Sunday, February 19, 2012

The New Aristocrats are here!

I have nothing against Joseph P. Kennedy III. I really don't. Hell, I don't even know the man. He might very well be a fine, upstanding citizen, well-educated and with a kind heart, strong core principles and a firm grasp of economics and diplomacy. In short, he might be everything we could possibly hope for in a politician. Or not.

Either way, he's a Kennedy. So, he's going to get his shot in public office, whether or not he deserves it, whether or not he has potential, whether or not anything else. On Thursday, Joe III launched his campaign for the House seat being vacated by Barney Frank. He comes fully equipped with the pro-package political pedigree: Stanford, Harvard, Peace Corps, a stint as an ADA in Massachusetts, and the ever-popular "boyish good looks."

For those with doubts about the real class divide in this country, Joe III's pedigree fits the rubric perfectly. As I noted--building on Charles Murray's work--in that piece:
...This group has their own culture, their own lifestyle. Their children live sheltered lives, largely interacting with others in this group, alone. Once upon a time, this was purely a function of wealth and restricted to the very tippy-top of the wealth pyramid. Not so, anymore. And why? Because of the growth of government. It is, in fact, a realization of Max Weber's fears of continued bureaucratization of society. For the political access of this group is very much a permanent thing; nepotism rules, both for appointed and elected offices. Career paths to both are largely limited to those with the access to specific schools and institutions.
Joe III's twin brother Mathew, by the way, is currently serving as the Administrator to the White House Counsel’s Office in the Obama Administration. He comes with a near-identical pedigree to that of Joe III.

But again, I don't want this to be some kind of smear piece. I have no reason to suppose either of these two young men (they're thirty-one years old) are anything other than what they claim to be. Both very likely think they've worked hard to get where they are. Joe III no doubt thinks he can be a good Representative, can serve the people of Massachusetts well. I doubt either sees their careers as solely products of their name and connections.

Still, the bubble-quality here is what it is. Not only is a Stanford to Harvard pedigree an expensive thing, it's also an exceedingly limited thing. As is access--at such young ages--to ADA jobs and to posts in the White House. Born and bred to rule, people like these Kennedy brothers take it as a given that all of this makes sense. Introspection is a rare thing, and that's to be expected. Who among us would not reach out and take the keys to the kingdom if they were dangled before us?

The only means of ending this kind of multi-generational nepotism--i.e. aristocracy--is via an informed electorate willing to step up and end it in the voting both. But given party machines, this is simply an unreasonable expectation. Predictably, people in Massachusetts, when asked about Joe III, insisted they would not vote for him just because of his name. But what many of them will do is vote for him just because of his party affiliation. And as long as he has the right support--from people like Frank and Obama--he'll win party nominations. And some, frankly, will vote for him just because of his name. Taken together, that's enough to win an election, especially in a region that leans so heavily in one direction.

And make no mistake, the nepotism exists on the other side of the aisle, as well. Perhaps we'll finally get to see a Kennedy-Bush Presidential contest in the future. Maybe 2028?

Cheers, all.


  1. "Who among us would not reach out and take the keys to the kingdom if they were dangled before us?"

    Only to unlock the shackles and free the slaves.

    The Political Class always rules. It always has and always will. The way out is not informed voters, which is a pipe dream, but the reduction of the political system to its barest necessities. Only when there's little to be plundered by political means will the Political Class figure out they have to get real, productive jobs.

  2. I don't know, Don. Cynicism is fine, but the kid is 31. He may be very much of an idealist, still. He's been raised to recognize his own superiority no doubt, but that doesn't mean he sees an opportunity to plunder. Just one to rule, which he no doubt thinks he's qualified to do.

    And reduced the political system would merely restart the process, regardless. Nepotism was still the order of the day in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, after all.

  3. You don't suppose he has his eye on the "Kennedy Senate Seat," do you?