Dynasties

George Washington turned down a third Presidential term because he did not wish to emulate the British system of lifetime rule. Despite this selfless democratic gesture, we now have something resembling a system of successive family Presidencies, otherwise known as dynastic rule.

The early years of the Republic saw only one example of this dynastic impulse: John Adams and John Quincey Adams. The 20th and 21st Century Presidency, however, is almost a catalogue of family succession, starting with Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Roosevelt outraged a number of Americans, largely in the Republican Party, by accepting (though not quite completing) a fourth term. As a result, the Supreme Court passed the 22nd Amendment limiting Presidential candidates to two four-year terms, and never again did a Roosevelt occupy the White House, though the name henceforth resounded through the Senate, the House of Representatives and State offices.

But dynastic rule in America really began with the Kennedy family. Joseph P. Kennedy, Roosevelt's Ambassador to Britain, had early decreed that his eldest son Joseph Jr. would be the Democratic candidate for President. But Joseph Jr. died prematurely in World War II. This left the next in line, John F. Kennedy, to fill the post, which he did reluctantly in extreme pain until his assassination in 1962.

Not able to appoint another member of the family as Vice President, the Kennedys had to wait until the death of Lyndon Johnson to put forth a Presidential candidate. This proved to be Bobby Kennedy, until he was likewise gunned down by an assassin. This left Teddy Kennedy, considered a an almost certain nominee, until the Chappaquidick incident ruined his Presidential chances (though it probably saved him from another Kennedy assassination). He went on to become one of the most impressive legislators in American history.

The Watergate scandals possibly saved us from a Nixon dynasty: His daughter Julie and Dwight Eisenhower's son, John, had married and were waiting in the wings.

So the next Presidential family dynasty became that of the Bushes, first George H.W. Bush, who lasted one term, and then his son George W. who lasted two. The next might be that of the Clintons, since Bill's scandal-ridden two terms may very well be followed in 2016 by the election of his wife, Hillary (and possibly Chelsea at a still later date) . That is, unless it is followed by another member of the Bush dynasty, Jeb and possibly one of Jeb's children, George, Noel and John as well.

Is anyone beginning to appreciate the British Parliamentary system now that we have adopted its Royal System of Succession?