Saturday, January 3, 2009

Noonan on Political Dynasties

Peggy Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal about the possible appointment of Caroline Kennedy to the U.S. Senate, made some general remarks about the effects of nepotism on our political system.

I found some of it quite insightful so I want to cite a bit of the essay here.

People who've seen politics up close when young tend to be embarrassed to be in politics. This is because they have seen too much of the show-biz aspects, the balloons and smiles and rallies. They are rarely (and this is odd) tutored in the meaning behind the artifice: that the artifice exists for a purpose, and the purpose is to advance a candidate who will advance a constructive philosophy. And so they find the idea of coming up with a philosophy sort of show-offy, off point and insincere.

This is one reason modern political dynasties tend to have a deleterious effect on our politics. When you get new people in the process who think politics is about meaning, they tend to bring the meaning with them. On the other hand, those who've learned that politics is about small and shallow things, and the romance of dynasties, bring that with them. (They also bring old retainers, sycophants and ingrained money lines, none of which help the common weal.) Those who are just born into it and just want to continue it, bring a certain ambivalence. And signal it. They're always slouching toward victory. It's not terrible, but it doesn't do any great good, either.

Because I have not studied Caroline Kennedy, I would be uncomfortable agreeing that Noonan's generalization can be fairly applied to her. That being said, it does seem accurate in general.

I was especially struck by Noonan's choice of words at the end of the first paragraph. She is saying that veteran political candidates and operators find the advancement of a philosophy insincere - as if they believe that they are powerless to promote any agenda they claim to support once they are in office.

I reject this mentality if for no other reason than the ability it gives politicians to shun any sense of responsibility for what they say and how they vote. And yet... the more I learn about how our political system works, I wonder if the belief is not largely valid - and what can be done to change it?

Noonan's entire essay can be found here.

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