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Books by and about 2016 presidential candidates
Hard Choices,
by Hillary Clinton (2014)
Crippled America ,
by Donald J. Trump (2015)
Trump vs. Hillary On The Issues ,
by Jesse Gordon (2016)
Outsider in the White House,
by Bernie Sanders (2015)
American Dreams,
by Marco Rubio (2015)
Taking a Stand,
by Rand Paul (2015)
Unintimidated,
by Scott Walker (2013)
A Time for Truth,
by Ted Cruz (2015)
One Nation,
by Ben Carson (2014)
Trump/Pence vs. Clinton/Kaine On the Issues ,
by Jesse Gordon (2016)
Living History ,
by Hillary Rodham Clinton (2003)
Between Hope and History ,
by Bill Clinton (1996)
In Harm’s Way ,
by Dr. Jill Stein (2000)
Democrat vs. Republican vs. Green vs. Libertarian,
Four Party's Presidential Nominees On The Issues (2016)
Books by and about 2012 presidential candidates
Ten Letters
about Pres. Barack Obama (2011)
Do Not Ask What Good We Do
about Rep. Paul Ryan (2012)

Book Reviews

(from Amazon.com)

(click a book cover for a review or other books by or about the presidency from Amazon.com)

American Dynasty
Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush
by Kevin Phillips



(Click for Amazon book review)

    Click on a participant to pop-up their full list of quotations
    from American Dynasty, by Kevin Phillips (number of quotes indicated):
  • Hillary Clinton (1) Democratic Presidential candidate
  • Jeb Bush (1) Florida Former FL Governor; Republican Presidential candidate
    OR click on an issue category below for a subset.

BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:

Jeb Bush inherits the Bush dynasty in 2016, while Hillary Clinton similarly inherits the Clinton dynasty -- that is the theme and focus of this book. As its title indicates, it is anti-Bush -- George Sr. and George Jr. adorn the cover from 2003, but for 2016, the real lessons apply to Jeb. Those lessons apply to Hillary, too, and the author takes pains to point out that the issue is bipartisan: "The current evidence that dynasticism is likewise affecting the Democratic Party, through the appeal of Senator Hillary Clinton, supports the notion that great-family politics is still unfolding, not retreating, in the United States. [Regarding] a match between Floridian Jeb Bush and Senator Clinton… the founding father would cringe, to be sure, but portions of the national psyche have seemed accepting" (p. 322 -- sorry, the author writes like that! He means, "Voters in both parties like political families.")

The author makes the case that the American electorate supports political dynasties -- even though the connotation is negative, voters DO vote for wives, sons, nephews, and other inheritors from dynastic founders. The author investigates the problems inherent with that system, making the analogy to royalty: "Were Hillary Clinton to achieve a second restoration [like the restoration of the Bush dynasty in 2000], this one Clintonian, public perception might well lurch toward some American equivalent of the 15th-century Wars of the Roses, during which the English Crown was contested by the houses of York and Lancaster" (p. 4). That means Jeb and Hillary duke it out in 2016 and 2020, and then it implies that George P. Bush and Chelsea Clinton will wait in the wings for 2024 or 2028. We interpret that as a prediction, although the author meant it more as a warning.

The author additionally cites "10 to 20 minor dynasties" (p. 71, plus p. 5 and p. 117) -- some you've heard of, and some you haven't -- again, mostly as a warning that dynasticism is effective as a means of getting elected, but unhealthy for democracy. His partial list (with two dynastic presidential contenders listed on the top right, in ADDITION to Jeb and Hillary!):

Elder elected official
(founder of dynasty)
Younger elected official
(inheriting dynast)
Senator John Chafee (R, RI) Governor Lincoln Chafee (D, RI, running for president in 2016)
Rep. Ron Paul (R, TX) Senator Rand Paul (R, KY, running for president in 2016)
President John F. Kennedy (D, MA) Senator Ted Kennedy (D, MA, ran for president in 1980)
Rep. Joe Kennedy (D, MA)
Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D, RI)
Rep. Stewart Udall (D, AZ) Rep. Mo Udall (D, AZ, ran for president in 1976)
Senator Tom Udall (D, NM)
Senator Mark Udall (D, CO)
We pick that list of dynasties to emphasize the presidential politics aspects -- inheriting a dynasty certainly helps in a presidential campaign! So what is the mechanism of dynastic inheritance? How do the younger dynasts capitalize on their predecessors' elections? The author cites (p. 70) two mechanisms : (1) Cash (it's easy to raise funds when your elder relatives already got funds from the same donors); and (2) "Brand extension" (voters know your name already, and know the political views associated with your predecessor).

But there is a 3rd benefit, which we'll call "Contacts," which the author does not discuss, but which we see as the most relevant for the lead-up to the 2016 election. By "contacts," we mean people who will endorse the dynast and will vote for the dynast in the presidential nominating convention -- this mechanism is why Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton strongly lead in the likelihood of winning the nomination, even during the political turmoil of summer 2015, when both of them trail in the polls: Jeb currently trails both Donald Trump (R, NYC) and Ben Carson (R, MD), while Hillary trails Bernie Sanders (D, VT). "Trailing in the polls" in August 2015 is irrelevant to the 2016 election -- especially because in the delegate count, Jeb and Hillary are doing extremely well:

  • 2,242 delegates needed for Hillary to win Democratic nomination, out of 4,483 total delegates
  • 3,283 delegates elected in primaries and caucuses
  • 1,200 superdelegates (including DNC members & PLEOs*)
  • 313 superdelegates currently committed to Hillary Clinton
  • 0 superdelegates currently committed to Bernie Sanders
  • 12 superdelegates currently committed to other Democrats
  • 1,235 delegates needed for Jeb to win Republican nomination, out of 2,470 total delegates
  • 1,865 delegates elected in primaries and caucuses
  • 605 superdelegates (including RNC members, PLEOs, and bonus delegates)
  • 34 superdelegates currently committed to Jeb Bush
  • 0 superdelegates currently committed to Donald Trump or Ben Carson
  • 85 superdelegates currently committed to other Republicans
* "PLEO" = Party Leaders and Elected Officials, who can attend the 2016 party convention and vote for the presidential nomination
"RNC" and "DNC" = Republican and Democratic National Committee members, who can also vote at the 2016 conventions
"Bonus delegates"= both parties assign extra delegates to states with good turnout in past Congressional and Gubernatorial elections.
Here's what that means: Hillary has already locked up 14% of the delegate votes she needs to get nominated (Hillary claimed 20% as of Aug. 31 at the DNC summer meeting ). And Jeb, in a larger field, has locked up only 3% already, but that's more that any other Republican. And the challengers who "lead" in the popularity polls all have 0 delegates locked up -- they have not translated their popularity among the voters into commitments from superdelegates. In both parties, candidates cannot get nominated only by superdelegates -- they account for just under half the total needed for the nomination -- but they can certainly get a strong start! The parties want this setup: yes, the voters in the primaries and caucuses matter, for electing delegates, but the party itself gets a strong say too.

How do political dynasties help with superdelegate votes? The superdelegates are loyal party members -- either members of Congress, or members of the party's National Committees, for example -- and they expect a personal request for their vote. For the Democrats, Bill Clinton calls -- and offers to visit -- and asks you to commit to Hillary -- that is VERY persuasive for loyal Democrats! For the Republicans, George Bush Sr. or Barabara Bush call -- for the older superdelegates -- or George W. Bush calls -- for the younger superdelegates -- and asks you to commit to Jeb -- that is VERY persuasive for loyal Republicans! And once they commit -- often publicized by an endorsement press release -- you might think "Well, they could change their mind later" -- no, that doesn't happen. Voting at the conventions is public -- no secret ballots there! -- and party loyalists would be permanently ostracized for breaking their word -- they must ask permission to rescind their endorsement, or get formally "released" if the candidate drops out of the race. Jeb has not been as dominant as Hillary in gaining superdelegate commitments because there are so many candidates -- hence Republicans are waiting to see some drop out before they commit. But Jeb is still winning in the only "poll" that actually counts -- committed delegates -- and Hillary is entirely dominant in that same "poll."

The caucuses and primaries elect the regular delegates to the convention, but their commitments are based on the results of each states' voting in early 2016. The political game there is to get eligible voters to vote on caucus day or primary day. That requires a lot of the same methods as for superdelegates, but not quite as much personal attention because the numbers are greater. But not as much greater as you would think -- the number of attendees at the Iowa caucuses in 2012 was about 8,000 people for the Democrats (Obama ran uncontested), and 120,000 for the Republicans -- that's a lot of people, but not millions!

So what about Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders? Yes, they CAN catch up. But Trump so far has focused only on getting lots of media attention -- he's certainly an expert at that! -- and will need to soon switch his focus to getting superdelegates and delegates. Sanders has been focused on getting large crowds to turn out for campaign events -- but that's only useful if those people will attend caucuses and primaries, and young people (most of Sanders' supporters) overwhelmingly do not. Both Trump and Sanders can still translate their popularity into delegate votes -- keep an eye out that they are doing so by looking for news reports about "Iowa infrastructure", "meetings with party officials in New Hampshire", and less showy things like that.

Overall, this book is lousy reading. The author sounds like a scholar rather than a writer -- by which we mean he doesn't know how to reach normal readers. And he missed the most important scholarly aspect of dynastic politics -- the superdelegates -- and hence loses our confidence as a scholar too. It's an interesting read for those concerned about dynastic politics, but as his own book demonstrates, voters are not nearly as worried about dynasties as is the author.

-- Jesse Gordon, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, August 2015
 OnTheIssues.org excerpts:  (click on issues for details)
Foreign Policy
    Jeb Bush: Supports increasing aid to Nigeria and developing countries.
Principles & Values
    Hillary Clinton: OpEd: Dynasties offer donors, free media, & brand extension.


    Click for quotations from other sources by:
  • Hillary Clinton Democratic Presidential candidate
  • Jeb Bush Florida Former FL Governor; Republican Presidential candidate

The above quotations are from American Dynasty
Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush
by Kevin Phillips.

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