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Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution states:
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
To put it bluntly, the intent of the Founders was to ensure that America would be a nation that would not suffer under the machinations of either Kings or the Princes they might beget. It’s a reflection of the condition J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur found in Americans when writing his “Letters from an American Farmer” in which he extolled the virtues of the fledgling nation’s people and how it changed those who came to it, saying:
This great metamorphosis … extinguishes all his European prejudices; he forgets that mechanism of subordination, that servility of disposition which poverty had taught him.
America is a radically constructed nation in a variety of ways, but perhaps most notably for its extreme social egalitarianism made manifest in the Constitution. No person would be viewed as inherently lower in the eyes of the law than any other merely by dint of birth or assignation of arbitrary title. Slavery, that glaring exception to this principle required a bloody war to excise, but the excision was nonetheless performed. As I said: the concept of America is radical and that makes us exceptional in a variety of ways.
Even given that commitment to the idea of social equality, it’s been a long time since 1865, let alone 1782. Elites don’t necessarily share those commitments to principle and have found ways of circumventing even the best-laid plans, managing to ensconce themselves at the highest levels of power intergenerationally.
Political dynasties are nothing new in America. Founding Father John Adams’s son John Quincy Adams followed him into the office of the Presidency in 1825 and more recently, George W. Bush took up that mantle once worn by his father. But even these high-profile aberrations of the established order seem mild in comparison to the rampant self-dealing that we see on a daily basis in some corners of the nation.
For instance, Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan’s 12th Congressional District was elected to her seat in 2014… a seat she practically inherited from her husband, Rep. John Dingell, who held it for a staggering 60 years. But that’s not all: John Dingell, Jr. succeeded his father, John Dingell, Sr., who held that seat for 22 years. All told, the Dingell family has “represented” MI 12 for 86 consecutive years.
This isn’t democracy. It’s an emergent aristocracy.
The problem is endemic wherever we look. The last 20 years of American politics have been driven by the continual re-emergence of such names from the past and hangers-on to political power. Jonah Goldberg argues (for instance) that the most influential player in our nation’s politics in that period has been none other than Hillary Clinton… whose sole qualification for causing such ructions was “having been married to a President.” It’s hard to argue he’s wrong.
Every day on the news we are treated to the sight of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (Governor Scold; Son of Gov. Mario Cuomo) hectoring the people of New York like some petty king. Enough, I say.
Why did we, as a nation willingly grant these relative non-entities the ability to continually “come back from the dead” (politically) in the first place? Apparently, we as a nation lack imagination. To that extent, we need to be protected from ourselves, a thing which the Constitution was designed to do in the first place. Therefore, we should amend the Constitution thusly:
No person who is the immediate family member (Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, Son, Daughter or Spouse) of a Federal or Statewide elected official shall be eligible to be elected that office.
It is the nature of the financially powerful to become politically powerful as well. But it is also patently Un-American to assume that elected offices at the summit of the nation’s power structure ought to be the plaything of a handful of our own self-appointed princelings. One bite at the presidential, gubernatorial, senatorial or representative apple per three generations ought to be good enough for any family.
At the very minimum, it will introduce some new blood into our boring, tense and repetitive political discussions.Published in