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The Third Estate
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Dissertation Optimism

Saturday, December 01, 2007
So obviously I didn't hit my 20,000 word goal for this month, but then again I never really expected to. I did write 13760 words and finished several chapters. I'm now very much on track to finish drafts of the substantive chapters (sans introduction and conclusion) by the end of December. Regrettably I had to add a chapter I'd been waffling on, but oh well. As hard as it is to believe, I'm write...er...right on schedule for the overly optimistic scenario I laid out in early October. Pretty amazing, given how much trouble I had at the beginning, and how busy I've been at work.

Dynasty watch: Two Udalls in the U.S. Senate? My word. Morris Udall was a great congressman, but do we really need cousins serving in the U.S. Senate (with the same last name). Yes they're pretty good liberals, but is Democratic political talent in the interior West really concentrated in one family? Somehow I doubt it.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 9:50 AM
8 Comments:
  • There's nothing inherently wrong with dynastic politics. Very often families are the source of great leaders in academia, business, churches and politics. Families provide an inherent mentoring and training process that is largely absent from society today. The more individualistic and competitive our society gets, the more we will rely on families to provide a foundation. The problem is when that mentoring and training process breaks down, and the members of a family start to think that leadship is their birthright instead of their responsibility. Dynastic politics only works under Noblesse Oblige, and inculcating a reverence for public service is the ideal for any family. However, when the family becomes greedy and narcissistic, "vote for me just because of my last name", we run into big problems. Most Americans had no problem voting for JFK and RFK because the Kennedys obviously had a deep sense of Noblesse Oblige, and they passed that sensibility to the rest of the country (JFK's inaugural address). Other families, like the Bushes and Clintons, clearly lack any sense of noble obligations. Therefore they don't have any mentoring or training process, and they claim leadership as birthright, not responsibility. The Udall Clan seems to have a sense of social responsibility.

    By Blogger Marriah, at 12:49 PM  
  • You're saying that just to tease me, right? Right?

    By Blogger Arbitrista, at 2:48 PM  
  • If you have ever admired JFK and RFK (and I know you have) then you have to agree with me. Otherwise, you are forced into hypocricy.

    By Blogger Marriah, at 8:54 PM  
  • On a lighter note, I have tagged you for a meme. Get on it :)

    By Blogger Maggie, at 8:57 AM  
  • Um, why does liking 2 specific politicians invalidate my argument? There's a big difference between saying that I admire 2 brothers forty years ago and that I think there's a structural problem in American politics favoring the formation of political dynasties. I would be hypocritical if I said that I would favor a constitutional amendment banning dynasty candidates (which wouldn't even effect the Udalls, by the way), but wouldn't want it to apply to Bobby Kennedy. If I had to give up Bobby for a permanent defense of the constitution from dynastic politics, I would, ergo, I do not see myself as a hypocrite - thank you very much.

    By Blogger Arbitrista, at 10:01 AM  
  • On the contrary, RFK is a direct product of the "structural problem in American politics favoring the formation of political dynasties." Hillary Clinton copied RFK's formula: be a partner to the president, and then use the president's name to capture a Senate seat for your own run for the presidency, based on name and nostalgia. The difference is that RFK had a sense of noble obligations, while HRC does not. Moreover, JFK and RFK are direct results of the structural problems. In fact, it's fair to say that they created it. Joseph Kennedy knew that modern politics would be driven by money with the advent of television advertising and airplane campaigning. So, he used his money from bootlegging and mafia ties to help make JFK president. Fortunately, JFK was able to accomplish great feats in only three years: avoiding WWIII, creating the Peace Corps, creating the space program. That's why we don't think of JFK and RFK as the products, or even the creators, of dynastic politics. However, they paved the way for the Bushes and the Clintons.

    By Blogger Marriah, at 10:22 AM  
  • Ah, but you see my supposed hypocrisy would come from supporting RFK BECAUSE he was a dynastic candidate, rather than liking him because of what he stood for. And it's pretty ungenerous to say someone's a hypocrite when he or she identifies a single exception to a general rule. And as I stated previously, I would happily support a change to the Constitution, despite liking RFK. If I could go back in time and have that amendment passed in 1967, thus barring an RFK candidacy, I would. The fact that, absent such an amendment, I would have voted for RFK in the primaries has nothing particularly to do with the broader point.

    I'm not saying that a particular candidate is bad because he or she is from a political family - they might be very good. But when people possess tremendous advantages in the winning of public office for no other reason than their last name, that IS a serious problem for a democracy, because such a system goes by a different name: aristocracy. The fact that it would be an elective aristocracy would not change the basic character of the regime.

    By Blogger Arbitrista, at 10:39 AM  
  • Again, as I have said in previous comments, you are not talking about the problems posed by dynastic politics. You are talking about the problem posed by money. Name recognition is simply a very good path to adequate fund-raising. Thus, your argument would be more coherent if you said that you would go back in time to, say, 1959 and create public financing of all federal elections. Dynastic politics, aristocratic politics, and plutocratic politics, is the inevitable outcome of privately funded campaigns. Contributers are more likely to give money to a known quantity (a candidate with name recognition from a political family) than to unknown candidates. Yet, I don't think a constitutional amendment is really required for this problem. Fundraising through the Internet has become the best way for lesser known candidates (Howard Dean, Ron Paul) to mount a viable candidacy by tapping into grassroots donations.

    Full Disclosure: I would love to both win public office and have my children/siblings win public office.

    By Blogger Marriah, at 11:31 AM  
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