Friday, February 15, 2013

A Reprieve from Oligarchy

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe 

Thank heaven George Washington and Thomas Jefferson failed to produce legitimate male heirs and John Quincy Adams was a presidential dud. Our nation periodically flirts with oligarchy, but with the 2012 presidential results, we spared ourselves for four more years. 

The 2012 election was historically significant in many ways, but the absence of a single WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant) candidate merits more than just a mention. Barack Obama was the only black man on the ticket; but he was also the only Protestant on the ticket. (Some may quibble with me about Mormonism’s not belonging under the Protestant umbrella, but Mormons have a prophet of their own distinct from the 16th-century European Reformation that birthed Protestantism in its many forms.)

In the election of 1960 John F. Kennedy used his oligarchical capital and rhetorical flourish to become the first—and still only—Catholic president. In the last election Paul Ryan forgot to thank JFK for paving the way to his nomination, and Rick Santorum rebuffed Kennedy’s proposal to keep the Pope out of the Oval Office. Only the victorious Joe Biden carried Kennedy’s torch as a Catholic able to distinguish between secular politics and sectarian principles.

In 2008 the first black man to inhabit the White House succeeded the first presidential son since the second Adams and trounced in turn a former president’s WASP wife and a WASP oligarch born to the military elite. Last November when Obama derailed a Mormon oligarch’s effort to succeed where his tycoon father fell short, he demonstrated again that the path to power can be paved with Pell Grants as well as patrimony.

I hope the body politic noticed. I cringe each time someone asks Chelsea Clinton if she will run for national office. I certainly hope not. When a woman finally inhabits the White House in her own—not her husband’s name—I want her to ascend from local office to Oval Office without the aid of a spousal or parental elevator. Jeb, Jenna, and Barbara Bush; Hillary and Chelsea Clinton; Michelle, Sasha, and Malia Obama all have tremendous talents to give their country. They will use them best if they avoid the patrimonial trail to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and seek new landscapes in which to excel.


Eric B. Schultz said...

Very witty, and--treasonous, all this talk about the U.S. becoming a meritocracy! Interesting to think, if women and blacks had been allowed to vote in each election since the first, how very different the results might have been.

EJLP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EJLP said...

Eric, You should write a series of counter-factual essays: "What if Frederick Douglass (Phyllis Wheatley, Abigail Adams - fill in the blank)had been President?" I'd read it!