Misulonas: Why fear elitist presidential candidates?

Joseph Misulonas

Last week in Iowa, Mitt Romney criticized President Obama as being out of touch with American people and compared him to Marie Antoinette, the French queen who responded to the starvation of the peasants with, “Let them eat cake.”

Although it is obviously hypocritical for a man who is worth $250 million to criticize anyone for being out of touch with the middle class, Romney’s criticism is part of a much larger series of speeches made by Republican presidential candidates to make each of them seem like he or she is the candidate most in touch with the common man. But is that what we really want in a president?

The President of the United States is the leader of our country, the symbol of our nation to the rest of the world. The person we elect is a representative of all of us on the international stage. Shouldn’t we elect someone who represents the best and brightest of our nation?

Republicans have been trying to distance themselves from their elitist pasts. During debates, candidates often refer to periods of their lives in which they lived in poverty. Whether it was Ron Paul growing up during the Financial Crisis of 1837 or Michele Bachmann living in the squalor that comes with being a tax attorney, candidates try humanizing themselves through portrayals as the “common man.” Mitt Romney even claims that several of his friends are poor, although I think it’s unfair that he allows the definition of “friend” to include the people who take care of his landscaping.

I don’t want a president who is common or ordinary. Needing to deliver pizzas in college to pay for tuition doesn’t qualify you for being president. Running several successful corporations does. Yet candidates emphasize the former when discussing their personal histories .

“Experts” argue that being in touch with the people is necessary for the president. Let’s be honest, though: the people are stupid. The majority of Americans support cuts in government spending, yet they don’t support cuts in programs such as Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid and defense. The people don’t know which policies are most effective, they just want results.

Candidates are only responding to the demands of the people. The public wants the illusion that the person running the country is an average man, and presidential candidates spend their time making speeches trying to prove their non-existent blue collar pasts. Voters know more about candidates’ biographies than they do about their plans for making the country better. It’s time for people to demand their candidates stop pandering to voters about their pasts and spend more time explaining their policies.

Candidates spend too much of their time trying to show how similar they are to the people when they should be showing how they are different. And not only that they are different, but superior. Tell me why you are smarter and more successful than my plumber, not ways in which you two are similar.

Conservatives spend a lot of time attacking elitism. They say elites (which means anyone who has an Ivy League education, lives on the East Coast, describes themselves as a liberal, etc.) are out of touch with Americans and don’t understand the problems they face. This allows them to claim global warming is a myth spread by the elite scientists studying our climate who want to receive more grant money. Of course, the true elites of our country, the CEOs of major corporations, are the people who fund their party. That’s why they’re called “job creators,” while scientists are called “elites.”

But in reality, both the CEO and the scientist are elites, and that’s not a bad thing. The CEO understands business and knows how to make money and is successful in doing so. The scientist has spent years studying his field and becoming an expert in what he does. Both are elites, both are experts in their fields, and we should respect their opinions.

Candidates need to spend more time proving they are political elites and less time proving they’re common people. You’ve already shown that you consider yourself an elite by running for president. Stop trying to hide it and embrace it. Prove that you deserve the most elite position in the Western World. Elitism is not a bad thing.

Joseph Misulonas is a Medill sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected].