With Hillary Clinton and her surrogates piling on about the (presumably male) politics of "pile-on", it is easy to forget how much she has benefited from that system, and from all the trappings of privilege that the Clinton machine commands.
That a woman is for the first time a serious contender for the US presidency, actually the frontrunner, is a happy fact. But in this case, it unfortunately says less about the country's newly opened mind than it does about the strengthening grip of dynastic succession on US political power.
If Hillary Clinton is on the Democratic ticket in 2008, it will mark the eighth consecutive time that a Clinton or a Bush achieves that feat. If she gets elected and completes two terms, it will mean that a Clinton or a Bush will have been President or Vice President for 36 consecutive years. Anyone born after 1979 will not have known a White House without a member of either dynasty.
This makes the political systems of the Philippines, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, heretofore considered bastions of contemporary familial cronyism, look open and accessible. It also makes the United States look increasingly medieval.
I don't share my European compatriots' smugness (at least not on this topic) about Americans' having chosen George W. Bush not once by twice (yes, I know, really only once, but however he got there the first time, he got there). People who voted for politicians as corrupt and inept as Silvio Berlusconi in Italy or Jacques Chirac in France, or as spineless (at least on Iraq) as Tony Blair, or as lethally frightening as Vladimir Putin, should feel no sense of superiority about their own political judgment.
However, I am frustrated with the recent silver-spoon presidential nominees from both parties (Bush, Gore, Kerry), and now feel mild disgust that in a country of 300 million we are limited to choosing between an inbred clan of increasingly dumb offspring, the Bushes, and an intellectually superior but faintly corrupt budding line of rulers, the Clintons. It would have been unfathomable just a few years ago that I would miss anything about Ronald Reagan, but here I am, nostalgic for his simple, somewhat obscure background and the fact that he came and went without any single child, step-child, wife, brother, sister, niece or nephew remotely aspiring to anything more than an occasional TV gig.
So whatever you think of John Edwards and Barack Obama, or (God forbid) Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee, at the very least they are where they are through their own work, luck, wiliness, corruption, whatever, but it IS their own and no one else's. And perhaps in 2012 or 2016 one of the small but talented group of governors or senators who are self-made women will emerge to take on both the male power structure and the Clinton/Bush dynasty.
Follow Paul Jenkins on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PaulcJenkins