Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for the presidency today via email messages from John Podesta, her campaign chairman. The media, of course, has been all over the story even before it was a story with their usual hyperbole: the first serious woman candidate, the first husband-wife presidential pair, the first person to serve as both First Lady and President (although Nancy Reagan is a close second).
We know that presidential campaigns have become extended (distended) Super Bowl weekends. This one will have enough pageantry, glitz, and fireworks to rival any halftime show. Who knows, there may even be an exposed breast or two.
Still, there’s something bothering me, and I haven’t heard anyone speak or write about it. What bothers me is this. Do we really need another Clinton in the White House? For the moment, put party affiliation aside and ask yourself whether you would run for the highest elected office if your husband had served in that capacity for two terms not that long ago? What about your wife, brother, mother, son? Most people might count their blessings and step aside to let someone else lead.
You’ve heard it said that the Clintons are not like most people. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. I don’t presume to know. But they certainly seem to have a sense of entitlement, as if the office belongs to them. Perhaps Hillary fashions herself another Eva Peron or Christina Kirchner, the crazy woman of Argentina who succeeded her husband to the presidency. Hopefully, she won’t have the same horrendous economic policies or snuff out the opposition (some believe she has already done so).
The Republicans are even worse. “Jeb” Bush may declare his candidacy any time now. What would people call him: Bush III? Bush 45 (nicknamed “Jeb, The Colt”)? There haven’t been enough Bushes in the White House? It’s getting so they don’t even have to move out. They could just leave things in storage.
You might think that this trend started with the Kennedys. It didn’t, although they relied just as much on pageantry, glitz, and fireworks as the power brokers of today, perhaps more so. Remember “Happy Birthday, Mister President”?
The trend can be traced back to the Roosevelts, Teddy (1901-09) and Franklin (1933-45); the Harrisons, William Henry (1841) and his grandson, Benjamin (1889-93); and the Adams, John (1797-1801) and John Quincy (1825-29). But things have gotten so bad in the 21st century that we don’t need a swearing in ceremony anymore. We need a coronation. Why not? Remember 43: the Constitution is just a “goddamned piece of paper”?
Charles Ferguson, the director of Inside Job, had it right when he told Charlie Rose that we need serious election reform so the plutocracy that we already have doesn’t turn into an outright monarchy, which, you might recall from grade school, is what started everything. Monopoly, monarchy, and taxes. If there were real truth in advertising, that would be the bumper sticker motto for both parties.
If either Hillary or Jeb were serious about helping America rather than themselves, they would stand up and say, “Look, we’ve been in power long enough. It’s time to let someone else lead.” But that would take courage. It would also turn their financial backers sour, populist movements not being very popular among the mega-lobbies (see Jeffrey-Sachs). That’s not to say they wouldn’t have options (to wit, the current occupant of the White House).
Maybe we need to wipe the slate clean and start over. How do we do that? We could start by rounding up the usual suspects rather than electing them, no matter their sex.
Clinton photo Yana Paskova, Getty Images; Kirchner photo, Getty Images, vivelohoy.com. Note to self: “Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so,” Gore Vidal.