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Even if 2016 is Clinton vs. Bush, American politics won't be dynastic

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David Graeber, the anthropologist and author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years, offered a quip that expresses how a lot of people feel about the high profiles of Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush:

One of my big flaws in life is a tendency to take jokes too literally, so it struck me that what this joke really shows is that US politics isn't dynastic at all.

In a real dynastic conflict, after all, settlement by marriage would really work. That's how Houses Lannister and Tyrell join forces on Game of Thrones, and how the Habsburg Dynasty built its empire in 16th-century Europe. But American politics, for better or worse, is highly partisan and highly ideological. Even if the Bushes and the Clintons became best of friends, that wouldn't change the fact that that there are well-organized pro-choice and anti-abortion groups that have managed to polarize politics even while the public's views remain nuanced. And you'll find the same dynamic on taxing the rich, the existence of labor unions, the wisdom of restricting greenhouse gas emissions, and a dozen other issues.

Politicians from prominent families clearly have a leg up in politics. But the ones who succeed need to display skill at riding the tiger of underlying activist sentiment. Clinton is running in 2016 on a very different platform than her husband ran on in 1992, because the Democratic Party changed in the intervening quarter century. George W. Bush's actual policymaking was very different from his father's, for similar reasons.

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