The Lunchbox Politician

As I have been watching the two main political parties duke it out, one thing I have become very perceptive of is image. How each one portrays themselves to voters has become a fascinating examination of how, indeed, Republicans and Democrats have changed over the years.

Because of that change, it seems more and more that the average voter, in relation to the candidate, have almost nothing in common with each other.

That was not always the case.

Take the philosophy of a Democrat back in the 1930’s to, say the 1960’s. That was a person that advocated for the “little guy’ the hourly union worker on the line at some factory. Democrats were worried about the basics of that person – a good wage, healthy working conditions, a chance to move up from their lot in life to something higher.

And for many years, they were able to count on a dependable pool of voters to give them the leg up in contested races. In fact, I remember my father telling me when I was very young that the Democrats were the people who would look out for you. (he said this but thought Nixon was the best president that the nation ever had, but we’ll leave that for another time).

Later on in my examination of all things political, I came upon an image of what that exactly meant. It was a iconic image that most people doesn’t even know exists, but back in the day, it defined a whole generation of politicians, and their philosophy.

A lowly, dome shaped, black, steel lunch box.

It’s the kind of container you would see workers who used their hands for labor, carry their lunches in. It typically had a thermos full of coffee, a sandwich and some other items to feed that worker, that day. You knew with someone carrying that box that they worked as a laborer, a lot of times construction or manufacturing.

Harry S Truman’s lunchbox
Harry S Truman National Historic Site, National Park Service

It was a symbol of a worker, with all that is attached to it – a person who didn’t deal with the hoity toity issues of federal budgets or national policy. Rather, they worried about working and getting wages to feed their family. It imagined good days ahead, but also grounded a person to the needs of today.

Republicans, on the other hand, were seen in some respects as the “two Martini lunch” people, who didn’t carry lunchboxes around but ate at fancy pants restaurants in their suits for lunch.

That was then, but this is now.

And now, it seems, that both parties and their candidates have given up looking like the regular guy for the voters. Oh sure, they say they are, but you don’t see them actually walking the walk and talking the talk. Many would say that President Trump is that “regular man”. But I would beg to differ, or at least couch my answer by saying that his example pails in comparison to those in the past that were like that.

An example is that of Harry S Truman, the 33rd president of the United States. He showed his down-home roots even as he was running the country at a time of great challenges.

At the recreation of the Truman Oval Office at the Truman Library in 1959, the former President Truman poses by his old desk which has the famous “The Buck Stops Here” sign.
PC: Truman Library via Wikipedia – public domain

He did this with placards on his desk that read “the buck stops here” or “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”. Find me a politician anywhere which is willing to tell voters and their opponents those bits of philosophy in today’s soundbite world where the more outrageous, the better coverage it gets.

I would say that in many ways, the voter deserves a message like this. I would further say that they yearn for it. To be the normal man seeking higher office, I feel is a more winning tactic for any potential candidate.

Let’s see if any of them read this piece and, all of the sudden, you see them at a rally with a dome shaped lunchbox.

Now wouldn’t that be something.