Bill Bradley wants to require the registration of all handguns. Al Gore says that all handgun owners should be required to obtain a license. Bradley wants to prohibit police departments from using "racial profiling." So does Gore. Gore wants to raise the minimum wage. So does Bradley. Both men talk about making it easier for labor unions to organize. Bradley says day care should be more widely available; Gore has pledged to fund universal access to preschool. Gore wants to expand the children's health insurance program to cover more children and as many as seven million work ing parents now without health insurance. Bradley's first detailed proposal was for near-universal coverage.
If the profusion of legacy candidates this election season is any indication, having a political pedigree can do wonders for your electoral chances. As we hurtle toward the possibility of the first all second-generation presidential race, it's time to ask: Do dynastic advantages trample democratic fairness?
Maybe the best measure of the deteriorating prospects for fundamental immigration reform after the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon came at a congressional hearing on, of all things, airport security. Amid the debate over arming pilots, deploying sky marshals on commercial flights, or turning over airport security to the federal government, Republican Congressman Harold Rogers of Kentucky had another concern. Why, he wondered, was there no requirement that the men and women who monitor the checkpoints screening passengers hold American citizenship?
Developing side by side in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, biography and the novel made private lives public. Abiding interest in the unsolved mystery of personality has kept both these long-winded genres popular--and especially so since the culture of celebrity began to blur the distinctions between them. Today, the life stories of prominent people, played out in the media, are followed with suspense, as serialized fictions used to be. Presidents turn up as characters in novels (Joyce Carol Oates's Blonde, for example); one biographer turned himself--chronologically altered--into a character in a presidential life story.