When You Have No Hardship to Boast About, What Can You Do Instead?

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Chris Hayes tweets:

Amazed that the entire RNC theme is a sustain whine from successful people that the Pres hasn’t given them enough credit for their success….And also this bizarre appropriation of the labor of previous generations. My grandfather owned a small business. He worked really hard. And?

I noticed that too. But I sympathize. I’d have the same problem dredging up a personal story of hardship if I were running for office. In fact, looking back on my entire life for instances of hardship, I find….nothing. Great parents. Neither of them died. Ordinary middle-class upbringing. Ordinary public education. No serious illnesses. Graduated from college without ever putting in a lot of effort. Had to spend a few years running a Radio Shack store during the Reagan recession (I graduated in 1981), but after that I steadily climbed the corporate ladder: tech writer, product manager, got married, director of marketing, VP of marketing, general manager, money from an IPO, and finally a job as paid blogger through no effort of mine whatsoever. One day I got an email from Nick Confessore asking if he could call me, and a few weeks later I was working for the Washington Monthly.

How about my father? Nothing there either. His parents were pretty well-to-do. My mother? We’re getting closer: things were a little tight for her growing up during the Great Depression. Nothing serious, though. So now we’re back to grandparents.

And now we’re talking. One grandfather grew up in a small town in Illinois, couldn’t go to college because his family couldn’t afford it, moved out West to make his fortune, watched as his wife became seriously mentally ill, remarried, and then started up an advertising agency that made him a prosperous man. My other grandfather grew up in New Jersey, couldn’t go to college because his family couldn’t afford it, joined the Navy because they’d teach him to be an electrician, asked to be discharged in California, and then worked for Western Union his whole life.

So yeah, if I needed to find some tale of inspiring hardship in my family, I’d have to go back a couple of generations too. Of course, I draw a rather different conclusion from this than folks like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan seem to draw, but I guess that’s politics for you. If you were born on third base, you still have to pretend that you hit a home run when you slide across the plate.

Alternatively, we could all grow up and not insist that our presidents have to come from log cabins and 20-mile treks through the snow each day. But I guess that’s not very likely.


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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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