by Isha Lele and Leonela Serrano
Although the United States does not have a royal family like our friends across the pond, certain American families continue to dominate political power after decades of existence, questioning our land’s true meaning of democracy. Whether it is because they come from the biggest of mansions or the most exclusive high ranked fraternities, certain names always seem to come up regularly on voting ballots. These families have proven that certain people have much more influence in a society, especially a society revolved around money, than the average American. As old dynasties such as the Tafts, Adams, and Roosevelt’s fade out, new household names have started to take over.
After tracing the Bush family roots back to the beginning of their political rule in 1778, it was found that the Bushes are related to 14 previous US presidents. The long list includes George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon. In the past four decades the Bushes have held some of the highest government positions. This family started their recent dynastic rule when Prescott Bush, father to President George H.W. Bush, was elected senator of Connecticut in 1952. Four decades later, George H.W. Bush served a long list of some of the most coveted government positions including serving as a Texan Representative in the House, a US Ambassador to the United Nations, Chief of the US Liaison Office to China, the director of the CIA, and Vice President to Ronald Reagan. With all these qualifications, including being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1993, he was soon elected into presidential office for two terms. After George H.W. Bush comes son George W. Bush who was elected president in 2000, serving two terms. With his many controversial stances on foreign policy including his responses to the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq War, Bush has created a conservative name for his family. Jeb Bush, the second son of George H.W. Bush, is currently running to become president in 2016, after serving successfully as a governor of Florida.. The family has sent most of its sons to Phillips Academy Andover, one of the most prestigious college preparatory schools in the entire country, and then continued on to study at Yale, Harvard, and Princeton, with only a few going elsewhere. The families accumulated net worth currently adds up to only 60 million, but their political power only seems to be increasing.
The Clinton’s political power is much younger than other dominant American families. The family did not come from extreme wealth nor did they have much power in industry, but rather are self-made politicians. President Bill Clinton traces his roots back to Hope, Arkansas where he grew up with his grandparents who ran a grocery store. After studying at Georgetown, Oxford, and Yale, and ended a successful career as a law professor, he went on to become the Governor of Arkansas. After many successful reforms, he ran for presidential office in 1992 under a strong democratic platform, and served two very successful terms until 2000. During his reign, he provided lots of humanitarian relief and focused his foreign policy on the long-lasting conflicts in Northern Ireland and in the Middle East. His wife, often considered to be one of the most powerful First Ladies of all time, Hillary Rodham Clinton, also had her fair share of international power. While First Lady, Hillary had strong influence in solving the problem on healthcare and made significant change in the plans of the National Security Council. In 2000, when the Bush family took the place of the Clintons in the White House, Hillary became a senator for New York. After losing the presidential election to Barack Obama in 2008, she was appointed as United States Secretary of State where she made strong relations with Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, and Syria. Hillary is currently the frontrunner for the Democratic Party for the upcoming presidential election in 2016. Not only does the family have a significant role in government, but also do their very best to give back. The Clinton Foundation is a nonprofit, international foundation created by President Bill Clinton with the goal to increase humanitarian, specifically economic, aid across developing nations. With initial success shown by wider access to treatment of HIV/AIDS to increasing food stability and clean water access, the organization has been so successful that they were able to split into a multitude of different subgroups, backed by the support of many politicians and other organizations with similar goals. The net worth of just Hillary and Bill alone is over 111 million dollars and marks the start of a newly born, young American political dynasty.
Commonly referred to as, “America’s Royal Family”, the Kennedys have played a prominent role in the US government since they immigrated from Ireland to the United States in 1849. P.J. Kennedy, of the first generation of Kennedys to be born in the US, started the family’s reign on politics serving in the House and Senate, representing Massachusetts. He was father to Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. who served as the US Ambassador to the UK, Chairman of the Maritime Commissioner, and Chairman of Securities and Exchange Commission. John F. Kennedy, perhaps the most famous of the Kennedys’, was the youngest president, first Catholic president, and the first president to win a Pulitzer Prize. In his third year in office, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas where he was trying to calm down problems within the Democratic party. President Kennedy was shot once in the chest and in the head. He was then rushed to the hospital where at 1 pm on November 22, 1963 he was pronounced dead. After the death of President Kennedy, many bizarre and tragic accidents have caused the deaths of some of the Kennedys, this leading people to speculate about a supposed “Kennedy Curse”. Perhaps the most influential living Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, is the daughter of late president JFK. She was the appointed United States Senate Seat, a job that once employed her uncle Robert F. Kennedy, to later on become the US ambassador to Japan. Unlike most American dynasties, the Kennedy’s’ are known to be quite liberal and rather democratic in comparison to those that hold a similar amount of power. The accumulated net worth of the Kennedys adds up to well over one billion dollars, making them one of the richest American families of all time.
The Bushes, Clintons, and Kennedys are just a few of the families in society that make people question whether everyone truly has an equal say in government. Even other countries seem to view America more as an oligarchy with its power vested in these few extremely wealthy and powerful families. It’s also interesting how all of these families seem to have very similar perspectives on political issues, making regular citizens feel like little change is able to occur. However with all the controversy, these families have the experience and reliability that persuades many voters to continue to vote for them. The household title is often easiest to come back to for many Americans, and having certain names in the news for so long makes it easy to go back to that. As we see the 2016 presidential election unravel and the rise of a new administration, keep a lookout on the big names in politics, and see if you are able to recognize a familiar name.