Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Our Love For Star Power

Caroline, Oh, Caroline: What is this American fascination of celebrities perpetuated by our media giants? A bunch of bunk I say. In the world of politics, these know-it-all columnists are slobbering over the possibility Caroline Kennedy might be appointed to the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by Hilllary Clinton. "I have to confess, my heart remains with a Senator Caroline," gushes Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post. She and Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times wrestle with political dynasties -- the good, bad and ugly. Kristof opposes it and writes: “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States,” reads Article I of the Constitution. Kristof argues American voters have created their own notion of modern nobility: families such as the Kennedys, the Rockefellers, the Bushes, and the Bidens who win political office generation after generation. Nonsense, I say. Political dynasties are the creation of the media playing to the masses who have nothing better to do than dream of a higher exultation in their sorry lives. Now that I have pushed the outrage button to impugn everyone, let me explain.

Dynasties Are Fleeting: Successful politicians in order to get into office and sustain reelection must have three things in their favor, in this order: Money, name recognition and a voting record in tune with their constituents. The first two can launch one into office. The third depends on the person's skills while in office. Most celebrities have money and a high Q rating. But, if they are a dolt like the late song-and-dance actor turned Sen. George Murphy of California, they don't last long. The rap against Caroline Kennedy is she hasn't made her bones yet in retail politics. We heard the same nonsense about Barack Obama in the early stages of the primary season. Eleven current members of the Senate are the children of former senators or governors, or the spouses of former senators, governors, and even a president. Not to mention celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sonny Bono, Jesse Ventura, Jim Bunning and other acting and sports stars reaching public office. No one ever said politics is fair. So, stop whining. Political dynasties last only as long as they perform. Just ask the Bushes. But, they have Jeb Bush waiting in the wings poised for election to the Senate from Florida and a possible bid for the White House in 2016. The Kennedy family is so strung out they'll have Kennedys running for political office for generations to come. Get used to it. If New York Gov. David Paterson were to hand the job to Caroline Kennedy, she'd be the seventh member of her family to serve in Congress, joining a roster which includes two of her uncles, two of her cousins, her father, and her great-grandfather, John F. Fitzgerald, who first went to Congress in 1895. Writes Kristof:
The Constitution’s ban on titles of nobility (and, thus, on nobility itself) is “the corner-stone of republican government,” said Alexander Hamilton. And by “republican government,” he meant representative government, as in, people electing their leaders. As long as nobles are excluded from government, he said, “There can never be serious danger that the government will be any other than that of the people.” But again and again “the people” have shown a preference for names they know.
Voters Hold The Trump Card: “The rampant nepotism in politics tells the American public that they don't live in a democracy, they live in an aristocracy where only those inside Washington's gated community are allowed to have power,” said syndicated columnist and author David Sirota. “The Caroline Kennedy buzz is only the latest — if most overt — example of this. Here is a person with no government experience whatsoever, a person whose major claim to fame is her last name,” Sirota said. “And she's in a state teeming with possible candidates who exhibit a wealth of experience and political talent, from longtime members of Congress to community organizers to grassroots nonprofit leaders. And yet, she is apparently a major contender for a U.S. Senate seat based on her last name alone.” The saving grace in this process actually rests with the voters. Forgive them for initially bamboozled by star attraction. If the star falls from grace, the star is extinguished. Squashed like a bug.

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