Branding Politicians

The New York Times published an article recently suggesting that while Hillary Rodham Clinton was not likely to be elected president, some other woman soon would be, in part because Sen. Clinton (D-N.Y.) had broken the glass ceiling. I agree with that premise. But the Times article went on to speculate as to whom that other woman might be, and one of the suggestions prompts this dissent.

One of the several names floated by the Times was Chelsea Clinton! What might the Times be thinking? She has never been a politician or government professional; she campaigned for her mother, as most politicians’ families do. What is behind the suggestion must be that she has the family name, connections — in other words, brand. That ought not to be a criterion for the presidency. Didn’t George W. Bush prove that?

For Americans to think about potential presidents by the brand of their last names — Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton — is a travesty of democratic government. In England, one’s name is relevant in the royalty hierarchy, but politicians rise through the ranks of government service. Why shouldn’t our republican form of government follow that more democratic course?

Rather, in the United States, a well-known name provides access, and we end up with movie actors like George Murphy, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronald Reagan running for political office, originally because so many Americans knew their names. Americans follow names. Look at the most popular television shows: “CSI,” “CSI:NY,” “CSI: Miami”; “Dancing With the Stars”; “American Idol”; movies: “Rocky I,” II, II, IV …

I’m sure Chelsea Clinton is a nice young woman. But president of the United States??? What does that suggestion say to everyone else’s daughter?