On the Record

Political Dynasties

Stephen Hess

Melinda Penkava, host: This is Talk of the Nation. I’m Melinda Penkava in

Washington sitting in for Neal Conan.

Two years ago, our presidential race, in the eyes of

some, was a battle between George II and Albert II. In

George Bush and Al Gore, the nation had a choice between

the sons of two prominent fathers who had been in

politics before them. But dynastic politics is not new

in this country. Consider our second president, John

Adams, and his son John Quincy Adams, who became our

sixth president. Then there was Benjamin Harrison,

president number 23, who was the grandson of our ninth

president, William Harrison. And there were the Tafts of

Ohio, the Browns of California, the Longs of Louisiana,

and perhaps the most dynastic, the Roosevelts and the

Kennedys.

For some, this idea of dynasties rather smacks of

entitlement based on who your people are and not

necessarily on the younger candidate’s own record. But

Author

while political dynasties have been with us from almost

the start, critics say that some of the legacy

candidates running for office, including George Bush and

Al Gore, would never have been taken seriously if they

had different last names. And, of course, it is no

guarantee of success, as Andrew Cuomo’s failed attempt

at running for governor in New York state recently

showed. This hour, we’re going to talk about the many

families that represent political dynasties in the US,

including those who are running in next week’s midterm

elections. We’ll look at what are the benefits to the

candidate and to the country and what is the downside?

Does your state have a dynastic political family, and

how do you feel about them? Do political dynasties

strengthen democracy or weaken us? Call us with your

comments and questions. Our number here in Washington is

1 (800) 989-8255. That is 1 (800) 989-TALK. The e-mail

address is totn@npr.org.

And with us here in the studio is Stephen Hess, who is

author of “America’s Political Dynasties” and a senior

fellow at The Brookings Institution. Welcome…

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