The Authenticity Deficit in Modern Politics By Timur Kuran
In many democracies, established parties have been losing ground to populist, anti-establishment movements on the right or the left. Greece, France, and Austria offer a few examples....Syriza in Greece, the National Front in France, and Austria’s Freedom Party, rests partly on their claims to authenticity.... more honest.
If random individuals were asked to describe the typical politician, they would speak of an elected official who is smooth with words, knows how to please disparate audiences... Succesful politicians manage to give people hope through agendas that they know they cannot achieve... They can disarm skeptics by speaking endlessly without answering questions.
Having multiple narratives in favor of a given program serves to make coalition members
Consider a bill to improve the schools in low-income neighborhoods. It will appeal to some people out of a sense of fairness, to others because the labor force will become more productive, or to still others because crime will fall.
Politicians epitomize deceit because they can put their own interests above those of their constituents while appearing to be motivated only by lofty principles and the common good.
Individual voters cannot always separate truth from fiction, or sincere advocacy from contrived pleading... But they understand the role that money plays in campaigning, the pressures that induce politicians to falsify their knowledge
The frustrations rooted in the dishonesty of politics have fueled the popularity of outsiders...In unprecedented numbers voters have embraced candidates who refuse to play by the established rules of American politics. Insisting that they will not be “bought,”Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have eschewed donations from corporate lobbies.
Trump voices anti-immigrant sentiments directly and unapologetically...He uses vulgar language, both to distinguish himself from career politicians and to shock the political establishment.
For his part, Sanders blames “Wall Street” for the stagnation of middle-class incomes, vows to break up big banks, and refuses to take contributions from the financial sector.
triumph of authenticity over politics as usual,
Demonizing immigrants, Muslims, Wall Street, the trade partners of the United States, pharmaceutical companies, or the top one percent serves to oversimplify realities and to make intricate problems involving many complex constituencies appear to have easy and widely acceptable solutions.
Trump conceals that expelling 11 million immigrants would harm a subset of his followers who depend on immigrant labor,
Sanders disguises that making college free for everyone would transfer huge resources to the upper middle class, whose children attend college disproportionately.
They speak as though the United States has the power to reset the rules of international engagement unilaterally,
it appears unlikely that either Sanders or Trump will become President. But if one of them does make it to the White House, many of his campaign promises will come to nought. He will undoubtedly attribute any implementation failures to vested interests.
How could Sanders have escaped the corrosiveness of Washington politics in over a quarter-century of service in Congress? How could his legislative service have been free of the sorts of compromises
Trump is a showman whose trademark has been bluster, exaggeration, and egocentrism. Besides, he has already demonstrated a lack of political principles by making campaign donations to candidates all across the American political spectrum.
politicians operate within a society that discourages truthfulness. They are surrounded by innumerable lobbies, each prepared to pulverize any candidate who strays from its orthodoxy.
Americans have long believed in freedom of organization and freedom of speech. By the same token, wide majorities will make exceptions when faced with a clear and present danger. Thus, during the Cold War most Americans were ready to deny suspected communists the right to teach; and today most favor the surveillance, if not the incarceration or expulsion, of Islamists.
Consider any one of the many controversies that divide Americans: abortion, gay marriage, Israel and the Palestinians, social security, taxation, guns, racial inequality, or immigration, to name a few. On each of these issues, there are activists who consider their opponents illegitimate.
To avoid being harassed, treated as immoral or ignorant, and denied opportunities, people with opinions that fall between clashing extremes falsify their preferences, or else stay silent and hope that no one asks. In essence, they give up personal authenticity for the sake of accommodating social pressures. A consequence is that public discourses cease to reflect what people want and know.
The politicians of a society composed of inauthentic individuals are certain to be as inauthentic. They cannot reach the pinnacles of power by being themselves, by sharing freely their reservations about established orthodoxies,
The authenticity deficit in American politics is very real. But it is not a product of politicians alone. It is a social ill whose perpetrators are also its victims, and vice versa. People astonished at why Sanders and Trump have resonated with huge blocs should look in the mirror