Commentator and columnist H. A. Goodman recently wrote on the Huffington Post: "Americans have never voted for someone they don't like and don't trust, which says something about the Clinton and Trump campaigns. When only one candidate is trusted in a presidential election, and another remembers landing in Bosnia under sniper fire (that never happened), there's only one likely outcome."
"As a general rule, I don't trust many politicians, but I trust Bernie Sanders — the man walks the walk and talks the talk," Shaun King writes in the New York Daily News. "I believe in him, I believe in his team and I believe he can win."
For someone who wrote, back when I first started the experiment of blogging, that I wouldn't do politics, I have been writing a lot on politics lately. But I begin here because an election provides a good, obvious testing ground for what appeals and what doesn't, providing clear metric results rapidly. Politicians must find an image, a simple concept ideally expressed in one word (eg: Hope), that will drive people who don't otherwise pay a lot of attention to the details of government to vote for them.
It can be anything, and you can frequently see campaigns run through efforts to find their theme, and a theme may ring true but not be the one that wins. The successful campaign links that season's Zeitgeist with an image that works.
I think the theme of this season is: Authenticity.
In an age of internet memes (Where's my money from Facebook? What, that's a lie?), "reality" TV, and Photoshopped pictures, it's hard for people to believe anything. For something to be simply true, without hidden agendas or outright deception, seems not just refreshing but unique.
A good example of how it works is the Maroon 5 music video of their song, "Sugar."
It shows the band doing ambush concerts at weddings, surprising happy couples with a special treat. Now, there is some question of just how authentic the video is, but perhaps this makes my point. It has almost a billion views (yes, billion with a B) and has a generally positive response.
When I first saw it, I said it was just the sort of thing the candidates should do right now, while their characters are still being established in the public mind. Once a politician has a fixed storyline (Al Gore is boring, George W Bush is dumb), it's very hard to break them out of their public pigeonhole. No amount of aides saying, "If you only saw him off camera! He's nothing like that!" will fix things.
Maroon 5 comes across as genuine, playful, and appealing, bringing a surprising moment of joy to people who obviously like them. What politician wouldn't do anything for that image? Or, for that matter, what business wouldn't love to have customers feel that way?
And the video brings this across in an almost documentary form, re-enforcing the image by showing it in a form that looks captured on the fly, occasionally peeking behind the curtain (watching them drive to the gigs, setting up the stage, sharing drinks after with the couple) as well as embracing handheld camera work, etc.
In the end, I think people want to know you are what you seem to be, whether you're a politician or a business, and you need to show them that.
Sincerity - If you can fake that, you've got it made.
(At least I think so; I found it on the internet)