Dick Morris: Political dynasties defeated

Dick Morris: Political dynasties defeated
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Lost among the scattered debris of the Democratic midterm disaster is another phenomenon: the widespread rejection of dynastic politicians. Three of the five defeated Democratic senators who ran for reelection (assuming a runoff loss by Louisiana’s Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuBottom line A 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 MORE and the loss of Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska political mess has legislators divided over meeting place Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world MORE in Alaska) belong to families whose famous last names had paved their way for a cakewalk entry into high political office.

Arkansas’s Sen. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorCoronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 Tom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 MORE is the son of David Pryor, a former governor, senator and U.S. representative. The father of Colorado’s Sen. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallThe 10 Senate seats most likely to flip Democratic presidential race comes into sharp focus Democrats will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump MORE was Morris “Mo” Udall, a former congressman and presidential candidate, as well as the brother of former Congressman and Kennedy Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall. Landrieu’s father, Maurice “Moon” Landrieu, was the legendary mayor of New Orleans. And Begich’s father was Alaska Congressman Nick Begich (the fifth Democrat to lose in the Senate was Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations Democrats awash with cash in battle for Senate The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's job approval erodes among groups that powered his 2016 victory MORE in North Carolina). Together with the retirement of Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerBottom Line World Health Day: It's time to fight preventable disease Lobbying World MORE in West Virginia, five scions of famous families are leaving the Senate. 


That only leaves four legacy senators: Sens. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Fred Upton says it is 'tragic' to see Americans reject masks, social distancing; Russia claims it will approve COVID-19 vaccine by mid-August People with disabilities see huge job losses; will pandemic roll back ADA gains? MORE (D-Pa.), Mark Udall’s cousin Tom (D-N.M.,), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump-backed Hagerty wins Tennessee GOP Senate primary Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus MORE (R-Ky.) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns MORE (R-Alaska). And with both Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBlumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections Hillary Clinton roasts NYT's Maureen Dowd over column Hillary Clinton touts student suspended over crowded hallway photo: 'John Lewis would be proud' MORE and Jeb Bush lining up as possible 2016 presidential contenders, the reasons for the obliteration of the current generation of dynastics becomes even important.

Perhaps the biggest problem that the defeated dynastics carried into their reelection campaigns is that they were initially propelled into office almost solely by their name. Few Arkansans knew much about Mark Pryor when he was elected. His record as attorney general was minimal, and he was primarily known as the kind of moderate, middle-of-the-road, reliable political figure his father had been — good ol’ David’s boy. Now, exposed to the glare of a multimillion-dollar national race, his limited abilities became apparent, for example, when he couldn’t answer a question about what he thought of the president’s Ebola policy. His values became questionable when his 1985 undergraduate thesis was unearthed, asserting that the use of federal troops to integrate Central High School in Little Rock in 1957 was an “unwilling invasion.” Without a strong personal image, he had no weapons to counter the negatives.

Similarly, Mark Udall’s election as senator in Colorado was in the green shadow of his father and uncle’s record at the Interior Department. Fitting neatly into the Democratic environmental groove, he won easily. But, up for reelection, his overly aggressive focus on the Republican “war on women” led many to see him as manipulative and one-dimensional. 

Mary Landrieu had never been under the pressure she found in 2014. Elected three times as the uniquely Louisianan daughter of Moon Landrieu, she avoided being pigeonholed into her party’s liberal wing. But voters judged her harshly this time. Her lack of a real Louisiana residence and the focus on President Obama’s delay of the Keystone XL oil pipeline became big negatives. Her support of the president’s immigration policies and loyalty to Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill Kamala Harris to young Black women at conference: 'I want you to be ambitious' Obama calls filibuster 'Jim Crow relic,' backs new Voting Rights Act bill MORE made voters see, for the first time, who she really is. And her characterization of Louisiana voters as particularly hard on black and female candidates has made her defeat in the runoff a virtual certainty. 

As voters learn who these senators are, they also learn how much they are unlike their predecessors. Mark Pryor was faulted for lacking his father’s intimate bonding with the state. Mark Udall seemed to lack his dad’s adventurous passion. Neither Landrieu nor Begich had their fathers’ nonpartisan identification with their state’s roots and past.

Will Clinton and Bush survive the current distaste for political relatives if they run for the highest office in 2016? Will Hillary Clinton’s lack of her husband’s economic clarity and wisdom hurt her? Or will Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBiden painted into a basement 'Rose Garden strategy' corner Giuliani says Black Lives Matter is 'domestic terrorist' group We have the resources to get through this crisis, only stupidity is holding us back MORE’s ability to make friends and charm adversaries by finding common ground help her campaign? Is her limited creativity more obvious when compared with the former president’s?

Does Bush have the experienced hand at foreign policy of his father, George H.W. Bush? Or his brother George W. Bush’s facility for instant intimacy? 

As we learn who sons or daughters of famous names are, we also learn what they are not, and the knowledge often strips them of their potential appeal.  

Morris, who served as adviser to former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and former President Clinton, is the author of 17 books, including his latest, Power Grab: Obama’s Dangerous Plan for a One Party Nation and Here Come the Black Helicopters. To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to dickmorris.com.