Top 10 American Political Dynasties


Bush Dynasty

Before the Bush men were governors and presidents.
Before the Bush men were governors and presidents.

Americans may not romanticize the Bush family in the same legendary manner ascribed to the Kennedys, but they arguably are the most successful political dynasty of the 20th century. In 1952, Prescott Bush was voted in as a senator from Connecticut, and his son, George H.W. Bush moved down to Texas and followed in his father's footsteps winning a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives [source: Beschloss and Sidey]. In 1980, newly elected President Ronald Reagan kicked off the first of two terms with Bush as his vice president. Boosted by the popularity of the Reagan administration, Republican Bush succeeded the former Commander-in-Chief in 1988, but lost to Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992. Meanwhile, Prescott's grandsons George W. and Jeb were paving their own political inroads toward becoming governors of Texas and Florida, respectively.

In 2000, in a historically close election that hinged on fewer than 600 votes in Florida, George W. Bush reignited the dynasty with his narrow victory. When George W. Bush reached his term limit in 2008, he and his father had occupied the first or second most powerful positions in the U.S. government for 20 out of the previous 28 years. Some suspected that younger brother Jeb might court the 2008 Republican nomination, but he demurred. And with the 2016 elections and beyond already looming on the horizon, another family member has surfaced as someone to keep an eye on: George P. Bush, Jeb's son who reportedly has been groomed for the political stage from a young age [source: Ball].

Author's Note: Top 10 American Political Dynasties

As much as America adheres to a no-royalty policy, it's mighty interesting to notice just how much power has tended to run in families (not to mention the stateside excitement with William and Kate's royal wedding, but that's another article). From the get-go in the United States, politics has been treated like another business enterprise in many ways, and from that perspective it makes sense that certain families would take to it and build their empires. Just as the retail industry has the Walton family, for instance, Republican politics has the Bush family. Political dynasties also tend to follow common patterns of staking out a geographical area (Massachusetts for the Kennedys; New York for the Cuomos) and concentrating influence to lay a foundation to seek out the pivotal roles -- i.e., governorships, Senate seats -- that often pave the way to the White House.

Also, there are some family names that have been left off the list. That's right; the U.S. has so many political dynasties to choose from, you can't boil them all down to a 10-point list.

Lots More Information


  • Alexander, David. "U.S. political dynasties self-perpetuating: study." Reuters. March 03, 2007. (Aug. 01, 2013)
  • Ball, Molly. "George P. Bush: A Political Dynasty's Young Hope." The Atlantic. July 10, 2012. (Aug. 01, 2013)
  • Beschloss, Michael and Sidey, Hugh. "Benjamin Harrison." The White House. 2009. (Aug. 01, 2013)
  • Beschloss, Michael and Sidey, Hugh. "George H.W. Bush." The White House. 2009. (Aug. 01, 2013)
  • Beschloss, Michael and Sidey, Hugh. "William H. Taft." The White House. 2009. (Aug. 01, 2013)
  • Brown, Emma. "Peter H.B. Frelinghuysen Jr., former N.J. congressman, dies at 95." The Washington Post. May 24, 2011. (Aug. 01, 2013)
  • Cole, Wendy. "Bob Taft." TIME. Nov. 13, 2005. (Aug. 01, 2013),9171,1129553,00.html
  • Hartmann, Margaret. "Mario Cuomo Still Thinks His Son Should Be President." New York. July 09, 2012. (Aug. 01, 2013)
  • Hess, Stephen. "America's Top Dynasty." The Washington Post. Sept. 13, 2009. (Aug. 01, 2013)
  • Kiely, Kathy. "Elections test power of political dynasties." USA Today. Aug. 03, 2010. (Aug. 01, 2013)
  • Kitchin, Jessica. "Like Father, Like Son, And Son, And Son..." New Jersey Monthly. Nov. 10, 2009. (Aug. 01, 2013)
  • Miller, Justin. "Roosevelt, Nixon, and Bush: American Like Political Dynasties." The Atlantic. July 24, 2010. (Aug. 01, 2013)
  • MSNBC. "A look at Chicago's royal political family." (Aug. 01, 2013)
  • PBS. "People & Events: Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1908 – 1979." American Experience. (Aug. 01, 2013)
  • Reiss, Dawn. "Chicago and the Legacy of the Daley Dynasty." TIME. Sept. 09, 2010. (Aug. 01, 2013),8599,2016992,00.html
  • Reuters. "Factbox: Kennedy political dynasty marked by tragedy." Aug. 28, 2009. (Aug. 01, 2013)
  • Romano, Lois. "Death of Edward 'Ted' Kennedy Raises Questions About Political Dynasties." The Washington Post. Aug. 27, 2009. (Aug. 01, 2013)
  • Shesol, Jeff. "Adams Family Value." The New York Times. Feb. 24, 2002. (Aug. 01, 2013)
  • United States Senate. "Longest Serving Senators." April 23, 2012. (Aug. 01, 2013)
  • United States Senate. "Robert A. Taft. More than "Mr. Republican."" (Aug. 01, 2013)


Will a Third-Party Candidate Ever Win the White House?

Will a Third-Party Candidate Ever Win the White House?

HowStuffWorks looks at the many hurdles a third-party presidential candidate faces in the U.S., and why it's harder than ever for them to be elected.