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Mandate Media: Digital Strategy for People Changing the World
Our Blog for Tips, Tricks, and News: Politics + Technology

John Edwards: authenticity wins elections

Thursday and Friday, I had the opportunity to spend some time with once and future presidential candidate Senator John Edwards. In multiple appearances, he made it clear that he's learned the lesson of 2004: that authenticity wins elections.

It's a mantra I've been preaching to my clients for years: In a world where everyone is bombarded with marketing messages and political spin, the candidates that engender the most passionate support are the ones that "Get Authentic".

After his visit to Portland, Senator Edwards headed up to Seattle where he told the GnomeDex technology forum:

"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." ...

"I'm trying to retrain and recondition myself when I get asked a question to actually answer it -- to not say what I've been trained to say, to not say what's careful and cautious..."

What's this got to do with technology? Well, mostly it doesn't. Except this: In the hyper-connected, info-saturated, over-mediated environment of the internet, it's the clear, concise, and authentic voices that attract an audience. That's true for bloggers, and that's true for political candidates.

Which presidential candidates have developed the most passionate followings this decade? Howard Dean and George W. Bush. Love 'em or hate 'em, but you'll always know exactly where they stand. As a result, both earned deep and passionate support from their followers - support that didn't fade no matter how bad the politics got.