With barely 12 full months left in the 2016 presidential race, the field of candidacy has yet to narrow by a considerable number and the American public still has no clue how to sort the rhetoric from the truth. When it comes to being informed Americans are incredibly shortsighted at the opportunity they have to learn all they can about a candidate and his or her platform.
In the past, Deer in Headlines has focused on how most people make political decisions the same way they choose what they want on their pizza – with a gut feeling. Very few actually look at the facts and most just end up pulling the lever next to the name of whomever is the lesser of two pointless offerings. But, even without thorough examination of voting records, personal accomplishments and speaking gaffs, it’s actually much easier to filter out the crap than most people think.
Without getting into the science or psychology of it, people – even presidential candidates – give themselves away all the time, regardless of how practices their message. He or she might say exactly what they’re thinking when the camera’s not on them or make a physical gesture towards an opponent that could easily be misinterpreted. Mostly, however, it’s how they are with the word of the everyday person where they screw up.
Thinking back to the 2012 election, Mitt Romney had a serious problem with the idea that he could ever be understanding of the plight of the poor or underprivileged. He is a lifelong millionaire, highly educated and well bred (at least if you consider upper-class snobbery as good breeding).
He’s never had to worry about how to put gas in the car or where the next buck would come from to pay the electric bill or buy food. People like Romney don’t have to worry about health care, so it’s much easier for them to play fast and loose with everyone else’s money.
Regardless of how successful his public relations, someone like Romney (and now Donald Trump) could never manage to relate to the voters. But it’s not simply because candidates like Romney, Trump and even Hillary Clinton are wealthy that makes them distant to the public, it’s because they just don’t seem to care.
The language they use and the people they choose to have in their circle of public life only manage to further alienate the common voter. And, unfortunately for them, there are far more “normal” people pulling the lever at the polls than people of blue blood and bottomless pockets.
Even President Obama would have this problem now, even though he campaigned on the idea that he had a difficult life but worked his way up. Today he is a millionaire several times over and probably unable even to tell someone the price of a loaf of bread today.
In order to truly relate to the general population, wealthy, over-privileged candidates would have to change who and what they are in a way that’d simply be impossible. Instead, however, they could seem more in touch by talking about the real problems faced by today’s Americans, an area where Bernie Sanders’ popularity resonates more than any other.
But Bernie is wrong too, at least from a communications standpoint. The problem is that he hasn’t really explained, in any factual detail, exactly how to actually fix any of the problems he’s talking about – especially on the ground level, where it matters most.
Trump, for all his blustering, is a savvy businessman, regardless of whatever else his cartoonish persona exudes. But the likes of Trump and Clinton have no concern for the collateral damage they might cause in a day of doing business.
For a president, however, “collateral damage” is usually represented by war, death, recession, unemployment and other disasters. A leader must always consider the consequences.
In order to take the lead over the next year, some candidate will need to show Americans they actually care about something other than their own selfish interests. In a country so divided by social and economic issues, a candidate who is honest and genuine, as unlikely as that might be, could very well take the election.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at www.gerydeer.com.