Being rich is great until….you run for political office. Regardless of whether you are in Argentina, as is the case of my friend Francisco de Narvaez , or anywhere else in the democratic world, being rich is generally seen as an obstacle for political candidates.
Why is being rich a handicap even for people like Francisco de Narvaez, who are not running conservative campaigns aimed at favoring the interest of the top earners?
My take, is that being rich creates a barrier between the voter and the candidate that is hard to overcome. Voters want to identify with candidates, they want one like them, not a candidate with a private jet. Never mind that Francisco, in spite of his jet, is probably better able to attract the investors needed to generate good quality jobs than the current governor.
So how is is it that certain rich candidates overcome this handicap? In the case of George W Bush and John Kerry, the strategy was simple: Dubya portrayed his opponent as even richer and less in touch with the people. And he was successful. In the case of Berlusconi, his strategy –which worked until his promise was not delivered–, was to promise to make Italians richer… with him being the main example. When he failed to deliver, he was ousted.
Now it so happens that I believe that Francisco de Narvaez would actually do a good job improving the living conditions of people in Buenos Aires. From my conversation with him today it seems that he is not a conservative or right wing candidate and he is concerned with the tremendous inequities of Argentina.
My advise to him? Blog. Many journalists will trash you just for being rich. At least you will be able to show your point of view. A third of Argentines are on the internet now and his type of voters are overrepresented in that third.
Having said all this, I do think that there is a risk that Francisco will have a hard time sometimes acting against the interest of his friends in the ruling class for the benefit of all of the people, and that is the danger of voting progressive candidates who are rich. Francisco, who is now a representative, will have to have a good voting record that shows that he can vote for what´s best to most Argentines.
Posted on December 30, 2006