Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday Question for Conservatives

Beginning in 1980, there's been someone on the Republican ticket with a father who had a prominent political or government job in every cycle but one (1996; some might not count 2008, but I would). Good thing? Bad thing? Neither?

Why do you think it's happening? Is it just luck of the draw, or is there some systematic reason for it?


  1. 1. Rank and file conservatives are bad at names. Once they learn one, they don't like to have to learn any new ones (see, Bush, George.)

    2. Loyalty is a huge component of the conservative mindset. Consequently, conservatives instinctively prefer someone they can imagine was "raised the right way."

  2. I have my doubts that the first anonymous (not me!) is a conservative.

    I think the fundamental reason is that conservatism lacks the broad institutional support of liberalism. We have a couple of think-tanks and media outlets, whereas they have most of academia, the MSM, and the unions. Ideally, politicians would advance within the structures of political institutions, which would act as a filter and meritocracy, before then competing on the national stage. However, the earlier Republican institutions were taken over by RINOs (or just stolen, e.g. Ford Foundation) and therefore discredited, so this filter doesn't exist. So without that formal filter (or until it re-forms), it is necessary for conservative voters to use less formal filters and for conservative politicians to attract attention in less formal ways. This is also why you see the unusual candidates in this cycle. Naturally, family affiliation is both an informal filter, and a means of attracting attention.

    More concretely: Ron Paul didn't become a candidate because he worked his way up a greasy pole, he made a lot of noise and attracted followers. But he hasn't been able to build a proper ladder behind him either, so if you want to vote for someone like Ron Paul in the future, you'll be voting for Rand.

  3. Is this really a significant phenomenon and not just an artifact of the fact that six of those eight elections have included George Bushes? Now you can talk about what difference that's made in both of their careers, but that's not the same question.

  4. Artifact. As anonymous notes above, 6 of the 7 scions are George Bushes, the 7th was a military, not political, scion (rendering his relevance moot). Those 6 George Bush tickets are not all that interesting in a nepotismish way.

    The last two of those six George Bush tickets are somewhat nepotism-related, though there's a big helping of timing too. Those last two are to a large extent a function of 43 showing up 10 years into Francis Fukuyama's End-of-History era (when the End of History started to seem like "settled" fact) and 10 months before his exquisite inappropriateness for the role would be revealed. In any event, the nepotism component of 43 is not your typical, take-care-of-our-own-transgenerational stuff, as much as Republican antagonism toward events of the prior eight years.

    The middle two of the six George Bushes are obviously not nepotism but rather a direct result of the first two. Which leaves those first two: did Reagan put Bush on his ticket as a nod to Prescott?

    I'm no scholar, but I'd be shocked if there were any evidence to that effect. It seems that Reagan had a strong focus from the outset on defeating the Evil Empire, but he was after all an increasingly daft long-time B-movie actor. HW Bush had the chops for taking on the Evil Empire; I'm not certain but I'd bet that explains Reagan's choice, with Prescott having no role in the decision whatsoever.

    In summary: accident of history.

  5. Yet you're not addressing 2012 which is probably the point. In other words, you could say it's because of Bushes, and 2008 was a little different with a military fellow. But we are now 2012 and there's another illustration. How big a difference does Mitt's father's prominence in GOP politics play in helping him get as far as he has?


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