Skip to comments.Duck This Dynasty: Why America doesn’t need another Clinton presidency.
Posted on 05/16/2014 11:38:09 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
Six months: thats how long Democrats have to talk about inequality in America with conviction and, for whatever its worth in politics, consistency. Six months from now marks the midterm elections, the unofficial start of the 2016 presidential campaign and Hillary Clintons long-delayed ride to inevitability.
What does Hillary Clinton have to do with inequality in America? Shes no robber baron, of course. But the core case against inequality isnt about resentment of wealthits about the ways in which the concentration of wealth is making politics increasingly pointless, a game of access and not arguments. Anyone who fears that future should think twice before casting a ballot for a dynastic politician, because dynastic candidates turn politics pointless in essentially the same way. They trade on family capital to make elections less meaningful; they are prone to be inflexible and indifferent to inequality; and they have good reason to be even less accountable to the public than ordinary politicians. Concentrated economic power and concentrated political power are, in the end, two sides of a coin.
The prospect of a dynastic future should be especially disturbing to Democrats like me. Political life tolerates all sorts of little hypocrisies, but some gulfs between what a party wants to sayand whom a party chooses to say itare too wide to be bridged. If we want to talk critically about the concentration of economic power in the United States, if we really believe that the rise and rise of the 1 percent is the signal issue of our time, we have to live by our words when it comes to the concentration of political power. We cant effectively criticize inequality as long as we practice the politics of dynasty. And that means Hillary Clinton cant possibly be our standard bearer in 2016. Leave dynasties to the Republicans and Jeb Bushor whichever other scion of Kennebunkport the GOP wants to throw at us next.
Dynastic politics have a long, and mostly unfortunate, American history; but Democrats, and liberals more broadly, havent yet thought clearly about what it would mean to have a dynastic presidential nominee now, nor about the ways in which familial concentration of economic and political power reinforce one another. Democrats have the opportunity and the obligation to be the party against patrimonialism, the dangerous intertwining of family and power. We can be a forceful party of social equality, or we can have a dynastic nominee. But we cant do both.
Not in a century has so much wealth been concentrated in so few hands; two-thirds of those who were born at both the top and the bottom of the wealth scale will also die there. As the columnist Damon Linker recently put it, America is well on the road to producing a class of self-perpetuating, self-insulating, self-aggrandizing oligarchs. Of course, Americans have traditionally tolerated and even celebrated those oligarchs who could point to their success as earned. Since Thomas Jeffersons time, weve honored what he called the natural aristocracy, the aristocracy of talent that set the New World apart from the Old. But the break has never been as clean as Jefferson dreamed.
In fact, thats a troubling lesson of Thomas Pikettys Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the best-selling book thats redefining the political conversation on both sides of the Atlantic. Pikettys centuries of data show that, across the capitalist world, inherited wealth has historically overwhelmed earned wealth. Because the returns on generations of stored-up wealth generally outpace economic growth, the past tends to devour the future. And because patrimonial wealth is far more concentrated than earned income, the logic of our economy holds a tendency toward spiraling inequalityto the point, he writes, of levels potentially incompatible with the meritocratic values and principles of social justice fundamental to modern democratic societies.
For some three decades, nostalgia for the middle-class, mid-century years has been at the heart of our political language, left and right, but the long view suggests that this is nostalgia for a fast-receding blip, an exception to the rule rather than some American birthright. Its true that the supersalaries of the 1 percentthink of Jamie Dimons $8.5 million raise from JPMorgancurrently play a greater role in driving inequality here than in other Western countries. But todays supersalary is tomorrows estate, particularly when the steady weakening of estate taxesexcuse me, death taxeseases the conversion of earned income into patrimonial wealth. Already, the wealthiest Americans earn the vast majority of their income from capital, not work. And worldwide, inherited capital is on pace to make up a share of total wealth not seen since the 19th century, a trend in which the United States is projected to participate. For ages, the surest routes to economic power were birth and marriage; think of our new century as a recurring dream from which we were certain wed woken up.
Politically speaking, should this bother us? It depends on what we think politics is for. If we think politics is special because (at least ideally) it is one realm in which reasons and arguments matter, in which my case can compete with yours on its merits on any given day, then wealths power to buy influence and access tends empty the meaning right out of politics. Consider this: When the opinions of the most affluent Americans diverge from those of the rest of us, one recent study found, our influence over policy virtually disappears. When the best-off and the majority disagree, the majority consistently loses.
And this is just why the growing power of patrimonial wealth is so troubling. Just maybe, someone whos earned a fortune, whos worked to create tremendous economic value, deserves an outsized voice in our politics. But that case is impossible to make for someone who has come into a fortune through birth or marriage. Patrimonial wealth tends to make politics doubly pointless: It shows us the ugly specter of power that does not have to justify itself, power that just is.
Its not a coincidence, then, that efforts to build democracies and to limit the influence of patrimonial wealth have historically been part of the same projecta virtuous circle, write James A. Robinson and Daron Acemo?lu in their important book on the causes of democratic stability and prosperity, Why Nations Fail. Inclusive political institutions, the two political economy scholars find, create constraints against the exercise and usurpation of power. They also tend to create inclusive economic institutions, which in turn make the continuation of inclusive political institutions more likely. Conversely, shared political power does not survive highly concentrated economic power.
if it looks like we might get another Clinton presidency ....
The few libs in my family aren’t happy about the prospect of a Hillary presidency, but they’re willing to go along with it.
One cousin in particular summed-up his position pretty well: “she’ll be gone in four or eight years, but her court appointees will be there for decades.”
The libs’ political stances may be ill-formed, but they definitely see this as a long game.
no more clintons, no more bushes.
Bill Clinton’s rise to power was a typical political story.
He learned to smile and say whatever someone wanted to hear even if it meant talking out of both sides of his mouth.
He was rewarded for that by positions of power which he curtailed into more wealth than the average political con man
The problem I have with him was what did he choose to do with the power?
The answer is essentially nothing that looks like helping other people.He floated along on a wave of sex and self gratification that is pathetic when looked at in the cold light of day.
I saw nothing in the man but the will to survive and survive at the top of the food chain.
Hillary was closer to Obama in many ways as it is liberal ideology that drives the both of them. But she learned from Bill that survival is about expediency which she clumsily uses to cover up her failings.
Its obvious she deserves nothing for latching hold of a good ticket and holding on for dear life.....but her entire “career” is built on that premise
Most of all she is the wife of a former president and THATS IT!
Wonder what he would say if it were one of the Kennedys running? You know “America’s Royal Family”.
The deceptive predator class of political criminals should be in prison.
How many more Progressive Socialists/Marxists must this country endure?
America’s Libs are like the Chi Coms
ideologically linked at the hip
You got that right, Eric. Thanks for the reminder. BTTT!