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Will Harvard grads win in the year of anti-elitism?

By Edward Schumacher-Matos

Sure, everyone is focused on Republicans versus Democrats tomorrow, but here is a more interesting race that may touch closer to the hearts of PostPartisan readers (given that most of you probably went to college): In 10 states in the country, 11 Harvard alumni and one former professor are running for governor, according to The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper. That's a fifth of the statehouses in the country, and doesn't even count Kenneth Mapp, a Harvard Kennedy School and Business School graduate who is running as an independent for governor of the Virgin Islands.

We all know that that the big guy -- the president -- went to Harvard Law, but these runs for governorships means that Harvard is burrowing itself into the fabric of the heartland. This flies in the face of all the talk that this is the year of the anti-elite as represented by the Tea Party explosion. Well, it does so if the Harvard types win. But it seems to me that the Harvard invasion of the outback raises a more fundamental national question: Where are the grads from all the other schools?

Admittedly, neither I nor the Crimson have done a comparative study. I also have a slight conflict of interest, as I have been at Harvard for the last three years as a teacher, researcher and head of a migration studies project. But c'mon: what school can match Harvard's political record? (That means you, Old Eli, SIPA, Wilson, Johnson, Sanford, Goldman and other policy schools around the country.)

According to the Crimson, only three of the 12 candidates are running as Republicans: Meg Whitman in California, Charles Baker in Massachusetts and Thomas Foley in Connecticut. Jill Stein in Massachusetts represents the Green-Rainbow Party. The other 8 are Democrats. Curiously, only two are graduates of Kennedy, Harvard's public policy school, where it sometimes seems half the student body is plotting their future campaigns and taking leadership courses from the likes of Keith Allred, who is practicing what he taught and running for governor of Idaho. Four are graduates of Harvard Business School. Go figure.

Most of our hearts are closest to our undergraduate schools (mine is really with Vanderbilt and Tufts's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy). But a remarkable eight of the gubernatorial candidates were Harvard undergrads, which may be enough to make many of us don a Tea Party wig.

Perhaps that is why many of the candidates don't play up their Harvard connection. "I don't wear it on my sleeve," Scott Heidepriem who is running for governor of South Dakota, told the Crimson. Terry Goddard in in Arizona said "it would be a bigger local political advantage to go to one of the local universities." He returned to Arizona State for law school.

So maybe this is the year of the anti-elite, after all.

By Edward Schumacher-Matos  | November 1, 2010; 1:52 PM ET
Categories:  Schumacher-Matos  | Tags:  Edward Schumacher-Matos  
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