No, not the movie.
Not the joke itself either.
The field of candidates for President in 2008 that is assembling itself at the moment.
Come the winter of 2007-2008, fanning out across Iowa and New Hampshire will be a Clinton, a Bush, a Romney, a Bayh, and, possibly, a Gore, all of them having had to greater or lesser degrees political careers predicated upon their famous last names.
This bothers me probably more than it should. Nobody should be barred from office because of who their parents were, and that should work for the children of the rich and famous as well as the anonymous orphan. And at a certain point in all professions people travel as much or more on the connections they've made than on their merits or the resumes they've assembled.
A hardworking nobody from a family of no particular social standing or connections can earn his way into a prestigious college, like Georgetown, distinguish himself well enough to catch the eye of, say, a United States Senator---say William Fullbright---and from that point be on his way to governor of his home state---call it Arkansas---and then President.
And while connections do matter, and can matter most of all, talent will still out. Sofia Coppola only got to direct movies because of who her father is, but she will get to direct more because she made Lost in Translation.
Her father's connections plus her own talent made her a director. But his connections could not make her an actress. Seen Godfather III?
And politics can be the family business as much as a movie studio, a law firm, or a dry cleaner's.
George W. Bush's career is dismaying to contemplate because he is someone who has survived and thrived solely because of who his father was.
But that isn't the case with his brother Jeb, and it certainly wasn't the case with their father.
And the 2008 Presidential race will also include John Edwards, John McCain, Bill Frist, Wes Clark, Chuck Hagel, and probably some others, who can be considered self-made men in the American Grain. And to be fair, the fathers of Evan Bayh, Mitt Romney, and Al Gore are pretty much forgotten characters now, their names' gave their sons a big leg up but it's been all the sons' efforts ever since that have brought them to national prominence and made plausible their becoming President.
In fact, it's unlikely that Mitt Romney's father's having been the Republican governor of Michigan in the 1960s and a failed Presidential candidate in 1968, did much to help him in Massachusetts in 2001 and I can't see his old man's name or reputation giving him any boost at all nationally in 2008. I can even see it hurting him in the Republican primaries. I won't be surprised if whichever candidate Karl Rove ends up working for makes sure that the film of George Romney saying he was brainwashed on Vietnam makes the rounds among the Right Wing faithful.
Being the son of a Mormon liberal who wussed out on the war won't win Mitt many votes.
The gathering of so many legacies is a statistical and historical fluke not an ominous trend. A quick glance at the list of 20th Century Presidents proves that Americans are much more likely to elect a commoner than an aristocrat. Our Presidents have been one lived-out Horatio Alger tale after another.
Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton are all, for better or worse, exemplary American success stories.
A survey of all the men who have been their Party's nominees reveals that in every election that did not include a Roosevelt, a Kennedy, or a Bush, the match-ups pitted commoner against commoner.
So I shouldn't worry too much.
Still, I do.
There is no guarantee that the Republic will last forever, that we won't go the way of others before us and devolve into dictatorship or monarchy. It seems to me that Americans are increasingly more impressed by wealth and celebrity, increasingly more willing to live as spectators to their own governance, increasingly less interested in and concerned about our history and the principles on which the nation was built and by which it survives.
The media that is supposed to be our watchdog is even more slavishly fawning towards celebrity and treats it as a virtue in itself. And it is utterly bored with the whole notion of free and open government.
Lots of headlines the last few days screaming the fact that a baseball player lied about using steroids.
How many of even half the size have you seen about the fact that the President lied us into a war?
The media would be happiest if the next Presidential election starred Arnold Schwatzenegger going up against Tom Hanks. Since that won't happen, they seem to be pushing at us another celebrity slug-fest, one legacy against another, and in that contest, I'm afraid Democrats are at a big disadvantage.
As Erik Loomis puts it, what we could get in 2008 is "a race between the more competent Bush and the less charismatic Clinton."
Now, when I think it over, objectively, I don't believe there is much chance of a showdown between Hillary and Jeb.
I'm pretty sure that, barring a second born-again experience for George Bush, one in which this time instead of sobering him up, Jesus wises him up and teaches him how to be President, the name Bush will make all but the most rabid of Right Wingers' nauseous.
On top of which I think Jeb himself will look at the wreckage his brother's left all around him and decide he'd be better off waiting until 2012 or even 2016 for it all to blow over.
So what I'm really worried about is that the Democrats will nominate their celebrity/legacy.
I won't vote for Hillary in the primaries. I have several reasons, one of which is that her main qualification for the job is that the Clinton we really want to be President can't run again. But my main reason is that I think she'll get whupped badly in the general election. People have been making too much of those polls that show her being very popular in odd places, like parts of Texas. What those polls are showing is that she's famous.
People love her as a celebrity. That doesn't mean they're going to rush out to vote for her as a candidate.
And 2008 is still three years away, and over that time her husband's star will dim. It's hard for me to see what she can do to make her own star that much brighter---I mean among voters at large, as she will certainly be wooing and winning over lots of the party faithful.
Erik's post links to posts by Matt Yglesias and Scott Lemieux looking at Hillary's major weakness as a candidate---she is a moderate that everyone thinks is an ultra-liberal. But I think her being who she is is a pretty big handicap too. The Republicans are going to be vicious to whoever the Democrats run, and Hillary can stand up to it, I'm sure, but I don't believe she'll be able to overcome it.
She will be running on her name and she will have nothing to offer over and above her name when the Republicans set out to ruin her for her name.
Gore has experience, Clark has his military career, Edwards has his charm and his background.
Hillary just has Bill.
A lot of smart people think she can win anyway. Maybe. But I wouldn't look forward to a Hillary Clinton Presidency because although she might succeed despite her divisiveness as a candidate I don't see her being a particularly unifying President.
To be a success, the next Democratic President has to hope that the Party will have taken back both houses of Congress by the time he, or she, is inaugurated.
I can see that happening. But I can't see it happening by much. I think that by 2009, if the Democrats have majorities, they will be the slimmest of majorities.
I can't see Hillary doing a better job of keeping her Party in line than her husband did in 1993. And I can't see her meeting outstretched arms when she reaches across the aisle for the Republican votes.
The next President we get better be a great one. He, or she, had better be able to unite Americans in an heroic effort to put back together what George Bush has smashed.
I don't believe Hillary will be able to do that.
Family connections can only carry you so far.