This morning, I read a story on how all eyes are on Representative Joe Kennedy III before Trump’s State of the Union Address. The grandson of Former Attorney General Robert Kennedy and so called rising star of the Democratic Party has been tapped to make the opposition’s response to the President’s annual speech.
Are we really doing this? Are we really trying this now?
This is once more an attempt by the Democratic Party to normalize oligarchy and political dynasty in America. The people cringed at the idea of the Clintons beginning a dynasty, and many were justifiably outraged with reports that Ivanka Trump, hoisted into the White House through nepotistic gall, wanted to become president. Now because a man has the last name Kennedy we’re supposed to be okay with it? What are Joe Kennedy’s legislative achievements? What are his goals? Nobody knows, we’re just supposed to shut up and listen because he’s been proclaimed the “Rising Star” by the Establishment.
Of course, I could be wrong. This Kennedy could be completely earnest in his mission as a civil servant, and not just trying to further the goals of his “old money” family. But the John F Kennedy’s selection of his brother as Attorney General was the precedent to enacting later nepotism reforms, which had gone unchallenged until Trump’s appointment of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner as key advisers. A return to “good” nepotism, while not overtly as damaging, still harms the state of our democracy.
While it is the height of hypocrisy to support the rise of a different upper class political dynasty because we like their name more, it is not surprising. Many movements, including the left, have great difficulty with separating a movement from its key leaders. Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X are, for example, the faces of the civil rights movement, even though there were countless local organizers and community leaders that led the way as well. Senator Bernie Sanders was lifted up as a socialist messiah during the 2016 Democratic primary. Many of us look at history through the lens of romantic idealism: that events are always spurred by individuals and not the whole. Some leaders realized this, such as labor leader Eugene V. Debs, and attempted to dissuade their followers from creating a cult of personality.
“I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition”
Unfortunately many have not taken Debs’ advice to heart, and, whether intentionally or not, it has become toxic to the progressive mission of equality. We cannot be considered equal if we believe that there are some more equal than others because of their circumstance of birth. An elected dynasty is no better than the rule of kings, and we are a land of kings no longer.