It happens every election cycle. Politicians are intellectually dishonest when identifying themselves on voter ballots. The sleaziest trick is when incumbents call themselves "small-business owners."
OK, so what happens when a Latino astronaut from humble beginnings wants to call himself an astronaut on the ballot?
He gets sued.
"Astronaut is not a title you carry for life," said Brian Hildreth, a partner with the Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk law firm who has gone to court to prevent Jose Hernandez from identifying himself as an astronaut at the polling place.
But Hernandez was a real astronaut. He flew on the space shuttle Discovery in 2009, from which he tweeted in English and Spanish.
He worked for NASA in legislative affairs after that. Then he left NASA in January 2011 and declared his candidacy that October. "Only in politics do people go after others for telling the truth," he told me by phone on Tuesday.
But the California Election Code states that candidates can only be identified by vocations or professions practiced within a year of declaring for office.
"Over the last two years, Jose Hernandez has spent more time in a business suit than a space suit," said Hildreth, who filed suit on behalf of a voter who objected to the astronaut title.
This is no little fight. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee lifted Hernandez's campaign to the highest priority in its bid to reclaim the House. California's redrawn 10th Congressional District, which runs from Tracy to Modesto, has leaned Republican.
But Hernandez's story is powerful.
Born into near poverty in French Camp, Hernandez not only defied the odds by graduating from high school, he soared in pursuing the American ideal of limitless dreams.
Along with flying in space, he worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he and colleagues developed tools to increase early detection of breast cancer. "My story helps people believe in the American dream," said Hernandez, who wants to be listed on the ballot as "astronaut/scientist/engineer."
Matt Rexroad, a local political consultant, said one of his candidates was blocked from calling himself an astronaut in 1996 because an opponent objected. The late state Assemblyman Pete Knight, who had been an astronaut, won his race.
Rules are rules.
But there would be a cost to stripping Hernandez of his astronaut title.
It would diminish his stature as a role model, particularly for Latinos California's largest ethnic group and one with high dropout and poverty rates.
Hernandez has a tough foe in Republican Jeff Denham. If he loses Thursday in Sacramento Superior Court, it would be politics trumping a rare version of the American dream.
I guess it's the American way.