Posted by: chrissypurcell | October 28, 2012

Trust in our Democracy

As I read The Lie Factory, I was fascinated by our ability to pinpoint a moment in time when modern-day political consulting was born at Campaign, Inc., and how easy the leap is from Whitaker & Baxter’s strategies to the strategies that our PACs and politicians employ today. Our democratic system is now so infused with partisan pocket book funding, and our politicians’ stances are so carefully designed by consultants, that it’s hard to know who to trust in politics.

I recently watched a Ted Talk by political scientist Ivan Krastev that raises some interesting questions regarding the state of our modern democracy.  You can watch the talk here and if you’re pressed for time, I recommend starting at minute 8:30. Krastev notes that in the internet age there is a new demand for transparency in politics and in the media. Although this is a good thing, Krastev also reminds us that this emphasis on transparency points to an underlying foundation of mistrust; if we could trust our politicians and our media outlets in the first place, there would be no need to demand transparency.

Can real democracy exist without trust?  What would our democracy look like if we could trust that the most capable, intelligent and honorable people in our society were the same people running for office?  Can we picture that day in our future?


  1. The question of trust in political campaigns — or any campaign for that matter — is an essential one that is rooted first in authenticity. In “The Lie Factory” I can’t help but see authenticity as all but disregarded by Whitaker and Baxter, the founding father and mother of the political consulting industry. Throughout the article, examples of their win-at-any-cost campaign style are prevalent. This theme is blatantly evidenced in a paraphrase by Lepore, which illustrates for readers that Whitaker and Baxter believed that: “if your position doesn’t have an opposition, or if your candidate doesn’t have an opponent, invent one.” The very foundation of their campaigns — a template evident in campaigns today — is a void of authenticity.

    The irony in this, and why I care to mention it, is that for the past few weeks, we have been learning how critical authenticity, or at the very least feigned authenticity, is in communications and campaigns. In order for the stakeholders of whatever it is you’re peddling to jump on the bandwagon, they must be assured that what they’re “buying” is the real deal.

    Whitaker and Baxter obviously knew how to sell something fake as “authentic.” I prefer to believe that’s not necessary. That honesty is still the best policy. But perhaps that’s naive an the invention of a false “reality” is necessary when it comes to winning in the campaign world. What are the moral responsibilities of campaign managers? Where does the line between moral and amoral lie?

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