John James, an “unapologetic Christian” businessman, Army veteran and second-time Republican candidate for Senate in Michigan, waded into the debate about social mobility when he declared that the United States is the “only country where you can go from slave to senator in four generations and poverty to prosperity in one,” in his latest campaign ad highlighting his family's history.
“I’m proud to teach my sons that this is the only country where you can go from slave to senator in four generations and poverty to prosperity in one,” James, 39, says in the ad posted on YouTube on Sunday.
The ad features James, a married father of three young sons, and his father, John A. James, talking about their family’s history in overcoming the Jim Crow South to become successful entrepreneurs in Detroit.
In 1971, John A. James, co-founded a trucking company moving cars and parts for automakers. After the Great Recession, the southwest Detroit-based company shifted to the export business, tracking parts for OEMs and assembling wheels for Toyota cars, Crain’s Detroit Business reported. They later got involved in real estate and evolved into the James Group International, where the senate hopeful is president.
“My dad, the storyteller — he told me how the son of a slave became the son of a sharecropper, the son of a sharecropper became a mason, and the son of a mason became an entrepreneur,” James says, sitting alongside his father in the ad.
“I am the result of the American dream because of others’ sacrifices. The next chapter will take all of us working together to build a better future for our kids,” said James, who is seeking to become Michigan’s first black U.S. senator, in a statement published along with the ad on social media.
The ad has attracted the support of high-profile Republicans such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz who shared the message with his nearly 4 million followers on Twitter with a simple “Amen.”
Several other commenters responding to James’ ad also shared stories about finding success in the U.S.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, however, "income and wealth inequality in the United States is substantially higher than in almost any other developed nation."
"Americans have long prided themselves on the ability to move up the income ladder, but there are signs that U.S. economic mobility is disappearing," the CFR adds. "The fraction of Americans who earn more than their parents has shrunk from more than 90 percent of those born in the 1940s to 50 percent of those born in the 1980s."
It continued: "Harvard University economist Raj Chetty, who has studied social mobility extensively, found that mobility in the U.S. varies widely across the country. Some wealthy cities have high mobility, on par with countries such as Denmark and Canada, while children in some lower-income areas have less than a 5 percent chance of reaching the top fifth of the income distribution when starting from the bottom fifth."
"Overall economic mobility is lower in the U.S. than in many other developed countries, which some experts argue hampers U.S. economic growth. A 2016 Stanford University study measured the relationship between parents’ and children’s earnings in 24 middle- and high-income countries. The U.S. ranked 16th, ahead of Italy and the United Kingdom but far behind Canada and Denmark," CFR said.
James is set to face incumbent Democrat, Sen. Gary Peters who he recently outraised in fundraising, according to second quarter filings. James raised more than $6.4 million in the second quarter, out-raising Peters by more than $1 million.
“Michigan cannot wait any longer for battle-tested leadership and that is exactly what this grassroots momentum shows,” Abby Walls, a spokesperson for James’ campaign, said in a recent statement. “Michiganders have been fed talk for too long by failed incumbent Gary Peters who, most recently, voted against his own police reform bill on the floor of the U.S. Senate to tow the partisan line. It’s disappointing, but unsurprising, behavior for a career partisan politician who votes with Chuck Schumer 95% of the time.”
James served as captain of two Apache helicopter platoons during Operation Iraqi Freedom before joining his family’s business.