In an opinion piece in the Financial Times on November 21, 2007, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist argues for amending our Constitution to include a provision that prohibits a “spouse, sibling, or child” from succeeding her husband, brother, or father “in the same elected or appointed office.” While Norquist correctly identifies the unseemly and mildly hypocritical existent in the United States of relatives succeeding relatives to the same offices, his solution is somewhat undemocratic, violates the principles of federalism, is broader than the actual problem, and, most fatally, utterly fails to fix the real problem, which is the power of incumbency.
On the facts, Norquist is on solid ground when highlighting some of the more egregious examples of inheritance politicians. He cites the Dingell father and son team who have held the same congressional seat for almost 75 years and counting. Similarly, he is correct in noting the increase over the last few decades of inheritance politicians. The best example cited by Norquist is the potential Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton presidencies that could rule over America for as much as 28 years, which would represent over 12% of America’s history under the Constitution.
That being said, one of the biggest obstacles Hillary Clinton will have to overcome to become president is convincing the voters that another four-to-eight years of the Bill and Hill Show will be good for America. That obstacle is one of the reasons that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush – a far more talented and intellectually grounded politician than his brother – decided against running for the presidency in 2008. Many Republicans viewed Governor Bush as the strongest and most qualified possible candidate in 2008, and believed he would have easily won the Republican nomination. Unfortunately, he is the brother of the current President, so didn’t think America wanted to elect another Bush in 2008. We will see in the next year if Clinton can overcome the Clinton fatigue.
Matt A. Mayer, President & CEO of Provisum Strategies LLC and Adjunct Professor at The Ohio State University, is the author of the book “Homeland Security and Federalism: Protecting America from Outside the Beltway” available in June 2009.