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The Importance of Sass in the New Politique

Nick Englehart

Posted on October 17, 2019 02:31

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What's the roll of a candidate when every moment could be 'Their Moment'?

Elizabeth Warren's town hall moment where she answered the question of same-sex marriage with a giggle-inducing, “Well, I’m going to assume it’s a guy who said that. And I’m going to say then just marry one woman. I’m cool with that… Assuming he can find one.” The importance of break out moments in political campaigns becomes clearer than ever. With the advent of short-form quick-share media, a politician who's capable of capturing the crowd with a witty quip and a gaggle of giggles wins in a stagnant policy fight.

The importance of the media in politics announced its monstrous presence in the 1960 U.S presidential election between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. That’s right they ran against each other. As the famous story goes, Nixon had a cold and Kennedy was extremely handsome. Voters who watched the debate on television felt that Kennedy won the debate, while voters listening to the radio thought Nixon won hands down. That first televised presidential debate had a great impact on the election. Nixon, as we know, would go on to lose.

Understanding the power of a media moment then-Senator Nixon took advantage during the infamous Checkers speech. Accused of improprieties relating to backhanded deals and reimbursements for political expenses, Nixon went on TV, accused his opponents of doing the same, and said he would return all the gifts except for one, Checkers the dog. With a gift of pathos Nixon would survive the inquiry and go on to become a one and a half-term president.

Watching the fourth Democratic debate, it's clear the candidates are aware of this dual potential: attacking fellow candidates hoping to catch them in a gaffe and finding a breakout moment within the individual's platform. When done wrong they come across to the public like an adult telling kids, "not to be wack," or you know, whatever Amy Klobuchar had to say. It’s only when moments are earnest that they garner the desired attention.

Candidates see social media and the twenty-four-hour news cycle implode when their peers perform “absolute slams.” Their campaign staff thinks that's what a candidate breakout moment should look like. Instead, these instances are just extensions of already present authenticity. Voters might not be great at dissecting the discrepancies between each version of the Green New Deal but they can tell when you’re trying to trick them.

While going on TV and mentioning a cute dog might have worked sixty years ago, it expresses as a “cringe moment” in the year 2019. Candidates must walk a fine line between authenticity, relatability, and genuine political know-how. It’s a difficult line to walk. The mob can turn on you with one false sentence. Even those who always present authentically can find themselves at the point of a sharp stick held by the twitter mob. If you want to be a politician today you better be a mix of celebrity, policy wonk, PR specialist, tweeting teenager, and youtube star.

Nick Englehart

Posted on October 17, 2019 02:31

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Source: WIRED

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