Do You Have to be Born Rich to Become President?

When Senator Barack Obama was elected president, his victory was widely taken as a momentous event. In racial terms, Mr. Obama constitutes the first minority president of the United States. This is quite an impressive feat – something that many Americans did not think could be done as late as 2007.

From another perspective, however, Mr. Obama’s election looks less impressive. This perspective is that of class. Mr. Obama was raised by an upper-middle class family: his mother was an anthropologist who had a PhD degree, and Mr. Obama went to a fairly prestigious private school in Hawaii during his early years.

The last president, Mr. George W. Bush, was also born to a wealthy family – in this case far higher up the social ladder than Mr. Obama’s family.

All this raises the question of whether one must be born with parents of a certain income to become president of the United States. In today’s America, inequality higher than it has been for a long time. Does that inequality exclude those born from non-affluent backgrounds from potentially becoming president?

This is a difficult – impossible – question to fully answer. Nevertheless, in the hopes of partially doing so, I have made a table of several recent presidents in the United States and their family background:

Link to Table of Several Recent Presidents in the United States and Their Family Backgrounds

Before beginning an analysis of these results, several caveats must be noted. Research for his table relied heavily entirely on a certain online encyclopedia – because this is a blog post, not a peer-reviewed study. Moreover, much of this data is very subjective and subject to dispute. The difference between a “middle-class” and an “upper-middle class” family background is a bit harder to define than the difference between, say, the number three and four. So is evaluating whether a president is “good” or “bad;” with a president like George H. W. Bush, for instance, “neither good nor bad” is probably a better answer than “good.”

The designations of “lower-class,” “working-class,” and so on were drawn from the jobs of the parents. “Elite” generally means the president’s father – and it is always the father, given the way American society is structured – was a President himself, a Governor, a Senator, an executive of a powerful national business, etc.

As for the evaluations of whether said president was “good” or “bad,” those are based upon what  most historians and Americans think – not personal opinion. Using personal opinion, President Ronald Reagan would be put as a “bad” president. But most Americans and historians probably think he was a “good” president, so that’s what the table shows.

This table is a cropped version of the full results. For the full table – including all the presidents, which would be too long to put on this post – see here.

With these caveats in mind, there are nevertheless some conclusions that may be drawn from the table. Not all of America’s presidents came from rich and wealthy backgrounds; in fact, only four of the fourteen presidents in the table had “elite” backgrounds. President Bill Clinton’s stepfather worked as the owner of an automobile dealership; President Ronald Reagan’s parents didn’t own a house until Mr. Reagan became a famous actor.

On the other hand, coming from a well-off background certainly helps. Fully half of the presidents above had “elite,” “upper-class,” or “upper-middle class” parents. Interestingly, five of these presidents with well-off backgrounds were Democrats; two (the Bushes) were Republicans. This is fairly ironic given the working-class versus business-class association occupied by the parties.

A president’s family background had relatively little to do with whether he was a good president. Of the nine good presidents in the list, five came from well-off backgrounds and four came from poorer backgrounds.

In fact, a regular person’s chances of becoming president are higher nowadays than they were in much of the past. For instance, during the Gilded Age – if one takes a look at the full list – seven consecutive presidents (from President Chester Arthur to President Woodrow Wilson) came from “elite” or “upper-class” backgrounds.

There is other interesting information on the full list. Of America’s 43 presidents,  24 presidents were “good” presidents, while 17 were “bad.” “Good” and “bad” presidents tend to come and go in waves. From President George Washington to President Andrew Jackson, a total of seven consecutive presidents were “good.” But then immediately after comes a long list of really “bad” presidents, from President Martin Van Buren to President James A. Garfield. Out of these thirteen presidents, eleven are “bad.” To be fair, one of the “good” presidents – President Abraham Lincoln – is commonly considered the greatest president of the United States.

In total, 13 presidents had “elite” backgrounds. This is more than the 10 presidents who had “lower-class” or “working-class” backgrounds. Of those 13 presidents with “elite” backgrounds, 8 were “good” presidents and 5 were “bad.” On the other hand, 5 of the ten presidents with “lower-class” or “working-class” backgrounds were “good.” Given the small sample size, this is not enough to really say anything conclusive.

One can do the same with political parties. The Democratic Party has elected 13 presidents; nine of these came from “well-off” backgrounds. By contrast, the Republican Party has elected 20 presidents. Of these, only eight came from “well-off” backgrounds. On the other hand, eight of the the 13 Democratic presidents were “good” presidents, while only 10 of the twenty Republican presidents were “good” presidents.

In conclusion, slightly more than half of America’s presidents were “good” ones. Democratic presidents, surprisingly, tend to have more elite backgrounds, and Republican presidents more humble ones. But Democratic presidents are also slightly more competent.

And to answer the question posed in the title: No, one does not have to be born rich to become president today – which was not always the case in the past. But being born rich certainly does help.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/ 

 

Do You Have to be Born Rich to Become President?

When Senator Barack Obama was elected president, his victory was widely taken as a momentous event. In racial terms, Mr. Obama constitutes the first minority president of the United States. This is quite an impressive feat – something that many Americans did not think could be done as late as 2007.

From another perspective, however, Mr. Obama’s election looks less impressive. This perspective is that of class. Mr. Obama was raised by an upper-middle class family: his mother was an anthropologist who had a PhD degree, and Mr. Obama went to a fairly prestigious private school in Hawaii during his early years.

The last president, Mr. George W. Bush, was also born to a wealthy family – in this case far higher up the social ladder than Mr. Obama’s family.

All this raises the question of whether one must be born with parents of a certain income to become president of the United States. In today’s America, inequality higher than it has been for a long time. Does that inequality exclude those born from non-affluent backgrounds from potentially becoming president?

This is a difficult – impossible – question to fully answer. Nevertheless, in the hopes of partially doing so, I have made a table of several recent presidents in the United States and their family background:

Link to Table of Several Recent Presidents in the United States and Their Family Backgrounds

Before beginning an analysis of these results, several caveats must be noted. Research for his table relied heavily entirely on a certain online encyclopedia – because this is a blog post, not a peer-reviewed study. Moreover, much of this data is very subjective and subject to dispute. The difference between a “middle-class” and an “upper-middle class” family background is a bit harder to define than the difference between, say, the number three and four. So is evaluating whether a president is “good” or “bad;” with a president like George H. W. Bush, for instance, “neither good nor bad” is probably a better answer than “good.”

The designations of “lower-class,” “working-class,” and so on were drawn from the jobs of the parents. “Elite” generally means the president’s father – and it is always the father, given the way American society is structured – was a President himself, a Governor, a Senator, an executive of a powerful national business, etc.

As for the evaluations of whether said president was “good” or “bad,” those are based upon what  most historians and Americans think – not personal opinion. Using personal opinion, President Ronald Reagan would be put as a “bad” president. But most Americans and historians probably think he was a “good” president, so that’s what the table shows.

This table is a cropped version of the full results. For the full table – including all the presidents, which would be too long to put on this post – see here.

With these caveats in mind, there are nevertheless some conclusions that may be drawn from the table. Not all of America’s presidents came from rich and wealthy backgrounds; in fact, only four of the fourteen presidents in the table had “elite” backgrounds. President Bill Clinton’s stepfather worked as the owner of an automobile dealership; President Ronald Reagan’s parents didn’t own a house until Mr. Reagan became a famous actor.

On the other hand, coming from a well-off background certainly helps. Fully half of the presidents above had “elite,” “upper-class,” or “upper-middle class” parents. Interestingly, five of these presidents with well-off backgrounds were Democrats; two (the Bushes) were Republicans. This is fairly ironic given the working-class versus business-class association occupied by the parties.

A president’s family background had relatively little to do with whether he was a good president. Of the nine good presidents in the list, five came from well-off backgrounds and four came from poorer backgrounds.

In fact, a regular person’s chances of becoming president are higher nowadays than they were in much of the past. For instance, during the Gilded Age – if one takes a look at the full list – seven consecutive presidents (from President Chester Arthur to President Woodrow Wilson) came from “elite” or “upper-class” backgrounds.

There is other interesting information on the full list. Of America’s 43 presidents,  24 presidents were “good” presidents, while 17 were “bad.” “Good” and “bad” presidents tend to come and go in waves. From President George Washington to President Andrew Jackson, a total of seven consecutive presidents were “good.” But then immediately after comes a long list of really “bad” presidents, from President Martin Van Buren to President James A. Garfield. Out of these thirteen presidents, eleven are “bad.” To be fair, one of the “good” presidents – President Abraham Lincoln – is commonly considered the greatest president of the United States.

In total, 13 presidents had “elite” backgrounds. This is more than the 10 presidents who had “lower-class” or “working-class” backgrounds. Of those 13 presidents with “elite” backgrounds, 8 were “good” presidents and 5 were “bad.” On the other hand, 5 of the ten presidents with “lower-class” or “working-class” backgrounds were “good.” Given the small sample size, this is not enough to really say anything conclusive.

One can do the same with political parties. The Democratic Party has elected 13 presidents; nine of these came from “well-off” backgrounds. By contrast, the Republican Party has elected 20 presidents. Of these, only eight came from “well-off” backgrounds. On the other hand, eight of the the 13 Democratic presidents were “good” presidents, while only 10 of the twenty Republican presidents were “good” presidents.

In conclusion, slightly more than half of America’s presidents were “good” ones. Democratic presidents, surprisingly, tend to have more elite backgrounds, and Republican presidents more humble ones. But Democratic presidents are also slightly more competent.

And to answer the question posed in the title: No, one does not have to be born rich to become president today – which was not always the case in the past. But being born rich certainly does help.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/ 

 

Wife Swap Conservatism

While on vacation out East, I got the chance to pick up and read Walter Benn Michaels' 2006 book The Trouble With Diversity.  Might as well spoil the suspense and start by saying Benn Michaels didn't convince me when he argues (like Michaels Lind and Tomasky) that left-wing "identity politics" around race and gender stand in the way of a serious left-wing class politics.  The book reminded me at various points of Catherine MacKinnon's argument (in Towards a Feminist Theory of the State) that feminists and Marxists view each other with suspicion because each party could undo one kind of oppression while leaving the other oppression intact.  It's often not clear to whom Benn Michaels, an English professor, is addressing his argument.  He offers criticisms (often clever, always articulate) of some academic arguments about identity, but he doesn't engage with many pivotal ones - like the literature on intersectional (rather than additive) approaches to identity, considering how identities mediate each other - how being identified as a poor Black woman has different social and economics meanings than just being poor plus being Black plus being a woman.  He calls Omi and Winant's Racial Formation in the United States"certainly the most influential academic text on the social construction of race," but cites only two sentences from it.

If the argument is directed at political practitioners, we're left wondering how he actually pictures the left gaining power and effectiveness by throwing race and gender overboard.  In a telling line criticizing the focus on sexism at Wal-Mart as a distraction from exploitation there, Benn Michaels asserts that "Laws against discrimination by gender are what you go for when you've given up on - or turned against - the idea of a strong labor movement." Tell that to all the folks in the labor movement and labor-allied groups who've worked to support the Dukes lawsuit and the fight against Wal-Mart's sexism as part of a broad-based critique of a company that helpfully illustrates the connections between conservatism's threat to gender equality, economic justice, environmental sustainability, and other values progressives and most Americans hold dear.  Benn Michaels' approach, which denies that rich people can be victims of oppression or that poor people can be oppressed by more than only poverty, would render the left unable to fully understand, let alone seriously engage, with what Betty Dukes and millions of women like her are facing (see also Whitewashing Race).  As badly as Benn Michaels may wish for a revived labor movement, in advocating a disregard for identity politics he's echoing the disconnection from progressive social movements which contributed the labor movement's decline in the first place.  Those blinders regarding oppressions besides class mirror the blindness to class of too many in, for example, the pro-choice movement - blindness of which Benn Michaels would be rightly critical.

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Let America be America Again - Poem by Langston Hughes

I don't know if any readers are really into poetry, but I thought I'd post this anyway. I posted one of his poems called "I too sing America." in another thread.

Langston Hughes is often called America's greatest black poet. He is considered by many, myself included, to be one of America's greatest poets, of any color.

He was born in 1902 and died in 1967. He lived through some of the most vicious years of Jim Crow and fought against it his whole life. He flirted briefly with communism then rejected it when he saw it for what it really was - only another way for tyrants to hold power. This poem was first published in 1938 during Hughes brief period of support for communism. Many of his poems speak to the black experience, but many others speak to the universal human spirit. This is one that speaks to both.Many verses are especially relevant in this election cycle. The title of this poem was the source for John Kerry's campaign slogan.

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10 reasons why it's difficult to depart from Clinton's camp

10) We don't steal lawn signs

9) Change and Hope is old

8) We have perfected the art of maneuvering...... without needing rests

7) By having gay supporters doesn't mean that HE is with US

6) You may find HER 'likable enough' but we ADORE her very much

5) Voting should not take longer than driving to vote

4) We are physically challenged to caucus

3) We were once the creative class and we gladly welcome you to join us in the near future

2) We don't spit at those who disagree with us, and we strongly condemn interracial spitting

1) Tell me what's wrong with the picture below:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/11116835@N0 3/2522830896/?edited=1

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Diaries

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