Is Trump Winning Through Authenticity?

Could it be that the driving force behind the success of Donald Trump’s campaign is authenticity?  Why is it that despite his many flaws and ideas that border on utter lunacy, Trump has been able to basically take over a political party and defeat their star players with apparent ease?

Someone recently posted a video of Trump talking about his desire to physically hit several speakers at the Democratic National Convention.  In the video he spoke of his visceral experience, his anger, his feeling of betrayal, his desire to seek revenge.  While people across the political spectrum have condemned this type of political rhetoric, there is an authenticity to Donald Trump that is rare in modern politics, where every detail of a candidate’s persona, speech, and even dress are carefully scripted.  When he spoke of his feelings of anger and desire for revenge, I believed him. None of the many critics who condemn the lack of civility in his campaign ever question the honesty of his emotional statements.  After all, who at some point in time hasn’t wanted to slap or retaliate against someone for verbally attacking or publicly criticizing us?  For those looking for authenticity in a candidate, a statement such as this doesn’t appear dangerous, it appears honest.  It also speaks to a relatable human emotional experience and provides an opportunity for the listener to find connection with Trump.

This is perhaps where the Clinton campaign is most vulnerable.  While Hillary Clinton is much more qualified in terms of both education and experience to serve as President, she struggles with authenticity and finding connection with working-class Americans.  Unfortunately, as a woman, she is judged by a double standard that equates any expression of emotion on her part as evidence of female hysteria, while also condemning her for appearing callous and aloof.  What Trump seems to understand  is that, if you’re authentic, you can be imperfect and still attract a lot of support. I am hoping that this lesson is not lost on the Clinton campaign.  We want to see the person who is seeking to lead us.  Not just a perfected and polished version, but the whole imperfect person.

Perhaps no one says it better than Brene Brown, who has done extensive research in the area of vulnerability, authenticity, and perfection, and writes:

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

Clearly, Donald Trump plays fast and loose with historical facts, but when he communicates his emotional experience to the world he appears to be quite authentic, and his willingness to be vulnerable creates connection.  In our world of plastic candidates who court votes more than honest connection, it might just get you elected president.

Why I’m Done Praying

I’m done praying.  The next time a politician tells me that we need to pray for the victims of yet more bloodshed, I’m going to simply refuse. First and foremost, it is the job of a politician to promote policy and the job of clergy to lead prayer.  Our elected leaders need to remember what it is we’ve elected them to do.  Secondly, such prayer is meaningless posturing in the absence of even the most imperfect and misguided efforts to stop the violence.  I will not allow myself to be lulled into the false belief that the next round of deaths is part of a sacred plan, or that by faith the increasing cycle of violence can be stopped.

Crisis PrayerInstead, I will pray for those who are doing something, who are trying to bring peace to our nation and to the world.  I will pray for those who seek to give voice to victims of both the violence and the injustices that fuel the violence. I will pray for those who take time to listen to the pleas of the oppressed, the marginalized, and the easily despised.

Maybe it’s the immediacy of 24 news and social media, but it’s very easy these days to feel overwhelmed by the daily reports of senseless violence in our nation and world. Night club shootings, workplace shootings, school shootings, cops shooting innocent people, people shooting innocent police officers, bombs in public places, the list goes on and on.  In the past 2 years in my own hometown we have seen a Sheriff’s Deputy murdered while responding to a house fire, a mentally ill person with a gun shooting 3 students inside the library of Florida State University where I earned my college degree, and the murder of Dan Markel, a law professor and member of my synagogue.

The Torah says: “Justice, justice you shall pursue”.  It doesn’t say we’re supposed to pray for justice, it says we’re supposed to pursue it.  That means action.

It’s simply not true that nothing can be done to prevent these tragedies. There are many things that can be done both at the public policy level and at the individual level.  Even though most of us don’t make public policy, we have choices.  We can start to reject the language of separation that fuels the seemingly ever-expanding alienation in our society.  The next time some bonehead on the radio, television, or internet starts vilifying liberals, conservatives, police officers, black people, rednecks, straight people, white people, gay people, Republicans, Socialists, Christians, Communists, Muslims, transgendered people, Jews, Democrats…. turn it off and walk away. The next time someone tries to tell you who your enemy is, who you need to be afraid of, or who you need to hate, turn it off and walk away.  The next time some politician tells you who we need to lock up forever, who we need to deny any hope of redemption for, who is disposable and unworthy of any dignity or life, or how we cannot afford to be merciful or compassionate…. turn it off and walk away. Walk away from anyone who would have you disregard another human being based upon a one-dimensional label, no matter how powerful the label claims to be.

Do this because to see the spark of divinity in our fellow human beings is every bit as sacred an act as prayer.  Indeed, I would argue that the fundamental purpose of prayer isn’t to elicit personal favors from G-d, but to prepare ourselves to seek out G-d in the world and in our fellow human-beings. As for me, I’m done praying.  Instead, I’m seeking the beauty that remains hidden behind the divisions we create.  I believe that it’s only when we see the divinity in our fellow human beings that we can give meaning to claims of sacredness and begin to find our way out of the seemingly endless cycle of violence that appears to be overtaking our world.

Tallahassee Rotary – Eradicating Polio and Ensuring Fresh Water Abrams Dicta Abrams Dicta

Starting at the Florida State University Alumni Center and heading into the heart of downtown Tallahassee, David discusses the Tallahassee Rotary Club and the important work the club is doing such as eradicating polio and providing fresh water to communities in Mexico and India.

Leaving Utopia

Awaking to our final day of our two week stay at the utopian community of the Chautauqua Institution, I am confronted by the now familiar news of seemingly unnecessary killing of black men by law enforcement officers, of protests, and now of the killing of police officers in protest to those killings.  As much as I love the peace and tranquility of Chautauqua, I am eager to get back to the non-utopian world of my life in the larger outside world, despite the conflict and dangers that  lurk there.

As I think about the conflict that is erupting on our streets, I can’t help but feel that the legal system I work in has contributed to this problem by failing time and time again to deliver justice to the most vulnerable in our society.  Too many times our courts have turned away empty handed those who have been harmed at the hands of law enforcement, while making excuses and carving out legal exceptions to the law.  Too many times our elected lawmakers have weakened our justice system by choosing to build prisons rather than invest in struggling communities ,and have responded to problems such as addiction by mandating some of the world’s longest prison terms rather than offering treatment.  Too many times those in power, or those seeking office, have cultivated the seeds of hatred and bigotry by invoking images of fear and prejudice in order to distract attention away from failed public policy and their own lack of vision or direction.

Our leaders need to deliver something greater than sanctimonious speeches and calls for civility while they continue to turn away empty handed the vulnerable who have been harmed.  Within the legal system, our prosecutors and judges need to recognize that justice has to mean more than retribution, and that real harm can occur in the absence of monetary loss.

I don’t have all the answers, nor do I know all the questions that need to be asked.  What I do know is that there remains much good in our country and that we have the potential to be better tomorrow than we are today.  Our concept of justice can become richer than it is today, but for that to happen we need to let go of our fear of each other, stop vilifying those who live on the margins, and seek kinship with our neighbors wherever and whenever possible.