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Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump unabashedly touts himself as being “really rich.” According to Forbes Magazine, Trump even exaggerated his net worth, alleging to be worth almost $9 billion. Forbes pegs the number at just $4.1 billion. Trump brags that he went to a top tier school, the Wharton School of Business, and even sings the praises of an uncle who taught at MIT, John G. Trump. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump told CNN, “It’s in my blood. I’m smart. Great marks. Like really smart.” Trump even showcased his private jet at the Iowa State Fair by taking children for a ride.

Trump is the antithesis of the American politician. Most politicians who come from patrician backgrounds try to play down their heritage. They sometimes awkwardly try to play the role of an ordinary citizen. On the flip side, those politicians who hail from more modest circumstances often try to play up their humble origins rather than emphasizing their current financial situation.

For example, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee discusses his modest rearing in Hope, Arkansas, writing: “I think it’s home,” rather than showcasing his Florida abode assessed at over $3 million. Donald Trump, by boasting of his wealth, family, and his esteemed relative at MIT, is entering into uncharted territory in Presidential politics.

The greatest rouse for a politician from a patrician upbringing effectuating a narrative of being a regular guy from a humble background was perpetuated by William Henry Harrison. Harrison was elected President in 1840 by emphasizing the fact that he once lived in a log cabin. In reality, Harrison lived in a log cabin for just a brief period after leaving government service.

Some of his handlers spread the yarn that he was actually born in a long cabin. In fact, one of Harrison’s supporters, whisky distiller E.G. Booze, sold whisky in log cabin-shaped bottles during the campaign to promote this master narrative (This is where the word “booze” came from). Harrison dressed down in public, styling himself as an average American. In actuality, Harrison grew up as a man of means. His father was once the Governor of Virginia. The ploy worked swimmingly. Harrison was elected President in an electoral landslide.

A hundred years later, in 1940, the Republican Presidential nominee, Wendell Willkie, often talked of his roots. Willkie was reared in the small blue-collar town of Elwood, Indiana. He rarely mentioned that both of his parents were lawyers. Willkie presented himself as a barefoot farm boy who made good, becoming a Utilities Executive. Willkie did not mention the connections to Wall Street he developed in that roll. U.S. Interior Secretary Harold Ickies dubbed him: “The barefoot boy from Wall Street.” Furthering this joke, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, averred Willkie has: “grassroots of every country club in America.”

There have been more recent examples of politicians downplaying their resumes in the interest of not appearing elitist. Lyndon B. Johnson actually did come from a modest background, but he often exaggerated it for political effect. While he was giving a tour of his birthplace, Johnson City, Texas, Johnson showed his visitors an old cabin and told them it was his birthplace. Johnson’s mother, Rebekah Baines Johnson, said to him: “Why Lyndon, you know you were born in a much better house closer to town which has been torn down.” Johnson replied: “I know mama, but everybody has to have a birthplace.”

Johnson’s fellow Texan and political mentor, U.S. House Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-TX), lived a lavish lifestyle when in the nation’s capital. He dawned a posh wardrobe and enjoyed a chauffeured limousine at his disposal. Yet when he was back in his Texas Congressional District, Rayburn played the role of a simple dairy farmer, wore overalls, and drove a pickup truck. Consequently, as Rayburn moved up the leadership ladder in Congress, his constituents continued to see him at community events as a citizen Congressman as content in the North Texas prairie tending to his cattle as positioned behind the President when he delivers his State of the Union Address.

Nelson Rockefeller, an heir to the Rockefeller family fortune, spent much of his political career downplaying the elitist connotations that his background and fortune brought. When he first ran for Governor of New York in 1958, Rockefeller taught himself not to use the term “thanks a million” when a supporter praised him. He supplanted it with “thanks a thousand.” In addition, Rockefeller greeted voters with the folksy: “Hiya Fella.”

In 1978, Massachusetts Democratic Gubernatorial nominee Ed King called his wealthy Republican opponent Frank Hatch, “A rich incompetent.” In the last days of the campaign, the King campaign aired a television advertisement which included an aerial shot of the mansion Hatch lived in, which was situated in a lavish neighborhood. To make a stark contrast, the advertisement included an aerial shot of King’s home, which was quite modest and located in a blue-collar neighborhood. The ad is credited with slowing a late electoral surge Hatch had made with working-class voters, and may have won the election for King.

More recently, when running for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1988, Al Gore, who spent most of his youth in Washington, D.C. as the son of a U.S. Senator, and attended the prestigious St. Albans School before ascending to Harvard College (the only college he applied to), emphasized his time growing tobacco at his family’s Tennessee farm. He told North Carolina voters: “I’ve raised tobacco…I want you to know that with my own hands, all of my life, I put it in the plant beds and transferred it. I’ve hoed it. I’ve chopped it. I’ve shredded it, spiked it, put it in the barn and stripped it and sold it.”

While running for the 2004 and 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination, U.S. Senator John Edwards (D-NC), who had amassed millions of dollars as a top tort lawyer, downplayed his wealth, and mentioned that his “father worked in a mill all his life.” The younger Edwards would pose in front of the first home he lived in located in Seneca, South Carolina. Edwards did not mention that his father was promoted to a mill supervisor, and then to plant manager. Nor did Edwards mention that after a year the family moved to a much nicer home, and that his upbringing was relatively comfortable.

Donald Trump is a rare political species. Rather than hide his pedigree, wealth, and prestigious education, he is championing it, with no fear of being tattooed as an elitist by his critics. If it works, perhaps we will witness more politicians announcing their candidacies in front of their mansions dressed in expensive suits rather than in front of their modest birthplaces wearing overalls or work clothes. This would be a political sea change from what we are used to seeing.


During the last two election cycles, U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) attracted support from liberals, libertarians, and independents who were drawn to his non-interventionist anti-war message. Paul advocated a truncation of the military budget and called for U.S. troops overseas to come home. He argued that the U.S. presence abroad effectuated enmity toward the U.S. Paul’s argument was showcased in a 2007 GOP Presidential debate when Paul, referring to the 9/11 hijackings, averred: “They attack us because we’ve been over there.” Paul was referring to the stated reasons asserted by Osama bin Laden to justify the attacks on the U.S.

In a 1996 Fatwa, bin Laden condemned the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia (he viewed non-Muslim troops in the land of the two Muslim Holy cities, Mecca and Medina, as sacrilege). He also denounced U.S. supported economic sanctions leveled against Iraq, which is widely believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. In addition, bin Laden blamed the U.S. and Israel for the plight of the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank.

Ron Paul’s son, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), has proven he is not the heir apparent to the Ron Paul non-interventionist foreign policy platform. In his bid for the Republican Presidential nomination, Paul has come out for a $190 billion increase in the U.S military budget. Unlike his father, Rand Paul is opposed to the recently brokered Iranian Nuclear Agreement. Rand Paul has inflamed some of his father’s supporters when he told Fox News: “There is a valuable use for drones and as much as I’m seen as an opponent of drones, in military and warfare, they do have some value.” In addition, After Russia invaded the Crimea, Rand Paul called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be punished, and averred: “It is our role as a global leader to be the strongest nation in opposing Russia’s latest aggression.”

Rand Paul is closer to the realist school of foreign policy, with ideological antecedents like Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gerald R. Ford, rather than the non-interventionist school of his father. As Rand Paul alienates those who supported his father, based largely on his foreign policy beliefs, a vacuum has developed for a candidate with a foreign policy belief system close to Ron Paul’s, one who does not merely oppose a particular military action, but one who opposes the entire interventionist premise behind U.S. foreign policy.

Enter former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, seeking the Democratic Presidential nomination. Chafee advertises himself as harboring an “aversion to foreign entanglements.” On foreign policy, Chafee is the closest major candidate in the Presidential race to Ron Paul. Chafee, like Ron Paul, is not afraid of being branded a bin Laden sympathizer because he points out the aforementioned three grievances bin Laden used as a recruiting magnet to his cause.

Yet Chafee has not made a direct pitch to those who supported Ron Paul based upon his foreign policy view. Chafee has not asked them to “continue the crusade.” Chafee barely registers in the polls. Like Paul, Chafee has an insipid cerebral demeanor. For Paul, it was the uniqueness of his message on the national stage that defined him, not his charisma.

Those voters who were attracted to Ron Paul based predominately on economic issues will see little in common with Chafee, as Paul is much more conservative in that arena.

However, many of Ron Paul’s supporters were attracted to his foreign policy ideas. This is where Chafee has a message which, if promoted properly, could strike a resonate chord with libertarians, independents, and blue republicans (Democrats who supported Ron Paul). Chafee is preaching a parallel message.

In 2002, Chafee, while serving in the U.S. Senate as a liberal Republican, was the only member of his party in the Senate to vote against the authorization of the use of force in Iraq. Ron Paul was one of just six Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to vote against the Resolution. In addition, unlike Rand Paul, Chafee calls for an end to the use of predator drone strikes. He refers to them as “extra-judicial assassinations.” For example, with respect to Yemen, Chaffee is the only candidate who bewails the use by the U.S. of drones in that nation and the inadvertent civilian deaths they cause.

Moreover, Chafee is a member of the Advisory Council of J Street, which advocates for a two-state solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which includes the total withdrawal of Israel from the disputed territories.

Chafee, like Paul, advocates a détente between the U.S. and Iran. On the Iranian nuclear deal, Chafee’s message eerily echoes that of Ron Paul, who unlike his son Rand Paul, supports the deal. Chafee says: “Of course we should be talking with them. That’s what we did right during the Cold War — talking with China, talking with Russia, ping pong teams going back and forth to China and dealing with Gorbachev — that’s the right way to make peace.” In 2011, Ron Paul asserted that the U.S. should negotiate with Iran by “maybe offering friendship to them. I mean, didn’t we talk to the Soviets? Didn’t we talk to the Chinese? They had thousands of these weapons.”

Chafee’s candidacy has garnered little media attention thus far. Many voters who share Chafee and Ron Paul’s aversion to foreign entanglements have gravitated to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), one of Chafee’s rivals for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Unlike Chafee, Sanders deemphasizes foreign policy issues, focusing mostly on the domestic sphere. Many of his supporters mendaciously believe that since Sanders is the most liberal candidate on domestic policy, he must concomitantly be a non-interventionist in foreign policy. 

While Sanders is no hawk, and similar to Chafee favors a reduction of the militarily budget, his foreign policy views are more traditional than conventional belief might dictate. While Sanders, like Chafee and Ron Paul, opposed the Iraq War, Sanders voted for the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 which stated: “It should be the policy of the Untied States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein.” Chafee was not a member of the U.S. Senate at the time.

A year later, Sanders favored the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, which caused aide Jeremy Brecher to resign in protest. In addition, Sanders took heat from his liberal Vermont constituents for his support of the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2014, though he tempered his support, maintaining Israel had “overreacted” by bombing schools used as civilian shelters, which allegedly housed weapons.

For Chafee to be taken seriously and muster earned media attention, he must define his campaign with a similar message as the Democratic Presidential nominee George McGovern did in 1972: “Come Home America.” He needs to explain the deleterious effects that U.S. interventions have had on the nation.

Chafee needs to emphasize the issue of “blowback.” He has a perfect opening when it comes to Iran. Rather than simply explain that he supports the nuclear deal, Chafee should emphasize how U.S. policy led to the adversarial relationship between the two nations, beginning in 1953, when the U.S. sponsored a coup d’état against Mohammad Mosaddeqh, the Democratically elected Prime Minister, after he nationalized the oil fields. This was an example Paul used continuously to make his case against foreign interventions.

There is an opening the size of the Grand Canyon for a candidate to take advantage of. To move out from the bottom of the pack, Chafee must issue a clarion call to those Ron Paul supporters who were attracted to him for his foreign policy platform. He must convince them that he, not Rand Paul, is the rightful heir apparent to Ron Paul’s message. There is a niche to be filled. Ron Paul proved that this message can resonate even if the messenger lacks charisma. A call to bring U.S. troops home from abroad and to stop meddling outside of U.S. borders turned the charismatically-challenged Ron Paul into a political cult figure. It could work for Chafee too.


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The old saying goes “What’s in a name?” Actually, names can be very important in the political arena and have changed the course of American political history. In 1946, after entering a race for an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, future President John F. Kennedy used a creative tactic to muster an […]

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A Biden/Warren Ticket: Announcing a Running Mate Would Be a Risky Endeavor

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A recent meeting between Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) set the political punditocracy aflutter with speculation of a Biden/Warren ticket. If Biden were to announce the formation of this ticket prior to the Democratic Presidential primaries, it would effectuate a formidable obstacle for the current front-runner Hillary Clinton. Warren’s presence […]

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Donald Trump Is No ‘Good Soldier’

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Many in the GOP High Command are distraught that their party’s frontrunner for the 2016 Presidential nomination, real estate magnate Donald Trump, will not agree emphatically to support the party’s eventual nominee (should Trump himself not be nominated) and will not rule out waging a potential third party bid. Trump exclaimed in an August GOP […]

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Should Biden Run for the Democratic Presidential Nomination, not Getting Endorsement of President would Not be Unprecedented

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Vice President Joe Biden is believed to be seriously contemplating a bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Should he enter the race, one of his opponents would be former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who served under President Barack Obama. If Biden enters the race, Obama will likely not endorse either candidate. It may […]

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Restless Insurrectionist Syndrome Strikes in the 2016 Presidential Election

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A year ago, few Americans would have predicted that Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist, would be leading a formidable insurrectionist challenge to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Presidential Primary, or that real estate magnate Donald Trump would be leading in the polls in the Republican Primary. Why is this happening? It is a reflection […]

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In Politics, It’s All About Timing

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In 2011, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was a champion to conservatives who admired his combative approach to critics and his willingness to stand up to the public sector unions. Moderates saw him as a blue state Governor who worked well with Democrats and who balanced the state’s budget. The Republican establishment took notice, seeing […]

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Some Presidential Candidates Get No Respect

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When New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, many in the media declared he was the 14th Republican to officially declare his presidential candidacy. In actuality, over 100 Republicans have filed with the Federal Elections Commission as candidates for the GOP nomination. Most are ignored because of their lack […]

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Open Season on the Elites: Bernie Sanders Is Leading the Charge

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Democratic Presidential candidate Bernard Sanders is drawing overflow crowds. He is garnering support at the grassroots level, and is raising “eye-popping” amounts of cash from small donors. Some of his enthusiastic adherents seem to believe there is no God but Bernie Sanders. Part of the reason for this insurgence is not only what Sanders is […]

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