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Melissa Harris-Lacewell is Associate Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University. She is the author of the award-winning book, Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black[…]

Harris-Lacewell is worried about an emerging dynastic system

Question: Is the American political system broken?

Harris-Lacewell: Well I’m a little worried about a ditty that I call . . .  It goes like this: “Bush, Clinton-Clinton, Bush-Bush, Clinton.  Bush, Clinton-Clinton, Bush-Bush, Clinton.”  Like that strikes me as troubling; that even if, for example, you know one is on the left and wants a Democrat to win; and if Hillary Clinton is your girl, I’m a little worried about any democratic system where the bench is so shallow; where we have so little sort of capacity for leadership that all of our most recent contemporary presidents come from two families – one on the left and one on the right.  That strikes me as being a real problem for the health of democracy.  That looks to me like . . .  At its base, democracy is not just about our capacity to vote for the leaders that are offered up to us on the menu.  But the big part of democracy is being the leader yourself, right?   And it seems silly, but at the center of civic education and elementary school is that we tell children anybody can be president.  Or would you like to grow up and be president?  Or you might be able to be the president.  And again it’s silly, right?  But it’s also kind of central to this notion of, again, that those people who are smart, who are capable, who have good ideas, and who have the capacity for leadership might come from anywhere, and not just from kind of the set of usual suspects.