Since this is a blog about authenticity, a virtue that my book”see my book” advocates, let’s apply our theses to the upcoming elections. As we have noted earlier, authenticity is one of the most absent personal virtues of a politician. Almost by definition, a politician is one who caters to what he or she thinks their constituency wants to hear. Thus they forsake authenticity for expediency. By this definition, Hillary Clinton is the least authentic candidate within either party.
At the other end, of all the candidates, of either party, the one who gathers voters and supporters for his non-political, “tell it like it is” spontaneity is Donald Trump. This definition should make him necessarily “authentic”. He is perceived as “what you see is what you get”. He seems without subterfuge or deceit. Those virtues are the very definition of authenticity. But is this the full and sufficient test? Let’s explore.
There is no doubt that on first blush, D. J. Trump is authentic in that he commonly speaks first and thinks later. And that first thought is often brash, unfettered, and unadjusted for unintended consequences. It comes from the gut or heart whichever you prefer. That kind of unfiltered spontaneous speech is commonly seen as authentic and real. And there is no necessary reason to doubt that. Sincerity is a kind of honesty.
But let’s go a step deeper. I believe there are people in this world, that I have met, and so have you, that simply have a sincere “gift of gab”, a genuine garrulous persona that draws us toward them, but with sometimes no clear adherence to truth or precision. They don’t knowingly lie or deceive; they seem to have too good a nature to do that, but they can’t always be trusted to be telling the truth. They seem to wish no harm. They just engage you, and everybody feels good. These types are often good at sales. They are natural salespeople. They believe everything they say about their product. They are sincere. But that belief and sincerity may not be accurate. They do not examine their product into its finest parts. Their “spiel” may contain actual falsehoods. But by that unintended falsehood they meant no harm. That is their saving grace. They have a good heart. They believe what they say is true, because their belief comes from the heart.
I believe this profile captures the gist of Trump. He is authentic to himself. He believes what he says, but he has not examined it in depth, and there may be undetected falsehoods in those depths. That is where this kind of authentic self may be a bit oblique to the truth of things. In its most basic sense, authenticity is truthful. There can be no deception either intended or inadvertent to true authenticity. To this extent, then, I think Trump is authentic on the first more superficial level, but less than authentic on the more demanding level or definition.
Even though such a person may be selling you snake oil, there is a certain innocence to it. There is an automatic forgiveness in us because we sense this inadvertent confusion. We humor them. We take the good, and sort out the superfluous and mistaken. There are no lies, just mistakes.
Anyone with a practiced manner, no matter how sincere and truthful, risks the image of playing to the listener. Kasich is a good example. He may be the other most authentic. But his practiced speeches and their content, make him suspect. He never gets traction.
Trump is capitalizing on his propensity to make social and conversational spontaneous gaffes. He does not seek to hide his foibles. In this day and current mood, that is the obverse of political correctness, the curse of America’s forgotten. He gains traction for the very lack of cant and rhetoric. He is the right person at the right time. A personality type whose time has come.
I think Trump passes the first filters of authenticity. He may not be my or many people’s first choice. But he is the first choice of many others, and if that gets him elected, his naïve authenticity could be effective in shattering the foundations of a sclerotic Washington, D.C. He is not afraid of change. He is not afraid to trust his gut. He is not afraid of his own authenticity. If elected he needs to be surrounded with other talents that will fill and support his limitations. I think his instincts are keen, authentic and well-intended, and with a well chosen cabinet, VP and other key appointments, we could have a refreshing and effective re-creation of our political structure, lead by his fearlessness and adjudicated by talented others….. with immediate and overdue results.