Tragedy struck the TV world last week when Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino let it slip that life on the MTV reality show The Jersey Show is not all that it seems. In fact, some of it just might be staged.
Sorrentino's confession occurred on the Live! With Kelly. We imagine that some in the audience burst into tears while others immediately rushed home to find solace in the teachings of Deepak Chopra, Rhonda Byrne, and Jenny McCarthy. After all, the world as they knew it was over with. If reality TV isn't an authentic display of reality, then what is?
Well, certainly not the world of politics, but somehow that doesn't stop voters from seeking out supposedly straight-shooting, incorruptible walk-the-walkers to pin their hopes and dreams on. And right now, no single candidate in the GOP presidential race is more authentic than Dr. Ron Paul. But there's a problem. For all of his good ideas, the calls-it-like-he-sees-it Texas Congressman has plenty of bad ones.
On one hand, Paul believes the United States should quit policing the world and to stop dicking around in the Middle East, but on the other, he wants to do away with the Department of Education and the Federal Reserve. And for every call to legalize marijuana, there's some silly statement from the good doc proclaiming that the Congressional Class of 1964 shouldn't have voted for the Civil Rights Act — a tone-deaf comment that only out-of-touch dinosaurs like paleoconservatives and neo-Confederates bother to defend.
"The problem with Ron Paul is he pisses off 50 percent of the people all of the time," says Tyler Jones, a Democratic consultant and video provocateur. "He's authentically crazy."
Make no mistake, in the world of politics authenticity is a double-edged sword, one that a candidate wields to cut down the competition and to commit political hari-kari, the defining act of nearly every outsider candidate, from Ross Perot to Christine O'Donnell and Herman Cain.
And perhaps no one in South Carolina politics knows more about self-inflicted wounds than Will Folks, the FITSNews blogger who claims he had an sexual relationship with Nikki Haley. "You take any outspoken candidate for the party, and they won't get elected," Folks says. "If somebody lets it all hang out, you end up Weinering yourself."
Folks, arguably the most influential political journalist in the state, believes real-dealers do not have a place in today's 24-hour spin cycle. "In that climate, even the most authentic candidate can be made to look like a hypocrite."
Wesley Donehue, a former Michele Bachmann staffer and the GOP consultant behind Donehue Direct, agrees. "Everybody has a computer in their pocket," he says. "Candidates aren't able to control their messages anymore."
As a result, today's politicians are under even more scrutiny than ever and only the most polished and plastic candidates can survive the constant surveillance. "People forget these are real people and people make mistakes," says Donehue, who once made Keith Olbermann's Worst Person in the World list. "We've got to quit pretending that politicians are perfect. We can't have perfection and authenticity."
While that is true, voters expect our leaders to be able to respond to the pressure of the campaign trail and to handle gaffes and gotcha-moments with skill and grace, something that crotchety-old-uncle candidates like Ron Paul and hot-air buffoons like Rick Perry are unable to do. Of the two remaining GOP candidates, only Romney and Rick Santorum can stare into the abyss of ambushes and brain farts and deliver a studied stump-speech bon mot with any ease. At one time, Newt Gingrich could have, but now that he's up against the ropes, his fight is directed inward at the petty little bitch inside of him that just won't shut up.
So, in the end, voters are forced to choose the lesser of evils. And make no mistake, it's not the guy who speaks his mind. He's just not fit for the job.