Regular Folks

Before I could get around to it, Paul Waldman of TAP said everything that ought to be said about the convention of expecting politicians to show they’re just regular folks generally, and John Boehner’s tribute to his greasy spoon diner eating habits in particular. Waldman gets in a particularly good thrust at the hypocrisy of media stars like Chris Matthews questioning the down-home qualities of pols like Barack Obama:

I don’t mind that Chris Matthews has a house on Nantucket; maybe I would too, if I made as much money as him. And I don’t care whether John Boehner prefers a fine wine to a downmarket beer. My problems with Boehner have nothing to do with his personal tastes in food and recreation. The thing about politicians is that they take positions and perform official actions that give great insight into whether and how much they care about regular people. That’s the place to look if you want to know who they really are. You don’t have to ask where they eat breakfast.

Bingo. Nobody expected any of the Kennedys to pretend they weren’t fabulously rich. They–particularly Bobby and Teddy–bonded with working folks over policy, not dining habits (though Bobby did have a good line for farm-state audiences about the cereal consumption levels of his very large family–before cheerfully admitting he didn’t know much about ag commodity programs). Meanwhile, the many “regular folks” conservatives these days who purport to be country music or NASCAR fans (if not hip-hop aficionados like Marco Rubio) exhibit their real loyalties by fretting endlessly that the bottom-line incomes of the very rich aren’t high enough. There’s not enough breakfast sausage in the world to overcome that signal.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.