Politics R Us, or, Who's Your Daddy?
Rich white guys are not the only ones who can be counted among the 1%. The label is not just about income, it’s also about privilege and position… and nepotism.
The 1% in the US usually refers to the Mitt Romneys of the world who think it’s being a regular Joe to make an off-the-cuff bet with someone (Texas Governor Rick Perry) for $10,000 rather than, say, $20. Or, to own “a couple of Cadillacs”, along with other cars (some apparently with a dog attached to the roof). Or, to claim multiple states in the United States as their home because they have so many homes in so many states.
And the more someone like Romney tries so desperately to pretend he’s a common man (e.g., reciting lyrics from some Davy Crockett song from his childhood, eating “cheesy grits”, mentioning that he’s friends with the owners of sports teams), the more laughable and disliked he becomes.
But rich white guys like Romney aren't the only ones who can be counted among the 1%. The label isn't just about income: it’s also about privilege and position…and nepotism.
Nepotism in politics is as American as Apple (the pie and the company). Think John Adams and John Quincy Adams. John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and Ted Kennedy and Patrick Kennedy and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, et. al. George W. H. Bush and George W. Bush and Jeb Bush. Mario Cuomo and Andrew Cuomo (who was previously married to Kerry Kennedy).
Is there anyone—really, anyone—who believes “W” could ever have ascended to the presidency of the United States if his father had not been president? The Oliver Stone film shows that even his own father had serious doubts about that man's fitness to be president.
Alas, the nepotism factor in politics doesn’t just end with elected office. It’s invaded the media, as well.
Remember learning about the military-industrial complex? Well, the US has a political-media-progeny complex, where more and more children of famous politicians (or famous political commentators) are being hired for news and commentary positions on major networks and internet sites. How much more 1%-y does it get than that?
Here are some of the best-known political progeny on the airwaves today:
• Mika Brzezinski, co-host of Morning Joe (MSNBC) and daughter of former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. Not surprisingly, Dad often appears on the show to give his opinions on foreign policy matters.
• Ron Reagan, political commentator (MSNBC), son of former President and conservative icon Ronald Reagan
• Chris Cuomo, co-anchor, 20/20 (ABC), son of former New York Governor and liberal icon Mario Cuomo
• Chris Wallace, host, Fox News Sunday, son of television journalism legend Mike Wallace
• Liz Cheney, news contributor (Fox News), daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney
• Alexandra Pelosi, former network television producer (NBC), documentary filmmaker (HBO), daughter of Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi
• Emily Rooney, former ABC News producer, current host of Greater Boston (WGBH/PBS), daughter of 60 Minutes’ columnist-curmudgeon for 33 years, Andy Rooney
• Luke Russert, 26, congressional correspondent (MSNBC/NBC), son of Tim Russert, the longest-serving moderator of Meet the Press (NBC), who died in 2008, and Vanity Fair special correspondent Maureen Orth.
• Meghan McCain, 27, contributor (The Daily Beast and MSNBC), daughter of Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain
• Jenna Bush Hager, 29, correspondent, Today (NBC) daughter of former President George W. Bush and granddaughter of former President George H.W. Bush
• And, most recently, Chelsea Clinton, 31, special correspondent, NBC Nightly News, daughter of former President Bill Clinton and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
It’s obvious why moguls would be interested in all of them: big-time name recognition, the audience’s natural curiosity about the children of famous people, and the polish and ease that can come with being in the spotlight from a young age.
Growing up in a household where your parents and their friends eat, live, and breathe politics is certainly an invaluable education. And some of these reporters even have journalism or communications degrees, and even worked their way up through the ranks to the positions they currently hold.
But, let’s get real. Much as I sympathize with Luke Russert for losing his father so young, would he really have such a high-profile job if his father hadn’t been a Washington power player? Would anyone be clamoring for Jenna or Chelsea to be on TV if not for their prominent parents?
College seniors in the journalism/communication fields are freaking out. They’re being told there are no jobs out there, they need an advanced degree, the future of paying positions in journalism is getting hazier, and they’re facing, in some cases, thousands upon thousands of dollars in student loans.
The 1% that may be standing in young people’s way aren’t necessarily the multi-millionaires/billionaires we all envision when we hear the term. They’re more likely to be young, familiar faces with exceedingly familiar names staring at them through their television, laptop, or tablet screens.
It’s time for a new movement, America: Occupy Nepotism!