At first, John Edwards’s announcement of his presidential campaign from New Orleans’ devastated Ninth Ward seems to be one more political trope with little in the way of substance. But further reflection shows the richness of the symbolism of this setting, in ways that Edwards himself may not have intended. The sparse population in this area of New Orleans symbolizes the lack of serious attention paid by American political candidates to the issues of poverty, racial and socio-economic exclusion, and the growing American underclass. It is as if Edwards, as he highlights these issues, is speaking to himself, to the kids behind him cleaning up a flooded house, and to the relatively small (and shrinking) segment of the electorate to whom such issues matter. Though Edwards intended to highlight the Bush administration’s failures in New Orleans and elsewhere, and to suggest his own ability to rectify them, the setting reflects a much more tragic aspect of American politics—that the vast majority of Americans have, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, continued to believe in the myths of infinite possibility, self-made fortunes, and the primacy of effort over inherited wealth and power. I suspect that the few people actually living in the Ninth Ward today would echo Edwards’s skepticism about these myths, but without much faith that government, whether led by Edwards, Bush, or LBJ, can do much to turn them into reality.