Martin Van Buren and George Bush followed different paths on their way to the number two position in the land. Van Buren and Bush come from completely different backgrounds. Van Buren was the product of a middle-class innkeeper’s family. Bush was raised in the wealthy eastern establishment of the 1920s. They were both reared with a sense of the importance of education, and they took advantage of every opportunity available to them, including the opening of doors by their families and friends.
Van Buren attached himself to important individuals in New York. Many of these patrons shared Van Buren’s Dutch ancestry, and they were active in politics early in the nineteenth century, when the first party system in America was born. Bush became a war hero in World War II while he was in his early twenties and, after graduating from Yale University, started an oil company in Texas. His father, Prescott Bush, was a U.S. senator, and he helped to stir a political interest in his second son George. The young Bush did not enjoy the initial political success of Van Buren, but, like him, he was able to gain the support and interest of leading politicians. Bush earned the patronage of Richard Nixon and then Gerald Ford.
Van Buren and Bush acquired influence in national and state politics, and they ultimately found themselves involved in presidential politics. Van Buren in 1824 and Bush in 1976 both supported political adversaries of the men under which they would eventually serve as vice president. Van Buren did not believe that Andrew Jackson was qualified to be president in 1824, and Bush was considered as a possible running mate for Gerald Ford in 1976 and was, thus, a political opponent of Ronald Reagan.