Will the Real Candidate Please Speak?

This post is a slight rework of something I wrote six years ago. Every election cycle ramps up more than the last and even though it’s not a presidential election, emotions are running higher than ever with the House and Senate up for grabs. 

Fiction or Fact?

Matt Damon starred in the 2011 movie, The Adjustment Bureau, where he played the youngest politician to be elected to Congress. In the opening scene he has to address supporters after having lost an election bid for the Senate, a race he clearly should have won.

During his consolation speech he begins to reveal the truth about himself and his campaign. He tells the audience everyone assumed his meteoric rise as a young congressman was due to his authenticity. He proceeds to tell people he’s not been authentic at all. He begins by telling them a saying he’d just mentioned about his old neighborhood was made up. He confessed he only used it because it polled well with voters. 

He goes on to tell everyone his tie was chosen from 56 others because of what it signified. He then let people know his campaign paid $7,300 to find out how to perfectly scuff his shoes in order to appeal to the widest array of voters. 

Ironically he was viewed more positively the day after the speech because he’d finally been authentic.

Marketing Candidates

We’re knee deep in the political process once again in the U.S., so I thought it was time to share a little about persuasion in the political process. Damon’s revelation about his campaign is more realistic than you might imagine.

Over the years I’ve participated in many “marketing studies” and quite a few have centered on politics. During these political studies people are literally gathered together for the sole purpose of finding out which phrases resonate best with voters. Mind you, during the selection process participants are paired down so the pollsters understand if the phrases will work best with white, middle aged, conservative males making a certain amount of money or minority voters having a certain educational background, or soccer moms, etc.

By a show of hands or in written format those conducting the marketing ask participants which sentence in each pair appeals the most. One examples was:

  1. A strong national defense
  2. A strong U.S. military

Another example was:

  1. Family values
  2. American ideals

Let’s assume most people like #1 in both pairs.

Before you know it you’ll hear politicians talking about how “a strong national defense” is important and how the other party doesn’t care about “family values.”

I hope you’re seeing the picture that’s being painted. Very little of what you hear from people running for Congress, the Senate, or president, comes from their own words. What you’re getting is a republican or democratic made up persona designed to appeal to the most voters.

We Don’t Always Like Real People

Part of the reason republican outsiders like Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina got so much attention from the masses and media in 2016 was because they were not run of the mill puppet-like politicians who’ve been airbrushed to appeal to voters. For the most part – love ‘em or hate ‘em – they were presenting their real selves. To a lesser degree (only because he’s been in politics a long time) Bernie Sanders has a similar appeal for many democratic voters. Certainly AOC could be put in the more authentic category too.

Most career politicians spout the “same old same old.” You only have to watch a few debates to hear the same politically correct jargon and talking points intended to appeal to the base.

For example, it always sounds as if every governor led the greatest comeback his or her state had ever seen. The skeptic in me always thought, things were so bad with the economy in 2008, if you couldn’t boast about lower unemployment, increased spending on schools, new programs, etc., in your state then you would have been a terrible governor! The same could be said of recoveries after the pandemic. The rising tide of an economic recovery helped every state look much better when compared to 2008 or 2020.

What to do?

So what are we to do? Pay attention to what’s said and see if you can confirm key facts. It’s amazing how politicians (and the media) will tell us things that aren’t true or are a twisted version of the truth to support their points.

No candidate is perfect and none will hold your opinions or values on everything. In all likelihood there will be two or three core issues for each voter that will determine who gets their vote. It may be healthcare reform, the economy, immigration, student loan forgiveness, abortion, social justice, foreign affairs, etc. 

No matter who you vote for there may be inconsistencies with their positions on other issues but then again each of us are inconsistent to one degree or another. Just make sure whoever you vote for is the person they present themselves to be and not some campaign consultant, poll-generated image designed to appeal to vote getting. This isn’t Facebook, it’s not about “likes”. Vote for a real person…if one happens to be running.

Brian Ahearn

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only a dozen people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His follow-up, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller. His new book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, is a business parable.

Brian’s LinkedIn courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 500,000 people around the world!

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