Democrats are accustomed to the word ‘deal.’ FDR’s New Deal was the response to the Great Depression and created programs that brought economic security to millions of Americans. Many of these programs continue to this day. Another Democrat, Harry Truman, proposed the Fair Deal which added to the social cohesion of American society and provided the basis for post-World War II society. The term ‘Real Deal’ was occasionally used in the Kerry-Edwards campaign of 2004. The Bush victory in 2004, however, made many Democrats conclude that there was something missing in the ‘Real Deal’ version of 2004. While the capacity to win will remain the decisive factor in the choice of the nominee, there is an element considered vital in who wins in November. And, it is authenticity – the essence of the ‘Real Deal.’
It would be presumptuous to assume that this search for the ‘Real Deal’ is related just to Democrats. Americans in general – and independents in particular – are expecting this character trait of authenticity to be dominant as they decide who will be the 44th President. Debates on policy regarding the war on terrorism, Iraq, the economy, global warming will continue but more media stories will concentrate on character. The tragic Eliot Spitzer story only reinforces the need to see the true character of a candidate.
In this regard, John McCain has to be favoured. He has been a US Senator for the past 22 years and most observers from both parties acknowledge his courage and his penchant for straight talk. Like him or not, and many in his own party are still uncomfortable with his maverick nature, McCain is a known commodity and one who appeals beyond party lines because he is seen as sincere and authentic.
Barack Obama’s stellar performance has often been attributed to his ability to convey authenticity. Young people have been driven in droves to his campaign. Many who listen to his words are inspired and want to get involved. The test in the coming weeks for this political neophyte will be to reveal with greater certainty whether he is the ‘Real Deal.’ His true relationship with his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, will be scrutinized and may largely determine whether Obama is as authentic as many think.
Hillary Clinton is better known than Obama but remains enigmatic when you compare her with McCain. Her campaign has shown some expressions of what we would like to think is the real Hillary. The New Hampshire victory following a tearful moment and her touching gesture towards Obama in the University of Austin debate showed a more human Hillary. Unfortunately, most of her campaign seems to be focus group tested, with changing messages and differing moods that only reinforce the sense that with Clinton, we are up against a political machine who would do anything to win. It all seems so contrived.
Both Obama, who is a relatively unknown political figure, and Clinton, who presents a changing political personality depending on her status in the polls, generate many more doubts in the minds of voters than McCain at this stage. Democrats beware! This is why the Democrats are beginning to worry about the current tone and state of their campaign – because while they are searching for authenticity, Americans may conclude the ‘Real Deal’ is not with them but with John McCain.