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A glad-hander is a highly extroverted person who makes a point of acting friendly in an over-the-top way.

However, in politics the term glad-hander connotes insincerity and opportunism.

Glad-handers are also referred to as back slappers and they’re really good at working a room.

Origin of “Glad-hander”

The first known use of “glad-hand” was back in 1903. The phrase grew out of the older expression to “give the glad hand,” which meant to extend a warm welcome to a friend.

The phrase has often been used in a cynical sense.

Some political scientists have argued that in fact, most politicians in modern history have been morose and depressive. The cheery, glad-handing exterior is nothing more than a facade, aimed to hide the sadness within.

If anything, some analysts say, glad-handing could be one of the ways that narcissistic politicians seek an emotional boost in the form of public affirmation.

The Washington Post reported in 2020 that Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden was struggling to adapt to the new norms of social distancing needed during the Covid-19 pandemic:

Joe Biden is a personal kind of politician. He’s a glad-hander, a back-slapper, a shoulder-squeezer and a hair-nuzzler — sometimes to a fault.

Yet with the presidential campaign essentially in suspended animation and all of us practicing social distancing (or at least we should all be), Biden can’t interact with voters the way he’d like. So what should he do?

The Post recommended that Biden should take a break from glad-handing and turn to making video announcements from his home – an appropriate measure in the age of social distancing.

Examples of “Glad-hander” in a sentence

  • The politician was known for his ability to charm voters and shake hands with anyone he met, earning him the nickname of the “glad-hander.”
  • The campaign manager hired a team of glad-handers to work the crowds at the candidate’s rallies and events.
  • The opponent accused the incumbent of being a typical glad-hander who only cared about his own political career, rather than the needs of the people.