Quaker Universalist Voice

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Poor Candidates

A Review of Nicholas Carnes, The Cash Ceiling: Why Only the Rich Run for Office-And What We Can Do About It (2018)

In Nicholas Carnes, The Cash Ceiling: Why Only the Rich Run for Office-And What We Can Do About It  (2018), the author wants the reader to understand the argument based on his extensive analysis of data regarding working-class candidates for political leadership in the U.S.

Wealth is a problem for all political parties, all geographical areas, all countries, and all cultures.  This is a universal human problem for representation in governance..  However, this book only addresses U.S. election candidates. Poor and working-class people seldom serve in elected positions.

The take-away for this book’s argument is that the only significant reason that working-class people do not win political office is that they do not run for public office.  The main reason that they do not run for public office is that they do not have the financial resources for a campaign. What is needed is recruitment of working-class candidates and provision of adequate funding for their campaigns.

There is no consideration of religion addressed in this book.  There is no reference to a Quaker role or to the potential role of religious groups in recruitment of candidates for political leadership.  There is no mention of class subcultures clashing as a factor in making working class candidates.

In the author’s determined effort to make the reader understand the argument in the book, he provides a helpful, bulleted summary of each chapter.  The author provides an index and an exhaustive bibliography and few, but very interesting, endnotes.  The appendix documenting the auxiliary analysis, particularly of surveys of political leaders, is extensive and technical.

The author complains that the previous, conventional and well-intentioned reforms to encourage working-class candidates have not worked, but three reforms are advocated: recruitment, scholarships, and seed funding programs. If a working-class candidate is not asked and supported financially and with time, there is little hope for a working-class candidate.  The author leaves the reader without much in the way of practical tools for implementing  the solution other than advocating for recruitment and funding.  

It is true that working-class candidates run for public office.  The false reasons against working-class candidates as identified by the author include:

  • Working-class candidates are less popular with voters (which is false).
  • Working-class candidates are less successful when they run (which is false).
  • Working-class candidates are less qualified for public office (which is false).

Quakers: Quakers do not run much for public office. Quakers prefer to criticize the work of those in political office. Support for working-class political candidates has not been a high or visible priority for Quaker involvement in political campaigns.


  • What role can Quakers play in supporting working-class candidates?
  • Do Quakers want to support working-class candidates?
  • Do current Quaker institutions have current programs to support working-class candidates?
  • How could Quakers create new institutions to identify and support working-class candidates?


Nicholas Carnes, The Cash Ceiling: Why Only the Rich Run for Office-And What We Can Do About It (2018)

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