Why Are Politicians Pretending to Be Homeless?

In the mythology of ancient Greece, Odysseus, King of Ithaca, disguises himself as a beggar to gain an advantage over his enemies. In Shakespeare’s King Lear, a nobleman masquerading as a vagabond helps shift the monarch’s sympathies.

The past year marked a new trend in the electoral cycle: politicians “going native,” spending the night in homeless shelters or sleeping on the streets of Skid Row. Toss in digital technology and social media to document and promote these undercover exploits, and the experiences go viral. In this new age of digital selfies and homegrown YouTube videos, it’s no surprise that some politicians made their own “reality-videos” during the campaign season.

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy shadowed a homeless man around the streets of New Haven, from a methadone clinic to soup kitchens. In Milwaukee, County Supervisor Michael Mayo spent the night in a cardboard box at a local downtown park. U.S.

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