot merely shudder and write it off as silly. Thankfully such minds as Douthat's and Larison's and many others are working hard to cast this as the dangerous societal tendency it seems to be becoming.

It's not "girly", writes Douthat of Marcus's moment of self-deprecation, it's an embarrassment.


Roland Dodds said...

The Kennedy cult and the myths that surround them in the Democratic Party needs to promptly expire. Watching well to do liberals lionize a family of rich folks who have worked endlessly towards their own public mystic is a disgusting thing. I have little to no respect for what’s left of the Kennedy household; its likely going to plummet further as this new generation swindles the country into putting them in office.

If she wants the office, let her run for it.

E.D. Kain said...

Exactly, Roland. Let her run like everyone else. Until we formally adopt a monarchical system of government, than we would do well to not appoint people as though they were noblemen (and women).

Re: the Kennedy lionization, do you think it would be the case if the family were less attractive? I mean, I can hardly understand the mythos, and so I'm chalking it up to pure vapidity....

Roland Dodds said...

If they were less attractive, they surely wouldn’t be where they are now. JFK would not have been elected to begin with, and the mythos would not have started.

But the strongest part of their myth is the ‘sacrifice for country’ angle. Since both Bobby and President Kennedy were assassinated, there is this lingering feeling among their supporters that if they had lived, the world would be a better place. I am skeptical of that assessment, but it surely helps in keeping the family elected.

E.D. Kain said...

Good point. One might think that Ted Kennedy would disprove this suspicion, but such is not the case.

Interesting that we have this vision of Camelot, when LBJ described it rather differently as Murder Inc.

JoefromRhody said...

You are 100% correct. In R.I. we have a Kennedy as a US Rep. -Patrick Kennedy (Ted's son) was elected representative after doing, well nothing. He has done nothing significant as a Rep but has been caught in some scandals (minor assualt at an airport, driving under the influence of drugs and crashing at the capitol, etc.) Once after a few too many, he was quoted as saying "I haven't had a real F@%*& job in my life". He wins with about 70% of the vote. Why? I think we all know why. If his name was Patrick Smith he would probably actually have to get a real job.