Walking home from the metro station this evening, I thought of an interesting question. I don’t know the answer to the question, but perhaps someone does. My question is:
In this day and age, is it a practical possibility that a middle class person, making the average income for a family in the U.S. run for and win the presidency?
The best figure I could find for average family income in the United States is about $70,000 per year. I ask this question because to me it seems nearly impossible. Everyone who runs for president either comes from wealth or has substantial self-made wealth. But they also seem very disconnected from reality. They don’t know the cost of a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk. Besides, it seems that you need lots of money even to run a campaign. In much the way that real estate in some parts of the country are out of the reach of people who reside in those areas, I wonder if there is a practical minimum income that would give someone a fair chance at winning the presidency. It would be an interesting study I think, in part because it would narrow the types of professions one could have. Doctors might make enough money (Howard Dean); lawyers make enough (Bill Clinton); businessmen make enough (the Georges’ Bush); actors make enough (Ronald Reagan). But could, say, a stevedore make it? Could teacher? Or an administrative assistant?
Given my knowledge of presidential history, the last president to come from nothing and to run for president while still having very little was Abraham Lincoln. Subsequent to Lincoln, a case may be made for Ulysses S. Grant. But that was then. If they were alive today, I’m not sure they would have made it. I think that the dream that anyone can be president is just that: a dream; and the first hurdle that must be overcome is having the money to do it.
I’m just curious what that income threshold is.