March 18, 2016

Obama’s Hot Take: Authenticity Doesn’t Matter

Last week, like every other Liberal Arts major on spring break, President Obama took some time off to attend SXSW in Austin. During his visit, the president took some time for a closed door meeting with top Democratic donors to discuss the 2016 presidential primary. During his remarks, he acknowledged Secretary Clinton has an authenticity problem:

Mr. Obama acknowledged that Mrs. Clinton is perceived to have weaknesses as a candidate, and that some Democrats did not view her as authentic.

But he played down the importance of authenticity, noting that President George W. Bush — whose record he ran aggressively against in 2008 — was once praised for his authenticity.

Hot take! One wonders how many Democrats in the room were won over by the “W did it, too” rationale?

The problem with this “analysis” is that Clinton has spent the past 30 years in the national spotlight. Opinions about Clinton’s trustworthiness are pretty well set at this point. As her campaign has shown, any attempts to come off as authentic (think “humor and heart”) wind up being precisely the opposite (i.e., staged, forced, unnatural).

And who would know better about being an inauthentic candidate than Barack Obama? He ran on hope and change in 2008, and then ran a scorched earth campaign in 2012. Now, closing in on his final months in office, the country is more deeply divided than when he was elected.

Secretary Clinton is accomplishing the unthinkable in American politics – struggling in a competitive a primary against an avowed socialist. The biggest reason for that is because Democratic primary voters do not trust her, and they believe Sanders means what he says. That is a problem that won’t go away in any general election match up.