Audience relatability is an elusive quality sought by political handlers casting candidates, as much as by network executives casting dramatic roles, and news executives selecting anchors.
One thing we've learned in the past year is that the political class may have been eager to cast candidates with whom they could identify, but that the voters were feeling something different.
Early on, Scott Walker was thought to be more relatable than Mitt Romney, but people didn't relate to Walker's blandness. Jeb Bush was presumed to be the strongest on name ID, for better or worse. Backed by a vast financial network, he seemed to be talking down to voters, who in turn ignored him. Marco Rubio could memorize talking points, but he projected immaturity. Ted Cruz' sanctimony was unrelatable to the unchurched.
Over on the Democrat side, the assumption has long been that women -- more than 50% of voters -- would identify with Hillary Clinton simply on the basis of gender, and the novelty of being to gender what Obama was to race. Many are still onboard with that, leaving the Democrats with very few options if Mrs. Clinton's well known problems -- the lies, scandals and foreign policy failures -- prove insurmountable.
As audience and media fascination with Donald Trump moved from polls to ballot boxes, it became clear that Trump's anger over immigration, the economy, and America's loss of greatness were genuine and widely shared. Instead of playing the role of a well-behaved candidate, he played himself. To paraphrase Seinfeld, he's been the opposite of every expert's understanding of what a relatable candidate should be. This was something fresh, something new, a candidacy which defied the expectations of the experts.
And that's precisely what Trump's followers seem to be enjoying about him.
He's blunt, politically incorrect, and he reflects our anger over America's decline. I'm old enough to remember another politician/performer who was similarly criticized: Ronald Reagan.
Rudy Giuliani said early on that Donald Trump was being underestimated, in a way which Reagan was. Reagan, of course was famously genial and relatable, and a had a lifetime of performance skills to draw upon.Trump has a lifetime of business success, which he hopes to turn into success for the country. Clearly a portion of the country wants this type of change. Political insiders from both parties deeply resent this populist intrusion into the process they have long controlled.
It seems they will spare no effort and endure any consequence to prevent voters from telling them what kind of candidate is most relatable in 2016.
A self-made billionaire who exalts free markets.
His sworn enemy, a left-wing zealot wielding the power to prosecute.
And the woman between them, an executive coach for the billionaire who is also the wife (and domme mistress) of the prosecutor.
If the description above has you rooting for Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) the libertarian hedge fund wizard, do not miss season one of Billions. If your political prejudices favor prosecutor Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giammati) you should be pretty pleased with where season two leaves us.
If you're fascinated by the woman between them (Wendi Rhoades, played by Maggie Siff) then I expect you'll be watching Showtime.