Marginal Footnotes

‘Authenticity’ and the New Candidate
May 2, 2006, 3:38 pm
Filed under: Media, Politics, Uncategorized

Mickey Kaus posts about Joe Klein’s new theory that the Internet/blogger age will redefine politics by, essentially, making political interaction with the public more spontaneous.  Because, according to the theory, television enabled candidates to poll test answers to tough questions and engineer soundbites for the Evening News, a sense of ‘authenticity’ has vacated the television-era candidate (and this might have been much of Al Gore’s (not to mention John Kerry’s) undoing.  The Internet, supposedly, requires a more rapid response to the crushing expectations of the politically plugged-in and therefore excludes the possibility of heavily consulting the consultants, who are, it appears, everyone’s favourite scapegoat (poor Bob Shrum!)

Here’s the problem:

–24/7 Cable news has already done this, to some extent;

–Responses to the most pertinent issues of any particular campaign can still be poll tested and vetted before the questions are asked.  It is not as though the major issues which will be under discussion during an election are unpredictable.  Consultants and candidates will still identify the issues, draft a response, test the response, rewrite the response, and the stick to the message.  I fail to see how interaction with bloggers will change this;

–‘Authenticity’ is a shibboleth that is always appealing to the masses but has only rarely existed, and this seems unlikely to change.  McCain, who Kaus thinks would be a perfect test for Klein’s theory, is no more ‘authentic’ than any other pol. His Straight Talk Express was just as gimmicky and just as much of a fraud as any fraudulent gimmick.  His recent pandering to everyone and everybody on The Right exposes this fairly well.  For another fine example of ‘authenticity’ in politics, look no further than George Allen or George W. Bush.

–And, finally, you cannot ‘fix our politics’ by undermining the thing which makes it function.


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[…] This of course is of a piece with the increasingly loud Internet-based push to devalorize political consultants within Democratic Party politics (led largely by Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos).  No one seems to be asking why political consultants work for Republicans and not Democrats.  The point is not that consultants are intrinsically bad, that all political consultants should be shitcanned, but that an entirely new breed of political consultants find and exteriorize the person behind the politician.  Poll testing of message will be supplanted by a display of emotion, passion, honesty.  In a word, this is 'authenticity'.  What Moulitsas and others are really about is creating a new political consulting niche for themselves.  In the end it would be less a deprogramming of candidates than a reprogramming, with nothing much changing but the programmers and the program.  The program itself is fairly simple, one which was embodied by Howard Dean: […]

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