Should authenticity matter in politics?





As the list of Democrats running in 2020 continues to grow, candidates will be trying all kinds of tricks to stand out. The idea of “authenticity” always pops up during election cycles, and in the age of social media, when voters want to get to know politicians on a more personal level, being seen as authentic has become even more important.

“It’s a little hard to say what an ‘authentic’ politician is,” said Richard Skinner, who has a Ph.D. in American politics and has written about authenticity for the Brookings Institution and Vox. “Most of the time people just use it as a rationalization for liking or disliking a candidate.”

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Former President George W. Bush was able to create a relatable image as a regular Texas cowboy, despite being the son of a president and the grandson of a senator, and having degrees from Yale and Harvard universities. The term authentic is defined as being true to one’s own character, spirit or personality — and in politics, voters have traditionally viewed charismatic white men as the most authentic.

“There’s a long history of female politicians being portrayed as calculated and stiff because the script that we have for politicians is a male script,” Skinner said. “Oftentimes, woman candidates feel that they have to live up to expectations that were framed for men.”

As the 2020 candidates define their campaign messaging, voters can count on seeing the usual photo-ops at New Hampshire diners, the sports activities in ties and a big dose of awkward social media posts from home.

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