Career politicians and political dynasties are nothing new in American politics. Although our nation was founded to be a place where our leaders were not chosen simply because they belonged to a particular lineage or privileged group, we have become a country where a large number of our leaders can point to long genealogical lines of elected officials before them. There is nothing wrong with this practice, in theory. It's something that happens on both sides of the aisle. And in truth, dynasties have produced some of the greatest leaders and would-be leaders of all time. Republican dynasties have produced the Bushes, the Romneys, the Pauls and many others. Democrats can look to the Kennedys, the Clintons and the like. That's the thing about dynasties: They're bipartisan, through and through.


In 2014, however, the practice of relying on the namesake of a political dynasty has become a dangerous one for Senate Democrats. This year, several of the Democrats currently fighting for their political lives in the U.S. Senate belong to political dynasties and are counting on their family name to carry them to a triumphant finish on election night. In some cases, they're even refusing to participate in the American political process — hiding from the media and skipping debates while relying on television ads and the voters' recognition of their noteworthy last names.

Sen. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorTom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation MORE (D-Ark.) is one such example. Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska political mess has legislators divided over meeting place Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world MORE (D-Alaska) is another. There is also Michelle Nunn in Georgia. Democrats are laser-focused on the Peach State, and have had some success in evening the playing field in their own right. But what Nunn is counting on is the fact that voters that will recognize her last name on Election Day. And the fact that they saw her featured in a political television ad next to former President George H.W. Bush, despite his repeated protests for her to remove his image — well, that probably won't hurt either.

There is also Sen. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallDemocrats will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump Poll: Trump trails three Democrats by 10 points in Colorado The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy MORE (D-Colo.), who comes from a dynasty that stretches throughout more than a century in American politics. Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuA decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ MORE (D-La.) comes from a dynasty as well, and she's counting on it to show her own residency in the state that she represents in her beloved Washington. Even Sen. Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganGOP braces for Democratic spending onslaught in battle for Senate Democrats will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Dems shift strategy on impeachment vote MORE (D-N.C.) can point to a political lineage of her own, as she is the niece of the late Sen. Lawton Chiles (D-Fla.).

The one thing that all of these Democrats have in common is that their family name may not be enough to propel them to victory this year, according to the most recent polling. Further, what's terrifying to the political left is the fact that Republicans have learned how to compete in states where political dynasties and long lineages of liberals who believe it is still their time are on the ballot, and against Democrats who scoff at the notion that anyone would challenge their rightful place in Washington. Americans have simply grown tired of business as usual. And to boot, Republicans have chosen a fresh, exciting crop of candidates to challenge the Democrats in many of these states, this year.

Should Republicans be successful in defeating the dynasties in 2014, they will be well on their way to dethroning the Democrats' best hope in 2016. Hillary Clinton stumbled during the 2008 presidential primary, mainly because a young senator named Barack Obama had the audacity to challenge Clinton in her quest to become the 44th president of the United States. And if Republicans can prove that they've mastered this art, then they too have a fighting chance in 2016.

The lesson in all of this is a simple one, really. Politicians must embrace the practice of open, honest elections with both arms. They must understand that, no matter what their last name is or what polls say six months before Election Day, they must present themselves to their constituents as people who deserve their vote. People who have new ideas. Who refuse to accept the status quo. Who can demonstrate real leadership, and not the complacency that comes with being too comfortable in office. That is the challenge, whether a candidate's last name is familiar or not. It's what our Founding Fathers fought for. It's what the American people deserve.

Zelt is a Republican communications adviser and an alumna of both the Republican National Committee and Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign.