What’s in a name: Justin Trudeau has the political dynasty advantage

·Politics Reporter

If Justin's last name wasn't Trudeau, would he still be on the cusp of winning the Liberal leadership?

While we all have our theories on that, we'll never know for sure.

I think most of us would agree, however, that it is a factor.

Last Saturday, on my way to the Liberal Party's national showcase in Toronto, my cab driver Jojo told me he would 'vote for Trudeau' in the 2015 election.

He added that he didn't follow politics and didn't really know the issues but that when he came to Canada — in the early eighties — Pierre Trudeau was prime minister.

[ Related: The secret to Justin Trudeau's popularity: Thomas Mulcair ]

It's a sad state of affairs, but I think there are a lot of Jojo's around: individuals voting for a name or a brand rather than policy or direction.

Justin isn't the only Canadian politician to benefit from his last name. Preston Manning, Peter MacKay, Dalton McGuinty and Rob Ford are all part of political families.

In the United States, there's the Kennedy's, the Bush's and now the Clinton's. In fact, don't be surprised if we see another Bush - Clinton showdown in 2016, this time with Jeb and Hillary.

[ Related: Chelsea Clinton TV interview adds to speculation about Hillary's plans ]

In India they had the Nehru-Gandhi family, and, according to the Daily Times, there are dynasties in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Singapore, Japan and even China."

For the Americans, family dynasties is an issue of great study and debate.

A 2009 Review of Economic Studies paper suggests that dynasties are self-perpetuating in the U.S. capital.

"Dynastic prevalence in the Congress of the U.S. is high compared to that in other occupations and that political dynasties do not merely reflect permanent differences in family characteristics," the study states.

"On the contrary, using two instrumental variable techniques we find that political power is self-perpetuating: legislators who hold power for longer become more likely to have relatives entering Congress in the future. Thus, in politics, power begets power."

NBC News recently conducted a panel on the issue.

"The reason why it happens...is because of name ID. It is so hard for somebody with a plain name to jump into politics," NBC News senior political editor Mark Murray said on his network earlier this month.

"If you have a famous last name particularly if you come from a family that has big ties to that particular state you have a leg up on all your competition, you have a leg up on fundraising."

While Canada's electoral system is different than in the U.S., these linkages seem to exist — anecdotally at least — in Canada as well.

But Canadians, and especially Liberals, should be warned.

Murray explains that sometimes heirs aren't as successful as the originals.

"A lot of times, when you keep going down the family tree, those candidates aren't as good as their parents or grandparents used to be," he said.

"For example, we don't have anymore Roosevelt's who are dominating American politics anymore, and when Ted Kennedy passed away very recently, the Kennedy clan, while it has a brand new member of Congress...[it] isn't the power house that it was in the 1950s and the 1960s."

I'm sure Liberals are hoping that Justin Trudeau doesn't turn out to be our version of George W. Bush.

Although, I'm sure that some would say, if they're going to elect someone based on a name, they deserve George W.

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

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