Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A New Democratic Party Elite?

Last night like millions of Americans, we watched the opening speeches at the Democratic National Convention:  Julian Castro, Mayor of the City of San Antonio and Michelle Obama were undeniably eloquent.  Castro was introduced by his brother, also a rising star in the party and like Julian, also a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School.  This fact was mentioned several times, both in introductions and then in Julian’s speech, as it was similarly mentioned by Michelle that she was Princeton undergrad and Harvard Law.  Barack, we know, is Columbia University and Harvard Law (as well as a graduate of the elite prep school, Ponahou School in Hawaii).

This all seems kind of odd.  On the one hand, each politician emphasizes their dire poverty in upbringing in an effort to connect with the mass constituencies that they are courting for votes:  blacks, Hispanics, the middle class and the poor.  Yet at the same time, it's hard for us to associate Princeton, Harvard and Stanford with anything but the most privileged elements of American society.  So which is it, are they poor or privileged, or both at the same time?

According to the Harvard Law School website, tuition and the estimated cost of living in today’s dollars is approximately $75,000 per year.  Adjusted for inflation, it wasn’t any bargain when Michelle, Barack, or the Castro brothers attended.  Not many people can afford to send their kids to Harvard Law School and most would consider a graduate, a person of great privilege in our society.

But this is the pedigree of the new Democratic Party elite.  We were compelled to do a bit of digging to see where and when this all started. We guess with Bill Clinton, a Georgetown, Oxford and Yale Law grad. Kennedy and Roosevelt were both Harvard men, but were privileged beyond modern imagination, so our sense is that this phenomena is more recent and best traces back to Bill Clinton.  

To confirm our suspicions, we were prompted to check on other recent Democrats to see if they too were members of the society of elite university graduates:  Jimmy Carter, Georgia Southwest College and the US Naval Academy;  Lyndon Johnson, Texas State University; Harry Truman, Spalding Commercial College (dropped out).  Now, this is the stuff of the party of the common man!

But watching the DNC last night, there's an undeniable shift in the Democratic elite these days.  How well this new elite will connect with the constituencies they most desire will remain to be seen.