Alex Massie

What’s in a name?

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Way back in the day when I first arrived in Ireland to go to college I remember thinking how odd - and how quaint - it was that so many seats in the Dail seemed to be inheritable assets to be passed on through the generations. It was as though the 19th century had been extended by another 90 years. But of course Ireland is scarcely alone in that respect. Look at the United States. As Henrik Hertzberg points out:

Of the two hundred and forty-four women who have served in the House and the Senate, forty-six succeeded their husbands and twelve their fathers.

That's a striking proportion ain't it? So how would you classify Hillary Clinton? Whatever her own (formidable?) gifts may be, there's no serious suggestion that she'd be as viable a Presidential candidate had she not been married to Bill. Nor does she pretend otherwise: after all, a significant part of her sales pitch rests upon her experience of eight years in the White House as First Lady.

The question, then, of whether the United States is ready to elect a female Commander-in-Chief remains open. The better question is how a woman with none of the name recognition advantages or institutional and establishment support that Hillary enjoys would fare? Not so well I think. And yet Hillary also finds herself in the odd position of knowing that very things that make her candidacy so viable - her name, marriage and experience - are also three factors that may play a significant role in dooming it to failure (if it be so fated). What the lord giveth the lord taketh away, and all that...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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