Pandering, Inauthenticity, and the Youth Vote

By The Beacon | April 6, 2016 5:33pm

By Jordan Paul |


A common refrain among college students, especially here at University of Portland, is that Hillary Clinton is pandering in order to win the youth vote. "Be authentic," they say, repeating the narrative that Hillary is impersonal and scripted. Yet, there is an issue with that characterization.

Hillary is not her husband. You will not see her playing the saxophone on TV, and she prefers retail politics to large rallies. She is a policy wonk, and it is in these small events that her personality and caring shines through, where she is able to truly connect with voters, and not simply repeat a stump speech. It may not be as magnetic as Sanders, but it is no less sincere, and it is truly where she shines. If she seems like she is pandering on shows like Ellen, it's because she is. Only doing retail politics does not work in today's social media fueled elections. But this pandering is not harmful. It is simply the cost of campaigning in the 21st century. To see an example of harmful pandering, we must look to Bernie.

There is no questioning Bernie’s authenticity or his commitment to principle. But even I have to laugh when he rails against the amorphous “establishment.” Make no mistake, Bernie Sanders is a politician. He has been in elected office in one form or another almost uninterrupted since 1981. He may not have been a member of a party, but he is no less politically savvy because of it. He knows better than most just how the system works — and how it doesn’t.

He knows, to take a single example, that his election as President won't magically enable Medicare for All to be politically viable. Congress couldn’t even pass the comparable public option during the 2009 healthcare debate and at the time Congress was completely controlled by Democrats.

Bernie may be promising a revolution, but he knows that promising and delivering are two different things entirely. He is, in spite of everything else, a politician competing for the same coveted goal as everyone else. Once we have accepted that, we must look for a candidate that goes beyond stump speeches and takes a wide look not only at what is but what could be, but also knows the limitations   of the office, and this country’s unique, and sometimes perplexing, political culture. A president that is capable of governing not only domestically, but can step into the complex web of foreign policy on day one.

Revolution makes for an entertaining election, but rarely makes for effective governing. The starry-eyed idealists who elected Obama in 2008 found that out the hard way, and I fear it will happen to Sanders supporters as well. Obama has been one of the most effective presidents of the modern era, but he certainly wasn’t the savior that some expected. I hope that we as a generation have learned the lesson that presidents are not magicians, and that we do not go into this election looking for another one.

Jordan Paul is a former fellow for the Ready for Hilary Super PAC. He is a senior political science major at the University of Portland and can be reached at