We watched as Jeb Bush repeatedly fielded the same question during his run for the Republican Party nomination in 2016 — a prize won by both his father and his brother. Jeb Bush would stand with respect and explain to whatever shop manager in suburban New Hampshire or business owner in rural Iowa, that he was on the ballot that year — and no one else in his family —.
It went for months so there was the demand. Poll after poll showed Bush lost his front-runner status miserably. It was his surname, more than his undeniable smarts, that defined his credibility for years, and suddenly, it wasn't working. As I sat in a lakeside hotel ballroom one night in January 2016 for the first time I observed a marked shift in how Bush was talking about his family, now leaning to it a bit and hoping some of the glow could be found. A few weeks later the entire campaign took place on the trail of campaigning. I met his mother at the shared hotel lobby in Concord, N.H. and watched as former President George W. Bush donned an oversized 'Jeb! Button in South Carolina, a state that set him on the track to become the 43rd President of United States. Jeb Bush ended his campaign in Charleston, S.C. on the primary night, surrounded by veterans of the two elder Bushes' campaigns. The presidential hopeful went home tired, and easily frustrated with the talk about Bush Fatigue.
The campaign of 2016 made it crystal clear that Americans were frustrated with power accumulated in the hands of a few families. TIME summarized the sentiment of Americans so by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy in a 2015 cover story in print: 'Is America really so bereft of plausible candidates that for the ninth time in 10 presidential elections, a Clinton or a Bush may be on the ballot?
Dynasties in some circles have long been seen as an appeal, not a disadvantage. The Bushes may be the latest to feel the dynastic drag, with one member failing to advance to a House runoff last year and another being snubbed despite aggressive courtship of Trump this year. Trump has successfully asked Hillary Clinton an interview about her husband and president. She has had two Senate races and two White House runs. In some voters'minds, she was simply Mrs. Clinton from the 1990s, not a globe-traveling hero to women and girls, an accomplished diplomat or tough elected senator negotiator.
What more and more the Americans seem to have had with the likes of Bushes, the Clintons, the Kennedys, the Romneys, the Udalls and the Tafts. The name alone can't get the win the way it did. In fact, it draws increased scrutiny. Now the Cuomos sit atop that freshly-sought list. Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation yesterday, ending what had been a dizzying fall from grace and his quest to secure his father's unrealized dream of a fourth term in the governor's mansion. The one-time hero of the Coronavirus pandemic — he won an Emmy for his daily COVID - 19 press briefings — was held to account for allegations detailed by the New York Attorney General's Office. With no pals left in Albany, or anywhere in democratic politics, he faced the fact that he could't stay in power despite his dynastic advantages.
Yen for political crimes can be its most troubling: the inevitable comparisons with the forefathers and often penance for their policies. The elder Cuomo stole the show at the Democrats' 1984 convention but ultimately failed to run for president in 1988 and 1992, earning him the nickname 'Hamlet on the Hudson'. His son was seen as someone more willing to take that risk, and the rise of the 'Cuomosexual' during the pandemic only fuelled that moxie. Mario Cuomo's charisma and oratory could carry in his heyday the day. His son's political talents were not enough if he believed he was telling the truth in his denial.
Ultimately, however, the younger Cuomo seems to have made serious errors and keeps making them. Even in declaring his resignation, he remained defiant and said he's always been too familiar with those around him, a clumsy attempt at trying to salvage what was left of his political reputation. 'In my mind I've never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn't realize the extent to which the line was redrawn, Cuomo said. There are generational and cultural shifts that I just didn't fully appreciate. And I should have. All members of dynasties insist they want to stand on their own merits, not family laurels. Well, Andrew Cuomo is facing a reckoning of his own alleged conduct and no family glow could stop the stream of defections inside a party that once considered him a prince.
However, members of dynasties also seem unable to accept their time is past and seem predisposed to find a way to survive. There seems to be something in their DNA — a call to service, an ego, a sociopathic need to be loved — that compels them to do the tough, low-paying work in politics, at least for a while. Former Senators Terry Gordon Smith, Mark Udall and Tom Udall all served in the Senate, and Sen. Mike Lee is still there; they are all cousins. Former Gov. Mitt Romney, son of a Governor father and senator candidate mother, went from effective governor to two-time losing presidential candidate to one-term senator A new political prospect pops up from time to time, more than the JFK grandson of Chelsea Clinton and John Schlossberg. And some are trying to create a new dynasty of Trumps in politics.
Which reason is why everyone who says Cuomo's political future over should decide which one is stronger: Americans' distrust of strong families, or their love for a good redemption story? After all, Al Franken resigned from the Senate amid bone-headed photographs of him pretending to grab a sleeping woman's chest but is slowly coming back into good graces. The cultural rehabilitation tour is a fixture of Hollywood fixers' toolboxes. Americans can be persuaded a second chance, especially when it is a man trying to reinvent himself. Couple it with finishing his father's dream of a fourth term, a new mythology in Cuomo dynasty may emerge.