Is The Presidential Race Merely Teacher's Pet Vs. Class Clown?
September 22, 2016

Chris Arnade, a photographer and writer, has a post up at Medium (which began as a tweetstorm) about Hillary Clinton's struggle to close the sale this year. He thinks she's in trouble, even though he supports her. His conclusion?

Arnade continues:

11. Bill Clinton was a back row kid at heart. That is what he came from. (Go visit his hometown. Really.)

12. Trump is what the back row (and middle rows) often love best. Someone from the front row who joins them.

13. Not only is Trump joining them, he is shooting spitballs at the kids in the front. Making them all mad!

14. And what does team Hillary do? Goes full front row on everyone, throwing scorn. “How dare you behave so awfully! Grow up! Bad kids!”

15. That is why “basket of deplorable” was so damaging. It is exactly how everyone who isn’t in the front row thinks the front row thinks about everyone else.

I grew up a brainy truck driver's son in a white ethnic neighborhood in Boston, and I made it to the Ivy League. So I'm one of the front row kids Arnade is talking about, right? Except that I never felt like an elitist. In my childhood, it was embarrassing to be a brainy kid. I don't think Hillary Clinton grew up quite that way, but even when magazines were writing about her Wellesley commencement speech, she wasn't some sort of charismatic flaming youth who appeared to be getting all the sex and drugs while the working class died in Vietnam. She was a grind.She still is a grind. The back row kids may be screwed by life eventually, but they often look down on the front row kids for their awkwardness as much as for their prospects.

Yes, Bill got along with the kids in the back row. After three straight presidential losses in the 1980s, I was glad the Democrats found somebody in '92 who had that rapport.

But here we see the inconsistency in what Arnade writes. First he tells us that "this election is about everyone else throwing [the front row kids] out," then he tells us that being a back row kid helped propel Bill Clinton to the presidency. So we're not talking just about the unique circumstances of this moment. It's how we always are. We always want someone who, as Molly Ivins said, has some Elvis.

We want that even when we're not in despair. In '92, when Bill Clinton won, there was an economic downturn, along with a crime wave -- but things were pretty good in 2000 when George W. Bush, who came off as a back row kid, got close enough in the vote to steal the election from Al Gore, a grind.

If Trump wins this year, then the last two "back row" Republicans to ascend to the presidency will have been rich sons of elitists. That's how we do class war in America -- we don't resent the Bushes and Trumps, or at least the ones who have self-important swagger. We hate Hillary Clinton for rising from the middle class through hard work, and who can't look cool while doing it.

Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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