Caroline Kennedy, Nepotism, and Feminism

I heard a lot of blow back after I wrote on Wednesday that I believed Caroline Kennedy just might make a very good senator. Nepotism is unseemly. But in real-life politics, a smart, well-connected senator with star power and the ear of the president is better situated to be an effective legislator than a member of Congress with years of experience, but no major achievement associated with his or her tenure. Especially grating is the argument from Nick Kristof and others that there is something un-feminist about appointing Kennedy. Historically, as my friend Kerry Howley has written, family connections have been one of the primary ways women break glass ceilings and ascend to positions of power. Men — including the Bushes, Gores, Salazars, Udalls, Chafees, and Jacksons — have been benefiting from these relationships for centuries. Of course, nepotism is classist, because it benefits those whose families have stature and influence. But nepotism has also, often, explicitly benefited women.

Today Andrew Sullivan, who rarely meets a woman whose political ambitions he approves of, writes that Kennedy is "less qualified than Palin," because at least Palin was a self-made woman. True enough. But I thought the point of politics was passing good policy — policy with social utility. Can anyone really argue that Caroline Kennedy would be a less informed, coherent, intelligent legislator than Sarah Palin? That she is less motivated by the common good? It is a ridiculous analogy to draw.

cross-posted at TAPPED

One thought on “Caroline Kennedy, Nepotism, and Feminism

  1. JWill

    True: his criticism is pretty much a bellwether for sexism. Though he will always whip out Britain’s iron lady as a counterpoint. I think rather than being a sexist per se, he just uses it as a weapon to fight any politician he doesn’t happen to be in love with at the moment, whether that is HRC, Palin, or Kennedy.

    I do have to say though, all the stuff coming out the past few days (voting record, refusal to support Democratic candidates, positions on taxes, no history of talking about choice with a close family member) make me very disinclined to support her. She sounds much more like a Rockefeller Republican than a progressive.

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