In his keynote address at the Gnomedex tech conference in Seattle on Friday, US senator and highly-seasoned politician John Edwards had this to say about politicans’ polish in an age of informality:
[…] “The problem is that we’re so trained and so conditioned over a long period of time that being normal and real and authentic requires you to shed that conditioning,” Edwards said of politicians. “It is not an easy thing to do.” Edwards then alluded to the next presidential election. “My own view is the next president of the United States, or certainly the one after, is likely to be the single candidate who doesn’t sound like a politician,” he said. “I want to tell you on a personal level, I’m trying every way I know how not to do it. We’ve been trained to do the wrong thing,” he concluded. “That’s the problem.”
A refreshing admission, which I take on its face value. It’s one I bet many influential politcians over here would also agree with even if they’re not willing to say so publicly.
I think there are two senior European politicans who might be close to “not sounding like a politician” – EC Commissioner Margot Wallstrom and UK Secretary of State for the Environment David Miliband.
Coincidentally, both write blogs.
Reading this I can’t help thinking that in a lot of cases you could just replace “politicians” with “companies” or “company executives”. There is not a huge difference between “politican speak” and “company speak”/”marketing blurb” in my ears.
I find the term “age of informality” interesting, is it really informality or is talking in a human voice that’s required?
That’s very true, Armin, although I do think politicians have a greater propensity to spin. The conditioning John Edwards speaks of.
Re age of informality, I think it’s both. But it has a good ring to it if you’re looking for a label to apply.
Watching Edwards in the 2004 campaign was like watching a mutation. The man who spoke his mind in the early primaries became a sound-bite uttering automaton during the general election. It was as if aliens had taken him over. But he shed his “pod” the minute he came out to give his concession speech — the real John Edwards was back (Al Gore has had a similar transformation).
If Edwards can stick to that, he’ll never be President. But he will have moral influence which, down the road, will be more important. On the other side of the political aisle is John McCain, a Republican senator. Politically, I disagree with everything the man says but… he never spins you, doesn’t try to straddle the fence, calls it as he sees it. Like Edwards, he listens. And doesn’t insult you by telling you what you most want to hear.
I’d be happy to live next door to either of them,
I totally agree. But there is a difference here. Gore was at the top of the ticket; it was his campaign… he had total control over what he wanted to say, but he shot himself in the foot. I have to say that the guy had some terrible advisers around him. Edwards on the other hand had an obligation to say what the Kerry campaign wanted him to, he was not at liberty to speak his own mind or present his own ideas. Still, the guy never became an “attack dog” like most Veep candidates do. I’m glad that the Edwards from the primaries is back.. in fact, I would say he’s even better than he was in the 04 primaries.
I do think though that he has a shot at the presidency, he has the highest favorability ratings of any democrat, even among conservatives and independents. That says a ton…