Is America's political 'nobility' undemocratic?Kennedys, Bushes, Rockefellers demonstrate genetic popularity and power.
If you will read this article, you might get a sense of the frustration I hear from others about how our “democratic” government is growing increasingly “un-democratic”. Like Robin Leach’s show, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”, our government is becoming a celebrity haven and a “good ole’ boys club”. Our politicians have long since stopped asking what they might do for their country, but what the country might do for them. They worry more about spotlights and footlights than they do about fixing stoplights and closing tax loopholes. They would rather be television stars and headline grabbers than work as soldiers in the trenches of everyday life and spend any energy combating the woes of poverty and inequality. Busting a union for ideological sensationalism is more important than busting a drug cartel. Getting face time on Meet the Press and receiving a celebrity endorsement is more important than face time on the street with Joe the Real Plumber or taking a stand against wanton government waste that takes funds away from entitlement programs for the poor and/or unemployed.
If you consider only the fact that the RNC spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on clothing, hair stylings and make-up for Sarah Palin, it tells us about how easily Americans are distracted by the glamorousness, flash and pizzazz of runway status. Politicos are learning what India’s Bollywood learned years ago: get something on the silver screen with name-brand recognition and nice clothes, and it will sell…and turn a profit.
We have come to elect “leaders” for their spectacular smiles and familial ties rather than for their talent, insight, and leadership abilities, or any sense for philanthropy. Bush wants to leave a legacy for Jeb, Nancy Reagan wanted to be the Queen of the United States (until we just said no to both her and her drug slogans), we have an entire cadre of “Clintonistas” and now we have Caroline Kennedy, about to be named (crowned?) the Princess of New York, the belle of the Ball and perhaps next contender for Female Ruler of the Universe. We have gone from, “Here I am. I’m qualified to represent you, elect me, please”, to “HI there! I am a famous son, daughter, nephew or cousin of a noble member of an aristocratic American clan that comes from old money (and I’d like to be a movie star), so vote for me and you will get goosebumps when I speak to Fox News”. Sick. Disturbing. Disheartening. Disgusting.
The humorist Andy Borowitz gave it this spin, this morning:
Caroline Kennedy Asks to be Time’s Person of the Year
Places Phone Call to Magazine’s Editor
Caroline Kennedy would like to be considered Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2009 and has let the magazine's editor know of her interest in the honor, aides to Ms. Kennedy confirmed today.
While some observers considered Ms. Kennedy's bid to be premature, especially since 2009 has not officially begun, aides to the New York senatorial aspirant said that it reflected her view that 2009 will be a very big year for her.
"I think Caroline's calling Time magazine and asking to be put on the cover shows just what a tireless worker she is," said cousin Kerry Kennedy. "When she really wants something, she's not afraid to roll up her sleeves and make a phone call."
Her cousin said that having witnessed Caroline's work ethic, she has no doubt that she is deserving of Time's highest honor: "I can't tell you how many times she's gotten the wrong number, been put on hold, or had calls dropped altogether."
In addition to the Person of the Year honors, Kerry Kennedy said that Caroline had also expressed an interest in next year's Nobel Peace Prize.
"That's a call she hasn't made yet," Ms. Kennedy said. "She has to figure out the time difference in Oslo."
Silly of course, and nonsensical, but frighteningly too close to the reality of American politics.
I suggest that our next election cycle feature on the names of people we have never heard of before: No Bushes, no shrubs, No Clintons or “istas”, no Reagans or Rockefellers, no Goldmans and no Sachs. No Wall Streeters or Fleet Streeters, and no first cousins twice removed of Billy Bob whoever he is. Not even any Washingtons or Jeffersons, or any Hillary William Jeffersons. Enough.
We need to elect some people who speak FOR us and not in spite of us. We need to elect people who will be eager to serve in stead of be served. We need to elect people that are in for the duration and not the adoration. Let’s skip the Edward’s haircuts and the Biden suits and the Charlton Heston bravado and elect John Jones Smith. Let’s elect Maggie Elizabeth Everyman or Elmer Foxworthy instead of Nigel Newsworthy. Let’s elect someone like me, with bad teeth and a crooked smile (no, not that Cheney smirk).
It is time to elect the guy next door, the guy nobody has ever heard of, but the guy (or gal) who is pissed off about potholes and poobahs, doesn’t have a secret stash of oil money in an account off-shore, only has one old car that needs new tires and does not own three house on a synthetic beachfront in Arizona, funded by beer money.
Old money does not automatically impart new wisdom. Leadership is not genetic. Genealogies do not guarantee insight. Noble nomenclature does not ensure noble behavior. Photogenic affability does not promise pervasive ingenuity. Those who governed once does not promise that this one can govern now. Being smartly dressed does not necessarily portend making smart decisions. The current normal business has become abnormal show business and the advertised new aristocratic normal is most likely old hat. We need some new hats.