"Let me tell you about the very rich," F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote in his 1926 short story, "The Rich Boy." "They are different from you and me."

Almost 100 years later, the great American writer's classist declaration still resonates — and it has never been more relevant to a presidential campaign.

For starters, there have never before been three billionaires running for the top office: President Trump, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg, though Ross Perot was worth about $3 billion when he ran in 1992.

And wealth is at the center of several Democratic candidates’ platforms. Apparent front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has galvanized his base with the promise to tax individuals and corporations at unprecedented rates. 

“I don’t think billionaires should exist,” Sanders has said. “Let me be very clear: As president of the United States, I will reduce the outrageous and grotesque and immoral level of income and wealth inequality. What we are trying to do is demand and implement a policy which significantly reduces income and wealth inequality in America by telling the wealthiest families in this country they cannot have so much wealth.”

Other contenders, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass., have fashioned an Ultra-Millionaire Tax.

During Nevada's Democratic primary debate on Thursday, Warren and Sen. Amy Klobochur (D-Minn.) derided Bloomberg, the former New York mayor and a late entrant in the race.

"Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another," Warren said. 

Klobuchar added, "I don't think when people look at Trump they automatically say, 'Hmm, can we get someone richer?'"

The jibes beg a larger question: How large a factor is wealth in the hearts and minds of voters?

The answer, apparently, is quite a bit.

A 2012 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that, like Fitzgerald, Americans believe there are major differences between the top of the 1 percent and the wealth-challenged majority.

Among more than 2,500 adults surveyed nationwide, roughly 43 percent said that rich people are more likely than average Americans to be intelligent. A similar share, 42 percent, said that rich people are more likely than average Americans to be hardworking; only 24 percent said rich people are less likely than average Americans to be hardworking.

As the country selects a Democratic presidential nominee and heads towards one of the most polarizing elections in American history, how will voters’ long standing admiration for the wealthy translate in votes? 

That may be the billion dollar question.

Published on Feb 21, 2020