It was brought to my attention recently by an article in The Quad “What Was Wrong with 2016” that one of the reasons Trump was so successful in his campaign, despite his audacity and coarseness, is that he was, and continues to be, authentic; authentically crude, maybe, but authentic nonetheless.
People react to what is real; feed them garbage from the DNC or RNC alike and people aren’t going to be able to stomach it. Perhaps this is why Bernie Sanders resonated with so many people across the U.S. as well, he’s real; he’s been fighting for what he believes in since he was in college, and it shows. He doesn’t work for any establishment; after all, we hate the establishment. Right?
In reality, though people hate to compare the two, Trump supporters love him for the same reason Sanders supporters love Bernie: He speaks his mind; no canned tuna here. Maybe Trump’s narrative has changed throughout his life, but he seems pretty darn set on the stories he’s spinning right now.
This leads me to my next point: Nobody wants anybody who is wishy-washy.
While many, myself included, crossed their fingers nice and tight for a Clinton win, it didn’t happen. Really, though, as stated in the article mentioned above, it’s no surprise: she’s wishy-washy. She’s flip-flopped on issues as many times as she’s needed in order to gain popularity and votes. What Clinton doesn’t realize is that popularity isn’t a number, it’s a feeling. Do we trust her in our gut? No.
Would the election have turned out differently had Sanders come out on top in the primaries? Perhaps. People feel strongly about Sanders; one way or the other, but one way nonetheless. It’s the same reason Trump came out victorious: he stirs people into emotion; Clinton was a, “Meh,” while Trump was an, “Oh God.”
This, too, may be why people are starting to cling to the alt-left and alt-right, they promise some sort of disturbance to the status quo. They offer something people can either get behind 100 percent or vehemently oppose. Either way, the good old alts offer authenticity; they are unapologetic, as we’ve certainly seen, to the point of harm in some instances.
In any case, this all bears a question: What does it mean to be authentic?
It would make sense that to be authentic is to hold to your values whether those have changed in the last year or been etched in stone for the past 20. It would make sense to say that being authentic is standing tall and yelling what you believe from the mountaintops; this is certainly what Trump does, regardless of whether what he’s saying is founded in fact.
This might just be why people are willing to overlook Trump’s blaring missteps. Though he makes a fool of himself quite often, he does so with a confidence, almost an arrogance, that people can’t help but go along with.
Let us broach one more topic, though, with Trump and authenticity: He is a big fan of alternative facts and fake news. If he believes them undoubtedly, however ungrounded in fact, is he still being authentic? What does authenticity ask of us?
Well, it asks of one thing, for sure: self-disclosure. Trump comes right out and says who and what he is—a staunch Republican with a pension for believing anything that coincides with his preconceived beliefs. What else can we expect from him? He’s unpredictably predictable.
Trump is real. Sanders is real. Clinton is cardboard—and this from somebody who supported her, after Sanders was out of the race. A bit hilariously, a CNN reporter is on record stating, “Hillary Clinton is at pains to convince Americans that she is a real person.” While funny in theory, it’s true; why do none of us view Clinton as a real person? Well, I’ll tell you why:
Authenticity; she lacks it completely. I’m not saying this is by any fault of her own, either; she did what she had to do to be taken seriously as a candidate in the 2016 race, but that’s a whole other story.
Authenticity is what people are clinging to with fingers so tight they’re turning white because what else have they to hold onto, a failing system? That’s not cutting it anymore; we want change, in any form it will present itself, whether that be in a blundering toupee-clad man or a loud, balding grandfatherly presence; just not the smiling, pandering wavering woman, because what is there to smile about?
I’d like to note that what’s important in matters of authenticity is open dialogue; it is the only means to distinguish what is real from what is madeup. Open dialogue is vital to the continuance of our society in the proper direction.
Talk. State your opinions out loud. Be real. Be true. Be authentically you and see where it takes you; perhaps to the presidency?
Lauren Detweiler is a fourth-year student majoring in English writings with minors in communication studies and web technologies/applications. She can be reached at LD838069@wcupa.edu.