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Destler Dodge

Within the past three decades, two names, Bush and Clinton, have had an almost inescapable presence in national politics. Take the fact that since 1988, the 2012 presidential election was the only instance where there wasn’t a member of the Bush or Clinton family in the running. Looking forward to 2016the trend does not appear to be stopping.  It's already certain that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be running in 2016 and it's more then likely that former Governor Jeb Bush will as well.  The staying power of these two dynasties shows the  discerning advantage they have over the competition in many ways.

Even in light of her recent email controversy, Hillary Clinton remains the only prominent Democratic candidate thus far.  According to the most recent Quinnipiac University Poll, she holds 60 percent of the vote. Her closest opponent is Vice President Joe Biden with 10 percent, yet he hasn’t even decided if he is going to run or not.

While Jeb Bush is not essentially unopposed like Clinton, he remains near the top of the crowded Republican pack, according to those polled by Quinnipiac, trailing only behind Senator Marco Rubio.  Interestingly, this is despite him being named the top candidate that Republican voters “would definitely not support” in the same poll. Nevertheless, Jeb Bush remains a top contender, although his divisiveness suggests that even some Republicans are wary of putting another Bush on the ticket.

It’s important to recognize with such a last name comes greater scrutiny.  Jeb Bush is so divisive of a candidate because it’s hard for a number of voters to separate him from the disdain many have for the prior Bush presidency.  It was once considered political suicide to associate one’s self with the name “Bush” post-2008, yet the former governor remains close to the front of the race.  Granted seven years have passed, but does time really heal all wounds or is it a case of name recognition outweighing the baggage?

One could observe something similar with the former Secretary. The fact that Hillary Clinton and her family are already so prevalent made her recent email controversy, get that much more coverage.  As seen by the same Quinnipiac University poll, 54 percent of voters see Hillary as “not honest and trustworthy”, but she is still by far the top candidate. Does her prominence really exceed that perception? For the moment, it would appear so.

As PBS noted in December 2014, a familiar last name provides a candidate with early supporters as well as a network of political contacts and potential fundraisers.  Figures like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush have no problem getting national attention. They are already public figures, recognizable to the media and voters alike because they share the same name as their predecessors.  This has the makings of a self-fulfilling prophecy; if one gains the necessary recognition and influence for a political office through a family member who holds it, then they are the ones best positioned to pursue it.

In the case of these two families, it appears to be working. The familiarity of such dynasties has done more to persuade voters, rather than dissuade them. While there’s nothing illegal about running for office in the footsteps of one’s relative, it’s hard to ignore (and swallow) the inherent advantages both Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton have. In the wake of a potential matchup of Bush vs. Clinton in 2016, I hope more voters begin to question how ingrained these two families have become in American Politics.