It is hard to stay silent on the issue of politicians lying when it is such a prevalent, painful reality in the American political system. Many politicians lie, and then the citizens become angry. It feels like a never-ending cycle.
Twitter feeds and Facebook posts are frequently littered with cries of anger over gross exaggerations, misinformation and bold-faced lies. Ask anyone about the current presidential campaign. The request is usually met with a groan and an exasperated shrug.
Politicians aren’t doing anything wrong from a legal standpoint by lying. Ethically? Quite a lot. But then, so are the citizens who listen to their lies and often believe them and encourage them.
When Walter Mondale ran for president against the incumbent Ronald Reagan in 1984, he used his party nomination speech to speak the truth.
“Let’s tell the truth,” Mondale said. “Mr. Reagan will raise your taxes, and so will I. He won’t tell you. I just did.”
Reagan refuted the claims and Mondale lost the race. In the end, taxes were raised by more than one percent to make up 18.2 percent of the GDP.
The lying problem doesn’t rest solely with poli- ticians. The problem is also with the people. If the people choose to believe a lie, if they prefer a lie, is there anything wrong with it? Politicians, at times, lie to do what they believe is in the best interest of the common good.
President Abraham Lincoln, famously nicknamed “honest Abe,” frequently used political maneuvers in order to pass the 13th Amendment. Lincoln ensured slaves would not be given civil rights upon libera- tion, despite his strong belief in them deserving such rights. Such an opinion in the North and South at the time was wildly unpopular, and Lincoln believed in the liberation of slaves more than their civil rights. So he pushed the bigger issue and suppressed his own desires for a greater good.
People today unanimously agree Lincoln did the right thing, even though in retrospect some historians say he used lies to do it.
It is essential to consider the voter before accusing every politician of lying, before blaming them for being unethical and selfish. Consider the individual and the unfortunate truth that people, as a human race, are selfish – not just the politicians.
A politician’s job is to serve the best interest of the people, but the best interest of the people often comes at a cost. People are often not willing to vote for reality. They want to vote for what makes them feel good for the moment. The people choose to believe the promise of a wall between the border of Mexico and America, or the promise of free healthcare for all because it is desirable, not because it is feasible. The wound created when politicians lie is a self-inflicted one, because the citizens helped sharpen the knife.
Story by Sydney Ilg