A political family (also referred to as political dynasty) is a family in which several members are involved in politics, particularly electoral politics. Members may be related by blood or marriage; often several generations or multiple siblings may be involved.
A royal family or dynasty in a monarchy is generally considered to not be a "political family," although the later descendants of a royal family have played political roles in a republic (such as the Arslan Family of Lebanon would be). A family dictatorship is a form of dictatorship that operates much like an absolute monarchy, yet occurs in a nominally republican state.
In the United States, many political dynasties have arisen since the country's founding (having at least two generations holding political office):
Four noted U.S. political families - Adams, Harrison, Roosevelt, Bush - have had two members become President
These dynasties have seen at least one member become President of the United States, which is the highest office in the country:
- The first dynasty with presidential connections occurred with the Adams family, which saw John Adams serve as the second president (after being the first vice president), and his son John Quincy Adams served as the sixth. John Quincy's son Charles would later serve as an Ambassador to the UK (then called Minister) and a U.S. Congressman, a fourth generation of the family (John Quincy Adams II) would hold office as a state representative in Massachusetts, and his son Charles was an early mayor of Quincy, Massachusetts.
- Another early political dynasty was the Harrison family, which saw six generations hold public office from the late 18th through mid 20th centuries, beginning with Benjamin Harrison V, who was one of the early governors of Virginia. His son William Henry Harrison would become the eighth U.S. President. William's son John Scott Harrison would serve as U.S. Congressman, while his son Benjamin Harrison became the 23rd president (marking the first and only grandfather-grandson presidents). Benjamin's son Russell Benjamin Harrison would then serve as a state representative and state senator from Indiana in the 1920s, and Russell's son William served as a congressman in the 1950s and 60s.
- The Cincinnati, Ohio based Taft family has had a legacy of political service ranging from the late 19th through early 21st century, beginning with Alphonso Taft, who served as a cabinet official under Ulysses S. Grant. Two of his sons followed him into politics - Charles Phelps Taft served as a congressman, and younger brother William Howard Taft was the 27th president, and later U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice (the only one to hold both titles). Two of William Howard's sons became politicians - eldest son Robert A. Taft was a long serving U.S. Senator (and for a time Senate Majority Leader), and younger brother Charles Phelps Taft II served as mayor of the family's hometown of Cincinnati. The fourth generation of Tafts to have held office include Robert Taft Jr., who served as both a congressman and senator, and Seth Taft, who was commissioner of Cuyahoga County (Cleveland area). Robert III (better known as Bob) would serve as governor of Ohio at the turn of the 21st century.
- Though distantly related to one another, the New York based Roosevelt family has two presidents to their credit - fifth cousins Theodore (#26), and Franklin (aka FDR - who was the 32nd president, and the only one to serve more than two terms). Eleanor Roosevelt - Theodore's niece - was married to FDR and served as First Lady. Other Roosevelts to hold office include Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who served as governor of Puerto Rico and The Philippines as well as a NY state assemblyman, while Theodore III held office on the state level in Pennsylvania. FDR and Elanor's son - Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. - served as a congressman.
- In the early to mid 20th century, the Massachusetts based Kennedy family became one of the most prominent political dynasties in American History, with five generations of politicians. Patriarch Patrick Joseph Kennedy (Massachusetts state representative and senator), was followed by his son Joseph P. Kennedy (Ambassador to the UK). The sons of Joseph P. Kennedy include John F. Kennedy (aka JFK - 35th President of the United States), Ted Kennedy (U.S. Senator), and Robert F. Kennedy (aka RFK - U.S. Senator and Attorney General). The next generation includes congressmen Patrick Joseph Kennedy II and Joseph Patrick Kennedy II, Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, and former Maryland Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Arnold Schwarzenegger - who at the time was married to Maria Shriver (niece of JFK, RFK, and Ted) - also counts as part of the Kennedy political dynasty as he served as Governor of California (with Shriver as First Lady) throughout most of the 2000s. The fifth generation includes congressman Joseph Kennedy III, and Rhode Island state representative Edward Kennedy Jr.
- Note - Though the family of 42nd U.S. President Bill Clinton have been referred to as a dynasty because his wife, Hillary Clinton, is a former U.S. Secretary of State and former U.S. Senator, and was the 2016 Democratic nominee for President of the United States, they are more accurately described as a power couple.
While not achieving the presidency, other notable U.S. political dynasties include:
- The Udall family - David King Udall Sr. was a representative to the Arizona Territorial Legislature. Four of his sons were politicians: Jesse Addison Udall, was a member of the Arizona House of Representatives and later served as Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court; John Hunt Udall and Don Taylor Udall served in the Arizona State Legislature; Levi Stewart Udall served on the Arizona Supreme Court. Stewart Udall, son of Levi, was a U.S. Congressman from Arizona and later Secretary of the Interior. Mo Udall, another son of Levi, was also a U.S. Congressman from Arizona. John Nicholas Udall, son of John Hunt Udall, was mayor of Phoenix, Arizona. Tom Udall, son of Stewart Udall, is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Mexico. Mark Udall, son of Mo Udall, was a Congressman and Senator from Colorado.
- The Cheneys - Dick Cheney served as a congressman, cabinet official for Presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush, and Vice President under George W. Bush. His daughter Liz is currently a congresswoman representing Wyoming (her father's old seat).
- The Pauls - Ron Paul served as a 17-term congressman, while his son Rand currently is a U.S. Senator. Both also ran for President (Ron in 2008 and 2012, Rand in 2016).
- The D'Alesandros - Thomas D'Alesandro Jr. served three terms as mayor of Baltimore, Maryland and was a five-term congressman. Two of his children followed in his political footsteps - his daughter Nancy (Pelosi) is a 15-term congresswoman, former Speaker of the House (the highest political office a woman has held in U.S. history), and current House Minority Leader, while his son Thomas III served a term as mayor of Baltimore in his own right.
- The Paynes - a Cleveland based political family led by Henry B. Payne, who was an Ohio state senator and later U.S. congressman, while his son Nathan P. Payne served as mayor of Cleveland.
Hoping to prevent political dynasties, the Indonesian parliament, who represent the third largest democracy in the world, passed a law barring anyone holding a major office within five years of a relative.