The Chipotle Test for Presidential Normalcy

 /  May 5, 2015, 1:53 p.m.


Unless you have presidential aspirations, you shouldn’t want your president to be like you.

In 2012, Mitt Romney was painted as an rich, out-of-touch man with no understanding of the average American. As the 2016 race shapes up, Politico argues that the Republicans are using the same tactics to alienate Hillary Clinton from the American people. Why must candidates for president of the United States be relatable? These candidates are running to be the leader of the United States, tackling problems that transcend each individual American and will join a prestigious list of the most influential politicians in the world. Of course Hillary Clinton isn’t like the average American; she was the First Lady, a senator, and the secretary of state.

What would it look like if the average American ran for president of the United States?

The most recent census data gives information on what the average American looks like. More than half of the U.S. population is female, making our average Presidential candidate a woman. This woman is about thirty-seven years old, just above the required thirty-five years to be eligible to run for the presidency. She is of Caucasian descent, like 75 percent of the American population. This woman is statistically likely to be named Mary Smith, as this is the most common first name for a woman and last name in the United States. She probably grew up in a city, as the majority of the American population lives in an urban environment. As for her education, approximately 85 percent of Americans graduate from high school, but less than 30 percent graduate with a college degree, so it’s safe to assume that our very average Mary will only have a high school diploma.

So far, Mary sounds like a “normal” person. But, what else can we learn about Mary? The average yearly income for a high school graduate is about $30,000 a year. Mary makes her living as a secretary or administrative assistant, which has been the most common job for women since the 1950s. She is probably married, like 50.3 percent of people over the age of eighteen in this country. Lastly, Mary probably didn’t cast a vote in the last election.

Mary Smith is an average woman, but could you imagine her as Madame President Mary Smith? Probably not. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with being average, but do we really only want an average President? It seems that out of the 320 million people in the United States we could find an above average candidate to elect to our nation’s highest office. In fact, we should strive to elect someone well above average in every aspect: in intelligence, experience, level of education and more. The president is directly responsible for the lives of all Americans as well as the largest military in the world. When it comes down to it, being average just doesn’t cut it in the Oval Office. If this is true, then why is it so important that a candidate for the presidency of the United States appear to be very much average with very normal experiences?

Hillary Clinton has a resume as longer and more impressive than most: First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States, senator and secretary of state. For four decades, Hillary and her husband have been in the public view, serving in a spectrum of roles in public service. Looking at that list above, it would be hard to find another person more qualified to be our next president. However, perception politics is making Hillary run away from her record. Why is her campaign rebranding her as an “average” American when she is anything but that?

Clinton has been widely criticized for her “life of a 1 percenter” in the past few years, which could be a major concern for some voters. She hasn’t driven herself in a car in years, she doesn’t go to pick up her own coffee and she certainly doesn’t travel on public airplanes. All of these can be very serious detractors in a political climate where politicians are striving to align themselves with “average” Americans.

Why has Hillary forfeited her claim to normalcy in favor of a more extravagant lifestyle? For one, she and her husband have Secret Service detail for the rest of their lives. As a result of her husband’s previous political achievement, Hillary benefits from round-the-clock protection. Given that, it seems natural that she would not be driving her own car or entering a coffee shop on her own.

America is not the only place where politicians are supposed to act “average.” David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, has been consistently criticized for being out of touch with voters because of his wealthy and privileged childhood. However, he has consistently polled at the top among national politicians as the hardest working and most likely to leave a lasting legacy. The latter qualities are significantly more important for a leader of an international power than how normal they appear to the voting public.

Granted, voters should feel comfortable that their vote is going to protect their interests. It could be a valid concern that since Hillary has lived a life of privilege as a high powered political figure she will be unable to represent the average American person. President Franklin D. Roosevelt demonstrated that wealth doesn’t necessarily mean being unable to implement good policies. FDR had one of the largest net worths of any American president at 60 million in dollars today, which is more than the combined wealth of the Clintons. Despite his wealth and aristocratic family background, FDR’s policies protected the American people during the worst financial crisis in history.

Both FDR and Cameron demonstrate that a wealthy background is not a hinderance in representing the needs of constituents. What sets Hillary apart from those two is that she did not come from a background of privilege. She was born to a middle class family and worked her way through college and law school. She and President Clinton worked for their money, unlike Cameron and FDR, who inherited their fortunes.

Hillary is not Mary Smith, nor should she strive to be. She has had an impressive career in the private sector and in public service. She has worked hard throughout her life and should point to her accomplishments with pride rather than shrinking away from her background to appear average. The job of the president of the United States is anything but average, and the candidates who aspire to that office should treat it with the respect it deserves. If Hillary truly wants to becomes President, she should be forced to prove to the American people that she is worthy of the position, not prove that she can order a burrito at Chipotle.

The image featured in this article was taken by Marc Nozell and can be found here

Haley Schwab


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