Log Cabins, Silver Spoons

by John Derbyshire

In spite of being NRO’s resident class-sensitivity mimosa, I’m with Christian Schneider on candidates’ class backgrounds. I understand a pol’s urge to come on as prolier-than-thou, but it’s irritating when there are much more important things they should be talking about.

Run your eye down the lists of U.S. presidents or British prime ministers and see if you can spot any clear correlation between political success and humblitude of origins. The most I can come up with is a vague impression that there’s a “sweet spot” somewhere there in the lower-middle classes (Dwight Eisenhower, Margaret Thatcher). There are an awful lot of counterexamples, though: Lincoln (real poor), Churchill (silver spoon). In an echo of the nature-nurture stuff Jonah and I have occasionally kicked around on the Corner, individual personality seems to weigh far more than upbringing.

The furthest I’d go is to admit I loathe silver-spoon lefties more than I loathe lefties from humble origins, though I’m not sure I could offer a rational justificiation. Since I don’t vote for lefties, though, this is not an electoral consideration. That aside, two candidates would have to be wellnigh identical in every other respect before I’d take their origins into account.

There have been societies where “class background” meant everything. You really wouldn’t want to live in one of those societies.

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