Al Tompkins of Tampa’s Poynter Institute posted an article this morning about the lengths a candidate will go to characterize his childhood as poverty-stricken:

Looking over the main speeches of the DNC, I have been amused/amazed by how often speakers have referred to their penniless humble roots, as if that makes them more like the rest of us….

It is a refrain of the old American Dream/Rags to Riches notion. Except today’s politician doesn’t want anything to do with claiming they are rich.

Tompkins goes on to argue that candidates should emphasize their wealth, because who wants a bankrupt clown in the Oval Office? I think he’s right on with his assessment. I wouldn’t trust a schizophrenic to assess my mental health, why would I choose for a lead role in our current economic tragedy someone who’s barely getting by over someone who knows how to make and invest big bucks ?

But I can understand why politicians are reluctant to play up their 4br/3ba summer homes. One, it might irritate the egos of that super-sensitive middle class: “He doesn’t know how much gas costs? Who doesn’t know that? It costs a lot. Why the hell does he go and admit that? I don’t even want to hear from this guy about energy policy.”

And two, it seems that every election cycle provides a vindication of those secret jealousies in the form of a  media slew lambasting the wealthier politician for being “out of touch with the real America.” Examples include attacks on John Kerry and his wife’s ketchup fortune, and—for us Gen Yers—’90s Nickelodeon caricatures of Ross Perot squeaking out campaign slogans while shoving money down the front of his pants.

Oddly enough, we usually elect the rich folk no matter what they say about their income—if they say anything at all: “U.S. Senators are worth, on average, more than $10 million. Their colleagues in the House average personal wealth of more than $5 million.”

Whodathunkit?