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 authenticity always pops up during election cycles, in the age of social media, when voters want to get to know politicians on a more personal level, being authentic has gotten more intense.

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

Former President George W. Bush was able to create a relatable image as a regular Texas cowboy, despite the fact that he is the son of a president, grandson of a Senator and went to both Yale and Harvard universities. The term authentic is defined as being true to one’s own character, spirit or personality – and in politics people usually consider charismatic white men to be the most authentic, just look at the different attention Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump received during the 2016 election

“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 we watch 2020 candidates define their campaign messaging, you can count on seeing the usual photo-ops at New Hampshire diners, playing sports in a tie, awkward social media posts from home and their redefining of their authentic selves.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

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