By PATRICK REAR
BOLOGNA — Hillary Clinton’s announcement last Sunday that she intends to seek the U.S. presidency in 2016 to succeed President Barack Obama stirred up the beehive of political pundits and commentators that had been speculating about her potential run since she lost the 2008 Democratic primary elections to then-Senator Obama. In the intervening years, Clinton served as Obama’s Secretary of State before being cut loose in early 2013 to be succeeded by current Secretary of State and fellow former presidential aspirant John Kerry.
In reality, the 2016 election cycle is likely Clinton’s last shot at the White House before she is considered “too old to run” in 2020 and passed over for younger members of her party. Further, her interest in the presidency has been the open secret of the Democratic Party for the past eight years and has largely stifled the development of a new generation of leaders who will take the baton when the current crop quickly exceeds ages at which voters feel comfortable voting for a Commander-in-Chief. For many though, 2016 should be the year of Hillary, when she finally achieves her last major electoral victory. Her election would be a historic moment: she would be the first female President of the United States, and she would be the first Democrat since President Harry Truman to win immediately after a two-term Democratic President. (A feat the Republicans last accomplished in 1988 when George H.W. Bush succeeded Ronald Reagan.)
Speaking of the first President Bush, however, brings to mind another rumored contender in the 2016 Republican primary elections from an equally powerful family in American political circles to the Clintons: Jeb Bush, the younger son of George H.W. and younger brother of George W. Bush, has not yet officially thrown his hat into the ring, but all indicators predict that he — like Clinton — will likely join the fray at some point in what is sure to be a lively primary election season for the Republican Party as many candidates jostle for position.
While I am as excited about the prospect of a female U.S. President as the next person, I think that voting for (or against) any candidate solely because of their sex, race, or religion is — quite frankly — an utterly stupid reason. I have my own political differences with both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush that mean neither of them is likely to see a vote from me (which won’t matter at all if I maintain my Oregonian residency next year where even a dead Democrat would give any Republican a run for their money and potentially beat them, but could potentially be a deciding factor if I switch it to Virginia which has turned purple in the past few elections). At the same time, I think that electing either of them would be another step in a troubling trend in American democracy. I — along with everyone else under the age of 35 — have only lived through one election where neither a Bush nor a Clinton has been on the ballot in some way: Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012.
A study released last year by Princeton University made the troubling claim that the U.S. is no longer a democracy, but is now an oligarchy — or “rule by the few” — where the same limited group of elites cycle through the top offices and corridors of power, having little connection to the broader world of American society. To elect either Clinton or Bush in 2016 would further solidify that system and feed into the idea of “American dynasties” such as the Roosevelts, Kennedys, Bushes, and Clintons that ignores our anti-royalist heritage and attempts to construct a pseudo-divine right to rule for certain families and groups because of who they were born as rather than what they have accomplished.