The main purpose of this item is a shout-out to Daniel Markham Smith, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Harvard, and a student whose dissertation committee I served on at UCSD. Dan was quoted, and his dissertation, Succeeding in Politics: Dynasties in Democracies, was referenced (and even linked) in a Guardian article on Liz Cheney’s candidacy for Senator from Wyoming.
As the article notes, Cheney, if elected, would be only the latest in a long history of “legacy politicians” in the USA. A legacy politician is one who has at least one family member who has held a public office in the past. As Dan is quoted saying, based on his research, “When candidates are decided more at a local level, as in the US primaries system, the chances of a legacy candidate being selected for nomination is far greater.” The article even delves a bit deeper:
[Smith] draws a distinction between political systems that encourage ‘personal vote’ as opposed to ‘party vote’ based on whether voters lean more on the party or the candidate while voting. The US primaries are certainly built around the ‘personal vote’ since it is essentially an intra-party exercise.
Smith says that political parties and election systems play as much a role in perpetuating political dynasties, as do voters. Smith discovered that election systems which are more candidate-centered than party-centered – as are US elections compared to countries with parliamentary democracy – are more likely to spawn political dynasties. Smith’s findings help explain why dynastic politicians are much lower in Canada – at around 2% – compared to the United States.
Congratulations, Dan, on the publicity. It is much deserved for an excellent work of scholarship, for which he was awarded the 2013 UCSD Chancellor’s Dissertation Award for Best Dissertation in the Division of Social Sciences.