The Common Man

Sometimes, people say that Bernard Sanders “understands the common man,” or, “he is one of us,” or, “he’ll fight for the ordinary citizen.” And, of course, this is meant to contrast to Clinton, who, presumably, won’t.

I wonder what that means, “understands the common man.” Who is this “common man”? Am I a “common man”? This is one of those platitudes than spreads out like a blob of butter on hot toast, and the longer you look at it, the less there seems to be to look at. It just melts away.

So, let’s start with the 1%. Is the “common man” the other 99%? Well, that seems a bit overstretched; I mean, you might not be in the 1%, but still, if you’re in the next 1%, wouldn’t you be fairly wealthy — not “common” at all? Relying on memory, I recall that the income trend line is pretty steep at the high end, and if you make over $200,000 annual income, you’re in the top 5%.

So, should we say “common man” means everyone in the bottom 95%? Hmm, well, I don’t know about you, but it still seems like a family with an annual income of $175,000 is … well, not “common.” Now, that family might be struggling — huge medical bills, or a family member with addiction, or perhaps, they just overspent their income. But, still — is that what is meant by the “common man”?

So, maybe looking at income is grabbing the wrong end of the stick. Is the “common man” the guy who rides dirt bikes in the woods, goes to tractor pulls, remodels his house on his own, hunts deer in the Fall? Or, does he work out at the gym, run marathons, and work remotely via the internet and VPN? Or, maybe, all of the above!

Just who is this “common man”?

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