Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Question Of Legacies and Quayles.

In America we have no official aristocracy. The Founders didn't want any American lords or dukes or even knights popping up in American society after they were gone. On this, both Republicans and Democrats can completely agree on as it says clearly in the Constitution: "No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States." The country had just fought a war against a King and many of his generals had been lords and such. They didn't want Americans setting themselves up with titles and literally "lording" it up over other Americans. Americans have always been wary of titles -- Washington had been called "His Excellency" while serving as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army -- but its hard to say if he liked the title or not. When Lincoln was addressed with this same title by General McClellan at their meetings he hated it. Congressmen mocked Vice-President Adams when he presented them with a list of titles to address the President with because he found "Mr. President" too informal for the position -- leading him to be called "His Rotundity" and a reputation for being a would be monarchist -- this against the most fiery of Revolutionaries!

Sometimes I wonder if it would have been better if the Founders had just created some kind of honorific title that could be given to any American for services rendered in some way -- like knighthoods and damehoods are still in England-- for everything ranging from work in government to the arts to science and even livestock raising as the British Crown does -- that were just titles themselves, and didn't have any privileges so that Americans would stop looking for dynasties and people to give titles to. I don't see what harm it could do, but the American in me does find it a tiny bit elitist, but at the same time, it would also be kind of fun--imagine Sir and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Lady Helen Keller. They both have a nice ring to them. Even if it was just a title with nothing else attached to it. For some reason Americans are always looking for legacies and dynasties. In sports, Hollywood, and of course in politics and I think part of the reason for it is because we have no honorifics.

In sports fans love when their teams are called dynasties. Because it usually means they've won a lot of championships. The New York Yankees are of course a great example of this. Other teams have dynasties as well-and naturally they are sometimes given titles, such as the Cincinnati Reds-"Big Red Machine" or the Pittsburgh Steelers-"Steel Curtain" teams. Every sport has them -- from the Lakers and Celtics in basketball to Bear Bryants teams at Alabama (my personal favorite) and lists can go on and on. Sports reporters are always eager to find a new dynasty--as evidenced just this year when Alabama after not winning a title in 18 years after winning the National Championship in college football found themselves a week later on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the cover screaming-DYNASTY. And thats just with one title!

In Hollywood, indeed, in acting throughout the ages, people love to see the children and grandchildren go on to great heights as well, all the way back to the Booths to today with the Barrymores with a legacy that goes back generations. Its the same in businesses-as in family businesses, the Hiltons, the Buschs', the Rockefellers are all dynasties in business, politics, and philanthropy, the list goes on and on.

In politics though, its especially interesting and attractive to Americans to look for dynasties. Why its hard to say, perhaps its simply because we have no official American nobility, but from almost the beginning of the American system of government people were interested and fascinated with dynasties that were in politics and public service -- even before the Revolution the Lees of Virginia were already a powerful and rich family and dynasty that was practically American nobility with all of them becoming successful in government and the military-serving in Virginia's House of Burgesses and as governors, the Continental Congress, in the American Army, and as ambassadors overseas, their legacy would go all the way thru the Civil War and they would be married to and connected to all of the great and powerful families of Virgina and the South. John Adams our second President was the father of our sixth President John Quincy Adams. William Henry Harrison was the 9th President of the United States, his grandfather had signed the Declaration of Independence, and he in turn was the grandfather of our 23rd President-Benjamin Harrison. Theodore Roosevelt was practically a father to his niece Eleanor who of course married her distant cousin Franklin. Together the Roosevelts were President for over 20 years thanks to FDR's 4 terms. The Kennedys are of course, practically Americas Royal Family. The Bush family has produced two Presidents. For a country with no official nobility, its interesting to see that in the history of our country, 4 families have held the title of our nations highest office multiple times. Not that different from a country with an official aristocracy is it?

So now a new family is trying to establish a dynasty -- the Quayles. As you may have seen in the news, just this week Ben Quayle, the son of J. Danforth "Dan" Quayle, former Vice-President of the United States under George H.W. Bush -- and a national joke for practically all four of those years -- won the Republican nomination for an open seat in Congress in Arizona where he lives. He defeated 9 other opponents, some who were seasoned political professionals. This was after he had been exposed for writing for a blog that was basically about nightlife and sex in the area in Arizona he lived in under a pseudonym from "Boogie Nights" where he wrote:

“My moral compass is so broken I can barely find the parking lot.”

and after he had called President Obama in one of his TV ads that he managed to pay for with the $1.3 million he raised from his dads connections:

"the worst President in history"

We reported both of these stories on the Vice-Precedence Facebook page that you can go and see for yourself. You can see the campaign ad where he says that about President Obama. And I mean-Really? Worse than Nixon who was forced to resign for being part of a criminal conspiracy? Worse than Harding who had a Cabinet full of criminals? Worse than James Buchanan who let the country fall apart into chaos and civil war? In only two years? Please.

Part of the reason he won has to be attributed to his name. He has practically no experience in government unless you count being a Congressional page experience. Its easy to remember, his dad was Vice-President of the United States. He's practically a lock to win in this heavily Republican area in Arizona. One things for sure, he knows he's in for a fight because of his name and its connection to tons of jokes-as evidenced in this quote:

“You build thick skin being a Quayle,”

He better have, because I'm sure his opponent will bring up that picture he had taken of himself with two kids who weren't his own, since he doesn't have any kids.

Is this the beginning of a new American dynasty? We'll see. Thanks for reading.

Matt Saxe

No comments:

Post a Comment