03/26/08 — One of us, really? Candidates say they understand, but do they?

View Archive

One of us, really? Candidates say they understand, but do they?

During a recent campaign stop, Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle, spent a few minutes talking to those who had gathered to express their support for her husband’s candidacy for the presidency.

She spoke of how tough it was to raise a child today — how expensive it was to pay for piano lessons and summer camp.

The idea, of course, was to show just how much she understands the life of the average American — and to re-emphasize the fact that the Democratic party is out for the lower and middle class families struggling to survive.

Piano lessons and summer camp? Hmm. Probably not what most American families are worrying about paying for this week.

While Mrs. Obama’s comments are the most recent example, they are by far not the only evidence that many of those who choose to run for political office have no real connection to the people they hope to represent.

From fancy schools for their children to large paychecks that allow them to maintain pretty high standards of living, few of these people — although they say they do — really have a perspective on the real issues families face.

And that means the issues most middle class families battle with daily, like keeping their children in clothes, shoes and school supplies, while trying to make sure there is money left to send them to college.

Most of them also have state-sponsored health care, too, so they really do not have to think twice about prescription drug costs, deductibles or insurance premiums.

And the national politicians are not the only ones who are out of touch. Network bigshots might say a whole lot about supporting public schools, but how many of their children actually attend New York or Washington, D.C. area schools?

The point is, perhaps we need to make sure that candidates really understand what Americans need and the real issues that concern them. Maybe we need a little more questioning about not only how they will keep the promises they have made, but how they will pay for the changes. And a field trip to the suburbs to deal with the life of a real middle class family might not hurt either.

Talk is cheap — especially around election time. Perhaps this is a reminder that we should remember that politicians always “feel our pain” when they are stumping for our votes, but aren’t always able to translate those promises to viable legislation when they hit office.

Maybe we should make sure they remember this time — and set our expectations just a little higher. Measureable outcomes, not pretty speeches, might become our new watchwords for those who seek our votes.

Published in Editorials on March 26, 2008 10:58 AM