- - Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Your father is a Republican. Your mother is a Republican. Your grandparents, uncles, aunts, siblings and cousins are Republicans. This means you’re a Republican, right?

Not necessarily.

This old sociological argument, known as the Michigan Model, used to be quite prevalent in familial voting patterns and behavior. Since the end of World War II, many Americans have gradually drifted apart on political and economic positions from their blood relations.

Hence, the total number of votes cast in one household can often be jumbled, even if one or more of the parents is, or has been, politically active.

Which brings us to the tale of Jenna Bush Hager.

It was recently discovered that the eldest daughter of former Republican President George W. Bush had accidentally registered with New York’s Independence Party. Her spokesman, Megan Kopf Stackhouse, told The New York Daily News on Sept. 3, “Jenna registered to vote in New York soon after her daughter was born, and like all new moms, she was functioning on very little sleep. She mistakenly registered for the Independence Party.”

As the article pointed out, it’s a common mistake that had been previously made by a number of prominent individuals, including News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch. If we can forgive a successful business tycoon for an innocent mistake, I think we can also give a pass to Mrs. Bush Hager.

Yet here’s the interesting tidbit that caught some attention: Mrs. Bush Hager, and her twin sister, Barbara, aren’t registered Republicans. “The twins told People magazine in 2010 that they preferred to avoid the label Republican or Democrat,” reported The Daily News.

It’s true. Here’s what People magazine’s Sandra Sobieraj Westfall wrote in her May 17, 2010, interview with the twins, “Most shocking: The only children of former President George W. Bush may not be Republicans. ‘I don’t really label myself as Republican or Democrat,’ says Barbara. Ditto, Jenna: ‘We’re both very independent thinkers.’”

The unveiling of this four-year-old revelation took some people by surprise. I’m not sure why.

To naturally assume that a former president’s child (or children) will vote the same way is, quite frankly, out of touch with modern thinking. An individual’s political lineage doesn’t necessarily define his political leaning.

For instance, Ron Reagan — son of Republican President Ronald Reagan — spoke at the 2004 Democratic Party convention in support of stem-cell research. He said, “A few of you may be surprised to see someone with my last name showing up to speak at a Democratic Convention. Apparently, some of you are not. Let me assure you, I am not here to make a political speech, and the topic at hand should not — must not — have anything to do with partisanship.”

Yeah, sure. Let’s just say that very few conservatives were surprised to see Mr. Reagan, a liberal and atheist, make a political speech (sorry, it was) at a partisan event (unless he didn’t see the term “Democratic Party” on his way to the podium).

Here are some other interesting examples:

John Adams, the second U.S. president, was a Federalist. His son, John Quincy Adams, the sixth U.S. president, shifted from the Federalists — which dissolved in 1824 — to the rival Democratic-Republican Party.

The Rockefeller family has historically supported the Democratic Party. This didn’t stop Nelson Rockefeller from joining the GOP, becoming governor of New York, and later vice president under Gerald R. Ford. (Mr. Rockefeller was a liberal Republican, and would have been out of step with modern conservative thinking.)

Juan Williams is a Fox News contributor, and a respected liberal pundit with an independent streak. His eldest son, Tony, is a Republican who worked for former GOP Sen. Norm Coleman and the Republican National Committee.

Heck, I was a conservative long before my father ever became one.

What do all of these examples have in common? People tend to be independent, and make political choices on an individual basis.

Hence, we shouldn’t be surprised that Mr. Bush’s daughters prefer to be labeled as independents. He and his wife, Laura, are clearly allowing them to make their own choices and lead their own lives. That’s the mark of good parents.

Moreover, it’s hard to say what the future will hold for the Bush daughters. Their political views may evolve over time, and perhaps they’ll shift in the direction of their father’s political party. Anything is possible.

One thing is for sure. It will be their decision, and their decision alone.

Michael Taube is a contributor to The Washington Times.

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