The rise of the unlikely candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders has seemingly come as a surprise to a lot of folks, but it shouldn’t. Every election has a personality…a veritable stream of shared consciousness…and this one is no different.
In modern times we have many, including “Hope” in 1992″, “Soccer Moms” in 1996, “Security Moms” in 2004, “Enough is Enough” in 2006, “Change” in 2008, and now, “Authenticity”.
After decades of “made for tv” candidates–which, ironically, Trump actually is–the patience of the electorate is exhausted from the perfect hair, in the perfect outfit, with the perfect backdrop of “real America”, reading perfectly poll-tested lines from a teleprompter.
It is the implied social contract of political campaigning that we all accept and understand: this candidate is intentionally telling us things that he or she knows to be a) false, b) impossible, c) both. We go along with it and clap politely at all of the appropriate times because we think that despite the pageantry and bullshit our candidate is the best.
Let’s just be honest, we’ve all had enough.
We are ready for a candidate who may have slightly mussed hair, may curse at both appropriate (and inappropriate) times, may say something off script…something that may even be [gasp] not politically correct.
They are not worried about how the media pool will report it. You know why? Because they are real people, living in the moment, speaking from the hip and from the heart. They are candidates comfortable in their own skin and telling the electorate, “Here I am! I have dry scalp, orange skin, wild ideas (that you actually kind of agree with in one way or another), and I’m very likely to say something crazy at any point. Vote for me, vote against me, I don’t care.”
And, based on both the results from Iowa and New Hampshire, and the national polls, it’s working.
You know why? Because it implies authenticity. It means they are real. We can identify with someone real. In this day and age of politics the electorate is willing to support someone they do not agree 100% with if they find them to be authentic, honest, and credible.
It is the difference between watching the WWE and the UFC. It is about true belief, not the suspension of disbelief.
The so-called rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump isn’t attributable to some mass psychotic break by the electorate. It is directly attributable to election after election of candidates that held more in common with a display at Madame Tussaud’s than real people.
Authentic candidates will continue to do well, but the biggest threat to the more traditional candidacies of Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton isn’t the two guys currently leading the authenticity primary , it is former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
He is a Democrat-turned-Republican, philanthropist, multi-billionaire who is keen to take on guns (both legal and illegal), crime, public health, and affordable housing. He has unlimited access to money and isn’t moored to the dogma of a party. He’s Ross Perot without the crazy VP pick or the grating voice and staccato delivery.
Based on the chaos created by the authenticity election, Bloomberg is better positioned than any third-party candidate since ol’ TR and the Bull Moose Party. The kicker? He has all of the authenticity with none of the crazy. He is the 800-pound gorilla in the room ready to wreck the Tea Party, both literally and figuratively.