It would be an unconstitutional attainder to prohibit the spouses, siblings, children, and first-degree nephews and nieces from running for any elective office after actual seating of an individual as a federal elected official; it would also be an extremely good idea, if we really care at all about limiting nepotism. Hell, I’d go so far as to include state and major local elections, too (Chicago mayors for $500… and the Daleys weren’t the first).
An anti-nepotism constitutional amendment would certainly upend South Florida politics, not to mention put spokes in the electoral plans of the Kennedy, Cheney, Bush, and Clinton families. Assuming this would be a good idea in principle, there are lots of details to consider. Should the ban be absolute, or just be limited to the offices the first person held? (I.e is there a meaningful difference between two Bushes or Clintons running for President and a Cheney running for Senate?1) Also, for some reason I feel more comfortable with the ban on children than the one on spouses and siblings. In particular, a spouses ban will harm women much more than men.
Although if we’re dreaming, big money in politics is a much bigger problem than nepotism, not that the two are unrelated.
Meanwhile, when will we resurrect the John Quincy Adams precedent and have a good former President serve in the House? Although with our luck we’d probably get the Andrew Johnson precedent and get a bad former President in the Senate.
Yes, big money is a big problem, too; my blawg post shouldn’t be taken as minimizing it.
(1) Yes, spouses need to be included. The history of senatorial seats in Bill Clinton’s home state, and next door in Missouri, should be more than adequate demonstration. And yes, that will mean that some worthy candidates (particularly, and disproportionately, women) will be excluded; on the other hand, this is a bright-line rule offered as much for discussion as for anything else.
(2) For those interested in a career in public service, there are a helluva lot of powerful and worthy positions out there (such as Secretary of State) that don’t require the corrupting of the electoral process through nepotism. [sarcasm] Maybe I should have extended it to all Senate-confirmable offices, too… [/sarcasm]
I’d worry an awful lot less about nepotism than about big money. Granted, money often stays with the family, but its the money that’s the problem.
What appears to be nepotism, might merely be a manifestation of the celebrity culture meeting the uninformed voter.
I’ve said for many years, that if a popular celebrity – any one frequently on the cover of US or People – ran for President, they would be a hands-down winner with any minimal campaign that advertised that they were running enough to reach the low info voters (which, unfortunately, are most of them – and they are the ones who decide elections, not us). Someone like George Clooney or Zooey DeShanel (sp?) could beat ANY other candidate from a national party, without breaking a sweat. I really believe that’s true. Sadly.
To the point at issue, the “political dynasties” are nothing more than that mentality (or lack of mentality) leaking over into the actual political stage. When confronted with an electoral choice that has not demanded any brain-time in a given voter, someone with a familiar name, related to other familiar names (and thus near-celebrities), get’s an easy vote. The average person is more interested in the winner of American Idol than they are interested in the persons they elect, so the man or woman with a recognized name gets elected over the one without. It’s that simple.
Not everyone obsesses about politics.