April 8, 2015


How Scott Walker Has Escaped the 'Inauthentic' Label So Far (Brendan Nyhan, 4/07/15, NY Times)

Right now, Mr. Walker is making the transition from the set of positions that helped him win two terms as governor of Democratic-leaning Wisconsin to the ones that will help him win the 2016 G.O.P. nomination. He's backing federal ethanol mandates and reversing his support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

This process has often been awkward. He has not only changed a number of his positions, but he has also appeared to contradict himself on multiple occasions, which provides ammunition to critics who say Governor Walker isn't ready for the national stage.

Mr. Walker's struggles aren't just about his general readiness (though that's part of the problem). He is adapting to a new constituency on the fly, which inevitably leads to errors as he learns the appropriate way to speak about controversial issues without making news.

It's notable, however, that very few people are calling him inauthentic for making these changes in his positions -- a charge that dogged candidates like Mitt Romney and John Kerry during their presidential campaigns. The concerns expressed about Mr. Walker focus largely on his political skills, not his authenticity.

In some ways, the manner in which Governor Walker is being covered represents progress in how we think about -- and cover -- candidates for office. Politicians are ambitious people who want to win elections. The idea that anyone is behaving completely authentically during this highly strategic process is preposterous.

And Mr. Walker has several advantages in seeking to avoid these kinds of criticisms. First, he was genuinely conservative for the state he represented, which reduces the distance he has to travel ideologically to match up with the G.O.P. primary electorate. Mr. Romney, by contrast, governed a state that required him to adopt positions that were out of touch with his party and later had to be discarded.

...than seeming authentic on both sides of an issue?  It was Ronald Reagan's greatest gift.
Posted by at April 8, 2015 8:40 AM

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