What half the American Presidential candidates know about

And I realise that there are any number of punchlines that you can add to that. I was very struck by a quick search through the origins of the American presidential candidates as published in various public environments, especially as Hillary Clinton has chosen to make a point of Barack Obama's family background in order to criticise his foreign policy experience.

Let's start with the candidates I like. Ron Paul is a survivor of the great depression who got a job as a milkman as soon as he could. My dad, who died when I was young, and I used to go around on a milk cart when I was 12. He had left the steelworks before Margaret Thatcher shut it, and had stopped being an innkeeper, and had got a temporary job delivering milk. He'd wake me up very early in the morning and we would go and misdeliver milk and endure nonsense from the management and irate customers largely because I didn't like running with pints down dark alleys, and frankly I loved it. British milk trucks at that time were small electric vehicles that slowed down on the slightest bump and which had no doors on the cab, so we were open to the elements. I like that fact about Paul. he had very little money, and pitched in, and did the same job in Texas.

Mike Huckabee's dad, as far as I can see, was a truck driver, and his mother had a thankless job as a gas clerk that she almost certainly did very well. Some people work for years for companies that never know them, in all weathers, and because they like people and have a sense of duty. I don't really care what his religion requires him to believe because as far as I can tell he had no TV for most of his childhood and had to learn how people are as a working-class child in a poor state. Sometimes all sorts of beliefs arise to get you through that and the Baptist's way of Jesus Christ is a very honourable one for all its chequered history.

Barack Obama, who was in a sense privileged economically, assimilated all this knowledge of what life is like with only a few tins of what supermarkets call value beans in the cupboard by working with the poor and community groups in Chicago for ten years rather than the high-paying jobs he could have had. That he was associated with a university for that time is not to his discredit, as for some people such comfy billets are not ways to waste a life and maintain a minimum level of stimulation and status but a way to meet interesting students and pay bills. So he knows what life is like too, and being black whatever the likes of Jesse Jackson says will know that double.

John Edwards's working class background is well documented and I won't go into it, and Rudy Giuliani's family were genuine working-class New York Italian. Even Dennis Kucinich's mum and dad were a croatian truck driver and an Irish housewife.

Isn't it interesting though that the media and political class' clear favourites by column inches and coverage were the children of privilege, in one form or other? I don't know any of them, of course--they may be admirable decent people, though in Mitt Romney's case given all his taste for torture I am not so sure--but Romney, McCain and Clinton were the children, respectively, of a political leader of national importance, an admiral, and a businessman. The formation of their characters (and the torture McCain endured in war marks him out) was one of managing staff, obeying orders and relying on trust funds.

They may believe they have genuinely achieved, and they may believe in their more frustrated moments that they genuinely connect with the vast majority of the people they seek to lead. But they don't. The others do, and, in answer to a correspondent a few days ago, the reason I like Paul, Huckabee and Obama has a lot to do with how they haven't forgot the poverty they have seen nor failed to see how human such an existence may be. In Obama's case, at least he had the sense to learn from what he saw. None of them are currently dispensing pabulum about the middle class and nonsense political-media class bureacratic creations to employ their college friends either.

Roll on the primaries.


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