I was just scrolling through my Facebook (I really need to get out more) when I came across a headline about Hillary Clinton’s net worth. Full disclosure: I did not read the article. The headline itself implied something untoward about her income, as if making money was suddenly taboo to the opposing party, a party that has branded itself as friendly to the wealthy. Do not mistake me, I am not defending Mrs. Clinton. I have taken issue, and will continue to take issue, with her coronation by the media as the presumptive Democratic candidate a year and a half before the conventions. I just find the focus on her finances puzzling.
I know part of it is her attempting to come off as a populist candidate. Her campaign has leaked tough talk about the one percent (no actual statements, just leaks) and she wants to come off as someone accessible to the average voter. Yes, this is laughable when you think about the fact that she comes from a wealthy family and that her husband, post political career, cashed in on his time in office like no other President before him. No, she is not like us, but then again, none of them are.
Not one of the people getting any sort of media attention, or with any kind of actual campaign apparatus is like us. Even Jill Stein, lefty darling and likely Green Party candidate, is a physician living in one of the wealthiest small cities in America. That is not a condemnation, just as Hillary’s wealth should not be. There is plenty to wonder about the system that creates wealth inequality that lets people accrue as much as these folks have, but that does not mean people in the top ten percent cannot actually want to change those problems. It does, however put into question how much they understand life here on the bottom.
Do not mistake me, I like to think I have empathy aplenty and believe people from all walks of life have it, but that is not the same as actually knowing what it is like for another group of people. Furthermore, we have an obligation to ourselves to demand representation from our economic class. When all but a handful of Congressional representatives are millionaires how are you and I spoken for.
If you want a candidate that will represent you, get someone from your family, or from work, your neighborhood or even yourself to run. Yes there is a learning curve, yes you will have to educate yourself on civics and some basics of law, but not so much that you need a law degree to do it. Hell, all you really need to do is be a good at delegating responsibilities and build a team of advisers and assistants around you who believe as you do. Anyone really is qualified to run for office, and it is high time more people did it.
There are even programs out there attempting to shake up the candidate pool. Both the Working Families Party and Emily’s List have pipeline programs designed to get people who might not think to run to do so. No, you will not be running for President anytime soon, but if we get more regular folk in lower offices, eventually we will have regular folk in the Oval one. It will take courage, fortitude (emotional, physical and moral, oh how it will require moral fortitude) and energy, but it can be done. It needs to be done, because right now, none of us has our hands on the levers of power and we deserve it as much as the top ten percent.