The American presidential candidates have been unveiled. Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side announced her goal for the presidency more than two months ago and held her first large-scale election promotion on June 13 — she has sounded the charge. On the other side, Republican Jeb Bush announced his entry into the elections on June 15 after a lengthy and thorough preparation. The two candidates, with their credentials, talent, and especially their unique family background, could be the next presidential nominees from the two parties if there are no surprises. An election battle featuring players from two of the most prominent political families in America has just begun.
Hillary and Jeb are both strong candidates. Their battle will be fierce, and it is hard to predict who will prevail. As long as the two face off against each other, no matter who wins in the end, it will be a historic event. There has been no lack of fathers and sons, uncles and nephews, or brothers being presidents or presidential candidates in American history, but it will have been the first time that two political dynasties ran for president together. If Hillary wins, it will have been the first time two married candidates were both president, and if Jeb wins, then he’ll have set a record of being the third president from the same family. This election could be the most widely watched one in the history of America and the world.
America’s extreme liberalism provides the genesis and the soil for breeding political families. In its not-too-lengthy history, America has had five political dynasties: Adams, Franklin, Kennedy, Bush and Clinton. The American media believes that the battle between Clinton 2.0 and Bush 3.0 is the most political dynasty-driven election in history and an extreme display of American political dynasties. It is also a sharp satire of the so-called most perfect democracy in the world. American political families have shown just how hypocritical and problematic American democracy is.
First, political dynasties have re-emerged. America was founded with democratic beliefs while turning its back on monarchism and dynastic politics. But the current political families contradict America’s founding beliefs, so it is inevitable to have some reappearance of political dynasties and an authoritarian political system. If Hillary and Jeb face off, and one of them succeeds, their personal charisma will have mattered, but their family pedigree will have mattered more. There are other candidates just as excellent, perhaps even more so than they are, but without the Clinton and Bush family background, they are lost in the crowd and have no chance to fight for the throne.
Second, money talks in politics. The American presidency is built on wealth, and political families have to create a new candidate the same way. When Hillary declared her intention to run for president, she started a fundraising machine that brings in funds daily and announced a record fundraising goal of $1 billion. Jeb’s fundraising tactics are no less stellar; he gets his money from the wealthy. There’s no free lunch, however — if they were elected, their policies would lean toward the interests of the rich. This is a financial transaction and makes American politics a ruthless game of money. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent candidate, has said that Americans live in a dirty era where billionaires are buying elections and candidates.
Third, polarization between the rich and poor has worsened. With money-driven politics and a wealth-driven economy, the rich are getting richer while the poorer are getting poorer in America, and its income polarization is the worst in the world. Hillary and Bush are waving the banner of fighting for the poor to get more votes. The former has promised to make the economy work for every American and not just the privileged, and she has said votes from the poor matter more than money from Wall Street. Jeb has emphasized that his policies would focus on protecting the disadvantaged. The American media has pointed out that the two are both telling pretty lies to swindle the lower-middle class, and their promises will not be delivered. After the election, they will look after the rich who gave them more money, play the money-driven political game more than ever, and leave the poor behind. The disparity between incomes and polarization of wealth will only increase.
America has often called its democracy model the best in the world and championed it as the absolute truth applicable to every other country. This is, of course, false. The fact is American democracy has become a paradox — it is only a democracy for the few who are rich. Most of the middle and lower-middle class, especially the poor, who make up 40 percent of the American population, have no democracy or equality to speak of. Money controls democracy in America — there is no true democracy. This is very evident in the country’s domination by family dynasties.
The author is an analyst at China Foreign Foundation for International Studies and is a former attaché of the Chinese Embassy to the USA.