Anyone who studies American history knows there is a long tradition where individuals seeking the office of President of the United States do their best to show they can relate to the ordinary voter back home.
Rather than appear out of touch, they share rags to riches tales or stories of financial struggles they’ve encountered along the way. The thinking is that we will only vote for someone who knows what it’s like to balance a checkbook or wonder where she’ll get her next meal.
In a tortured attempt to follow this tried and true formula to residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Hillary Clinton shared her own story of personal struggle with Diane Sawyer.
Specifically, she said (cue the violin music), “We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt.”
Grab a hankie because she added, “We had no money when we got there and struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea’s education. You know, it was not easy.”
We all wish we could feel her pain. Since most of us struggle to find a way to afford one house, let alone multiple homes, imagining a scenario where we need to come up with the money for House Number 2 & 3 actually seems kind of exciting. If that situation really brought her to some level of gloom and despair then we all must wonder how she’d handle a true crisis if elected to the most powerful position in the world.
Back before 24 hour news cycles and social media, it was quite common and effective to take this approach to winning the White House.
For example, everyone knows how Abraham Lincoln grew up in a log cabin and worked odd jobs to get by. That story played a significant role in his campaign for president in 1860. What wasn’t talked about as much was the fact that by the time he ran for president he was a successful attorney in Springfield, Illinois. Anyone who has ever visited his home there (and I highly recommend it) will clearly see that while he didn’t have a mansion to brag about, he wasn’t exactly rubbing two coins together to make ends meet either.
If that wasn’t evidence enough that he’d done quite well for himself despite his humble beginnings, consider his marriage to Mary Todd Lincoln. Despite her later struggles in life, as a young woman she was considered quite the catch. Doubtful Mr. Lincoln could have won her over strictly on his story of personal fortitude.
In our history, we’ve had presidents who were quite poor starting out and some born rich. None were completely destitute when they took up residence in the Executive Mansion. The only president who could have honestly pulled off “I feel your pain” from a financial perspective is Harry S Truman who arrived, left, and remained in a pretty ordinary financial situation throughout his long life.
Many others did have inspirational stories to tell, but I can’t think of a single one of them who tried the tack Hillary Clinton seems to be taking. Even they likely would agree her attempt at relating to the little man is laughable to say the least.
Mitt Romney took a lot of heat for making $10,000 bets and revealing all his vast wealth. While clearly tone deaf on many levels, at least he was being honest.
We know a lot more about the people running for office these days (in some ways too much) for this old vote getting trick to work anymore.
For Hillary Clinton and anyone else out there seeking higher office, I say enough already.
To quote Terry Bradshaw (sort of), some of us may be dumb, but we’re not stupid.