Hey Joe!

If the US political news weren’t already over-saturated with the smoke and flames from the multiple murder dumpster fire that is the executive branch, maybe there would be some attention spared for the tragedy of another oligarch whose turn it is, having to actually struggle to access power.

The Kennedys were/are the prototypical american power scam family; they are what the Trumps hope to eventually be: a multi-generational political machine that regularly coughs up an offspring ‘destined’ to be a politician.

None of this is to say that Joe Kennedy III (not to be confused with his horrible great-grandfather) isn’t a nice guy – he may be. Who knows? Smiling John (who got assassinated) and drunk Ted (who swam out of a sunken car and let his passenger drown) were nice guys, too, but they were mostly Hollywood special effects. What blows my mind is that there appears to be a horrible dual standard in effect: on one hand, we acknowledge that there’s no such thing as a hereditary politician yet we keep electing family members. In spite of the rather obvious fact that those family members lined up for their turn to rule are exactly the kind of people you do not want to have in power, anywhere, ever. Didn’t we learn how monarchy works from watching all the European generations of idiots? No?


BOSTON – Just two years ago, Joe Kennedy’s star was so bright that he was asked to deliver the Democratic Party’s response to Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech. Now, if he can’t turn things around before Tuesday’s Massachusetts Senate primary, he’ll be out of politics.

A handful of recent polls show the 39-year-old congressman trailing incumbent Sen. Ed Markey – the septuagenarian incumbent whose campaign is improbably powered by younger progressive voters. Among voters under the age of 35, one of those polls reports, Markey is leading Kennedy by an almost 2-to-1 margin.

what a fake smile

Seeing another Kennedy “get out of politics” alive is a good thing. In case your memory needs refreshing: the Kennedy family are a successful collection of oligarchs, whose money and power come from bootlegging and stock market manipulation during the depression. The pater familias, Joe I, was one of the examples of “getting richer during a disaster” successfully parlaying a rum-running operation into great success on the stock market (as a way of laundering all that money) eventually becoming the head of the Securities Exchange Commission to fight corruption because he knew all the tricks and where the bodies were buried. The premise of hereditary politics is that there’s something more to the new politician than their family name, but that it’s only good; if there’s a hereditary political skill coursing through the Kennedy gene-line it’s nothing that anyone should want.

Can we describe the desire for a blood-line of politicians as “totalitarian”? It’s an example of the worst of humanity’s many bad ideas, going back to the absurdity of divine right of kings and celestial mandate.

As you can figure, I don’t really care about Kennedy’s politics. Presumably, he’s a pseudo-liberal like the rest of the Kennedy gene-line, because pseudo-liberalism is also a heritable trait. It’s not as if political success is a Kennedy trait – politically, none of them have ever amounted to much, even the vaunted JFK (as Howard Zinn points out)

He’s worth at least $40mn, personally (probably stands to inherit much more) and he doesn’t need to be trying to buy his way into politics. He could be sailing a yacht in The Hamptons or something more appropriate to his class. I hate the fact that the democratic establishment has decided to dust off the gene-line, thereby demonstrating that it (as we already know) does not understand this “democracy” thing. Perhaps they are the party of aristocracy, except they’d have to fight over that distinction with the republicans.


  1. Dunc says

    Can we describe the desire for a blood-line of politicians as “totalitarian”?

    Not in and of itself, no, I don’t think so. You could still have a vibrant multi-party democracy even if almost all of the politicians were from such bloodlines, as long as they disagreed with each other enough. Of course there’s the very strong potential for them all to end up aligning with each other because of their common interests, but that’s a problem with having a political class in general, regardless of how people end up in it.

  2. DrVanNostrand says

    I live in Mass and already voted against him in the primary. In fact, it was really the only reason that voting in the Dem primary was worthwhile at all. I loathe political dynasty, and he has done absolutely nothing to set himself apart from the liberal incumbent senator Ed Markey. On the bright side, he’s not running for his old House seat, and he’s currently down about 10 pts in the polls (the primary is tomorrow), so he’ll probably be briefly kicked out of politics entirely!

  3. John Morales says

    Can we describe the desire for a blood-line of politicians as “totalitarian”?

    Did you mean authoritarian? No need for hyperbole.

  4. komarov says

    Well, anyone romanticising the royal dynasties of old must be squinting hard to overlook all those royal nobodies that litter the lines of succession in between the few big names even the most casual student of history might recall after a good long think.

    As for modern day poliical families, can’t it just be a case that these families see politics as a nice way of keeping busy while raking in more cash? It’s work without any heavy lifting and (presumably) not involving any dead bodies. Political acumen may not be heritable, but all your notes on both rivals and “good” friends certainly are. All those insider tricks you picked up would certainly be something you can teach the kids. It’s an alternate career track for those not too keen on an ivy league business degree followed a series of exec jobs, with all the moving around that involves. An effecitve politician, once they’ve wormed their way in, usually gets to stay in one place. It’s much more family-friendly.

  5. lorn says

    IMHO the main reasons for this sort of dynastic tendency, by existing power structures (DNC), comes down to:

    1) name recognition 2) the existing oligarchical nature of wealth, so much wealth concentrated in so few families, and the relative ease such families have financing candidates from within the family 3) Reference to an existing story/myth which many see as ‘better times’. ie: the “Camelot” myth with youthful glamor and nobility.

    Some of this is an expressed desire to return to old money respectability, restraint, noblesse oblige, and visible (if not entirely real) class and “breeding” in political leadership. Clearly a response to the new money crassness, flagrant greed, obvious exploitation, and vulgarity of the Trumps.

    Some of this tacitly posits that the problem with Trump was that he, and his family: 1) Really didn’t have enough money to at least fake being disinterested in making more. 2) lacked the cultivated sensibilities, breeding, to avoid being reactive and coming across as a loud-mouthed bully only interested in himself and his.

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