I suppose I am kind of indifferent as to Chelsea Clinton’s possible desire to run for Congress. Political dynasties are an unfortunate annoyance of politics but are pretty unavoidable, be they Democrats or Republicans, Americans or other nations. It’s not the sign of endless neoliberal triangulation some of the left are claiming (guess what: it’s not 1997!), but it’s not like she has done anything to deserve election either. Still, it’s not ideal. Of course, if she does want to serve the public, that’s great. But I do agree with Alyssa Rosenberg that she should start at the bottom and earn it.
So if Clinton does want to run for office, or to be a successful advocate for an issue, or even just to continue to be credible when she tweets or speaks on a subject, the most strategic thing she could possibly do would be to disappear (as much as it’s possible for a famous person to do in the United States these days). She should decline graciously when she’s asked to be an award recipient and send substantial checks to the relevant charities instead. She should stick to publishing substantive volumes such as her previous “Governing Global Health,” written with Devi Sridhar, rather than the sort of children’s volume public figures dash off all the time. And she should find an issue-oriented job that she goes to every day, and at which she has significant, substantive responsibilities.
Even if Clinton does all of this, there will still be plenty of Americans who dislike her or would be disinclined to vote for her. We’re suspicious of dynasties, and overall, I think that’s a healthy element of our politics. But even if lying low and reemerging doesn’t get Clinton elected to anything, or doesn’t win her a platform, a carefully-calibrated retreat might at least put her on an actual career path. There’s more than one route to doing all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.
She should also start by running for some low-level position, not Congress. Even if she doesn’t stay there very long, understanding how local politics work and building a resume there is really ideal. Even George P. Bush, scion of an endless political family, sort of understands that as he slowly but inevitably rises in Texas and Republican politics, starting with Texas Land Commissioner, not Congress. Chelsea Clinton can do the same.