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Can Anybody Be President?

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The conventional wisdom of this year's politics has been that the wealthy, rather en masse, were going to buy their place in Congress and in state houses around the country. This is the Michael Bloomberg effect.

But the poor and shiftless are doing very well, too. Christine O'Donnell, the surprise winner of the Republican Senate primary in Delaware, earned $5,800 this year and defaulted on her mortgage, the New York Times reports.

Curiously, one positive argument about wealthy candidates -- again, it's the Michael Bloomberg argument -- has been that they tend to have more real-world gravitas, probity, and demonstrated competence than ordinary politicians. They've proven themselves: they made money. They are managers, a high accolade. But now there is Carl Paladino in New York, a real estate mogul, who nobody would accuse of having gravitas, probity, or special competence. He is, rather, that new political species -- according to Jay Jacobs, the New York State Democratic Party chairman -- "a wacko."

So let's revise the conventional wisdom: It may just be a good time for all counter-intuitive candidates. This is, obviously, because politicians have a bad name. There must be something wrong, at best a lack of imagination, with anybody who even wants to be a politician (why would you choose to be ineffectual and hated?). Hence, our willingness to elect the unelectable. We want anti-politicians.

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