One problem with Syria politically is that the stakes are too high: a single nuclear family, the Assads, has been ruling the country since 1970. This combination of president-for-life followed by president-for-next-life means that it`s really, really important who grabs the presidency when it`s up for grabs.
There are two obvious means to lower the stakes: term limits and bans on dynasticism.
Mexico limited presidents to a single six year term starting in the 1920s to lower the political pressure by assuring political players that if they live long enough they`ll get another chance. Mexico has a lot of problems, but it hasn`t had a convulsion like the Revolution that drove Porfirio Diaz from decades in power, killing a million people or so in the process, in a century.
In the U.S., George Washington set a precedent of no more than two terms, but when FDR violated that in the 1940s, the 22nd Amendment, passed in 1951, added the two term limit to the Constitution.
In places with less strong term limits, such as Russia, Turkey, and New York City, the term limit routinely gets junked when a politician is popular.
The other prong would be to legally restrict dynasticism. The United States has had two examples of children of Presidents succeeding to the White House:
- John Quincy Adams in 1824 — 24 years after his father left office, after being a successful Secretary of State (the Monroe Doctrine), and in a country of 10 million people. After leaving the White House, Adams was elected to the House.
- George W. Bush in 2000 — only 8 years after his father left office, after being governor of a state with a constitutionally imposed weak governorship, and in a country of 300 million people. After leaving the White House, Bush took up painting.
That`s not really progress.
(b) A public official may not appoint, employ, promote, advance, or advocate for appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement, in or to a civilian position in the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control any individual who is a relative of the public official. …
(3) “relative” means, with respect to a public official, an individual who is related to the public official as father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, or half sister.
That seems a little much, but the broader issue is less nepotism than dynasticism.
The problem with dynasticism is not just one family having the opportunity to hold on to political power for so long, but elevating nobodies like George W. Bush into Presidential Timber. Let`s stop ourselves from indulging our dynastic predilections and take a symbolic stand by passing the following as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution:
No person shall be elected to, succeed to, or in anyway hold the office of the President who is the child, biological or legally adopted, of another person who has held the office of President. But this article shall not apply to the children of any person holding the office of President or who had formerly held the office of President when this article was proposed by the Congress.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states within seven years from the date of its submission to the states by the Congress.
In other words, just like the 22nd Amendment, passed by Congress in 1947, didn`t apply to Harry Truman, Jeb Bush can still be President, Chelsea Clinton can be President, George W. Bush`s kids can be President, Obama`s kids can be President, and so forth. But the next President`s kids don`t get to be President. Therefore, if Hillary becomes President, then Chelsea is barred. (Surely 3 Presidents from one household is too many?)
In the long run, I`d also want to ban spouses of Presidents from becoming President as embarrassingly Banana Republicish, but I`ll hold off on that until Hillary is no longer the Great Pink Hope.