What is an authentic politician?

Is there any such thing? That’s the focus of the blog I’m posting at Huffington Post. Given the media’s propensity to accept “some people say” support as journalism, it’s difficult, at best, to get at what’s real. The task of political candidates is to somehow get past such loose requirements for sources to get their message out. For Hillary Clinton, the task is huge. The blog explores what authenticity should mean and how candidates, especially Clinton, can begin to break through with an authentic message. The task is tougher for women, though that isn’t intended as an excuse. Warren Buffet thinks Clinton should have been “blunt” earlier about the email fiasco and admires Bernie Sanders for being so.

How does she go from explaining at length issues that most people don’t care to dissect to letting people know who she really is?  And is the real Hillary Clinton necessarily one-dimensional? In other words, is authenticity a trap if what it means is communicating the “real you” as if people are that simple?

Most of us have complex characters. Is authenticity being used by people like Andrea Mitchell as a weapon against Clinton, by defining it in a way that makes it impossible to achieve? Worth exploring.

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4 Responses to What is an authentic politician?

  1. Sandra Haynes says:

    The word ‘authenticity’ is the most overused word in the American lexicon. The word was initially used as a perjorative against the former SOS in the 2008 campaign. Since that time, the media and the former SOS’s detractors have used the word as a club against her. No politician, current or former, has ever displayed their authentic selves, and why should they? Human beings reveal their true selves only to the people closest to them whom they trust. These politicians are campaigning for the serious and complicated job of the Presidency of the United States. It is not important whether they are someone ‘with whom I can have a beer’ since the chances are slim to none. What is important is the following – Are they competent to deal with any eventuality both domestic and international? Can they explain their positions to the general public so that people walk away with some understanding of the complexity of the problems and what is required to solve them and finally, do they have some humanity to tackle all of these issues? Donald Trump, according to the media, is ‘authentic’. Even if that assessment were true, is he the person we want running the highest office in the land? Bernie Saunders is ‘authentic’, they say. Are his ideas realistic in a country of divided government? Sounds good, of course. But at a time when no issue is black or white, are any of these people making impractical promises authentic? I think not!

    • admin says:

      Sandra: Certainly what a candidate has done as a person and for her country should be more important than whether she is an extraordinary communicator. You’re right to remind us of what really matters. I think, however, that she needs to prioritize and do so soon. With prioritizing also comes emphasizing. Intellectually she can handle a lot of subjects at once, but in an era of sound bites it’s difficult to persuade unless you let people know what matters to you most. “This is key,” “If you don’t remember anything else I say here today, remember this,” “Crucial to solving this is” are phrases that can help her direct attention to what matters most to her. I often start my classes telling students that no idea, no matter how amazing, stands entirely on its own. People need to be persuaded. I wonder sometimes if her advisors are so enamored with Clinton, so convinced that the people who already know her are enough to win, that they do her a disservice by not reminding her of this. She is a persuasive person. It’s time to use that skill effectively. Kathleen

      • Sandra Haynes says:

        Hi Kathleen:
        You are right, of course. I, like you, believe that her aides do her no favors. Someone should have said it was probably not a good idea to use a personal server, not because she had anything to hide but because of the maelstorm that would be generated once it came to light. That is what she pays them for – unfortunately they seem not up to the task of serving her. Someone should have also told her to go out and discuss it openly in the beginning – not that it would have changed the media’s incessant need to focus on her shortcomings, but at least she would have done what was required. Consequently, the email issue has drowned out every other important facet of this campaign. Hardly surprising her numbers are dropping. What we also need to come to terms with is that she is clearly not Bill Clinton (not a great campaigner) and it may be that like most of us women, she has to work extremely hard to be friendly and appear open. However, as one commenter stated, it makes her look wooden but certainly should not be used to claim she is untrustworthy or inauthentic. Look at the male candidates on the GOP side – Carson – brillant neurosurgeon but a dud as a public speaker, yet he is not thought of as inauthentic or untrustworthy. Jeb Bush? The facts speak for themselves. Finally, who is more distant or aloof than President Obama? Yet he is seen as the coolest guy in the room. So, clearly there is a huge double standard.

  2. Susan Pearce says:

    I enjoyed the article but was confused by the use of the word ” consistent” as a synonym for”authentic”. A person need not be either consistent or perfect — or even honest, to be authentic. Bill Clinton was none of these, but he was, arguably, authentic. Alas, Donald Trump is authentic.
    Authentic means “real,” not consistent, or flexible, or inflexible. An authentic person can be any of those.
    Authenticity means saying, “Here I am, warts and all.” People instinctively know it when they see it. That’s why Hillary has a problem. Perhaps her friends know, Hillary doesn’t let EVERONE know who she (authentically)
    is “on the inside.” That doesn’t mean she is necessarily hiding anything, but it makes her seem less trustworthy, more wooden.

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