RECENTLY in this space I said bloodlines count in British royalty and may have implied that they don't in American politics.
But they do. Consider some of the stars of the Democratic National Convention.
Sen. Edward Kennedy introduced a film about his brother Robert's life 24 years after he was murdered while seeking the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination. This was a curious moment. In 1968 Robert Kennedy was a transition figure and a pathfinder -- leading Democrats from the cautious moderate liberalism exemplified by John Kennedy to the crusading "true ,, believer" left-liberalism exemplified by Ted Kennedy.
But the Democrats in Madison Square Garden were crossing back across that bridge going the other way. Bill Clinton (who treasures and exploits a picture of him shaking hands with John Kennedy) is much more moderate than Ted Kennedy.
Edmund G. Brown Jr. is the son and namesake of a two-time governor of California. Junior owes his own political successes in large part to his heritage. His sister, Kathleen Brown, California state treasurer, was also a featured speaker at the Democratic convention and is considered a future senator or governor of their state.
So is Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco thought to have higher office in her future. (Jack Germond thought she should have this year's vice presidential nomination.) Her bloodlines were less well known to the delegates she spoke to (she was co-chair of the Platform Committee), since it is her maiden name that is the clue. She is the daughter of Tommy D'Alesandro, the legendary mayor and congressman from here.
Then there's Albert Gore Jr. His father was a Tennessee senator before him and, as Junior pointed out several times, once a candidate for the Democratic vice presidential nomination, himself.
That was in 1956, one of the rare times candidates openly sought and fought for the office. That year presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson said he wanted his running mate chosen "through the free processes of this convention." Gore Senior had his name placed in nomination. The other leading candidates were Tennessee's other senator, Estes Kefauver, and Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy.
After the second ballot JFK led but was 40 votes short of a majority. Gore stopped him by throwing his third place votes to the second place Kefauver, putting him over the top.
That was in Chicago. But one of the great bits of "Democratic convention" lore took place earlier that year in Lexington, Va. Washington & Lee held a mock Democratic convention. The keynoter was Alben Barkley of Kentucky, a former vice president and former Senate majority leader, then a junior senator again.
He said, "I am willing to be a junior again. I am glad to sit on the back row, for I had rather be a servant in the house of the Lord than to sit in the seats of the mighty." At which point he dropped dead.