America is the great beacon of democracy throughout the world. We preach the merits of it to every country we can, noting that government of the people and by the people is the only way to go. And we are supposed to be the best example of how in a true democracy, anyone can rise to the top no matter from which station in life they come from, and neither money nor family is important to that rise.
Except we all know that is bunch of malarkey.
There may have been a time in our history where this current myth was actually true, but in modern times, the rise to the Presidency is all about money. If you don’t have it personally, then you have to get the backers behind you, and it is also about family. Without money and/or family, you have no shot.
As the wheels get to turning for the 2016 election, here are the names that are being talked about from both sides of the aisle that will likely be the top contender: Clinton, Bush, and Romney. Those names are familiar not just because we know who Hillary, Jeb and Mitt are but because we also know Hilary’s husband Bill Clinton, was a two-term President, and that Jeb Bush comes from a family of two Presidents, his father being George H.W. Bush and his brother being George W. Bush. While Mitt’s father was never President, he was powerful in Republican politics and ran for the party’s nomination in 1968 against Richard Nixon. He was also the Governor of Michigan and later the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
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So we are talking about 2016 candidates who are essentially family legacies. What chance does someone really have who is not coming from a Presidential family? Well, there had to be the first in the legacy to break through, you might counter. True. But that is where the other factor comes into play: the money.
The Bush family and the Romney family were extremely wealthy families before the first in the legacy entered politics. Bill Clinton certainly wasn’t poor when he entered politics back in Arkansas. But he had a gift of oration and he was able to lure the big money backers quite easily to his campaign. Even Barack Obama, who did not come from a family of Presidents and Governors, was well off when he made his entry into politics in Chicago, drawing attention as a U.S. Senator from that state. But along the way to that entry point, he too, just like Clinton, became the darling of the money people, even though Obama also made a mark by raising the most money ever from online donations from “the people.” According to The New York Times, Obama spent about $750 million in his first 2008 campaign. 2012 was closer to $1 billion.
Yikes. So much for the argument that money doesn’t rule American politics. We should know that anyway by looking at the U.S. Senate, which is a feeding ground to the Presidency. According to 2014 public numbers, 67% of U.S. Senators are millionaires. I’m sure the others aren’t doing too badly for themselves either. Sadly, this all makes sense, considering that historically, according to CNN, "the candidate who raises the most money is likely to win."
But yet somehow the myth continues that anyone, from any walk of life, can be President. And that our American democracy is its purest form, with everyday people making the decisions about what happens to us. Don’t believe the hype. Our democracy is ruled by the elite families and the money that gets them to that status. I only wish we were more honest about what we were selling the world. Don’t be surprised when your choices in 2016 are limited to people with the same last names we already know. It is the true American way.