Whatever the results of the caucus in Nevada and the primary in South Carolina, this much is near certain. The days of the dueling dynasties – the Bushes versus the Clintons – are done. There is nearly no chance that come the November election the faceoff will be what many had feared: Republican nominee Jeb Bush against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
A year ago odds makers were betting this was the likeliest outcome. Among other reasons, it was in keeping with American tradition. During the modern era the son of a president has been roughly 1.4 million times more likely to become president than his supposed peers. Calculated differently, eight of our presidents have come from just four families – the Adamses, the Bushes, the Harrisons, and the Roosevelts. Seen from yet another perspective, so entrenched have been the Bushes and the Clintons at the top of the ticket, that Americans under age 38 can remember only a single election without a member of one or the other family running for president or vice-president.
No wonder that in the year of the Angry American the prospect of a contest between Jeb and Hillary is too much to swallow, way too much. No wonder that this year of all years we reject the idea that the wife of a former president be pitted against the son of one former president and the brother of another. No wonder that to all appearances the appearances of Barbara Bush and George W. Bush have had little or no impact on the prospects of her son Jeb, and of his brother Jeb. And no wonder that to all appearances the appearances of Bill Clinton have had little or no impact on the prospects of his once trammeled and now touted wife Hillary.
Barbara, George, and Bill seem to smack of the past, not the present, not to speak of the future. In this, the year of our impatience, of our impertinence, they insult our intelligence – as if we would vote for a man, or for a woman, based on blood or bond of marriage.
How to explain Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders? One way is as a reaction formation. A manifestation of our rebellion against politics as usual – including politics in which nepotism has played an always prominent and sometimes putrid part.