There was a time when the respective presidential candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties were somehow different. If only I could think what the difference was. Oh wait, I remember—respectable.
Respectable---from the English root “able to be respected.” Try as I might, I am just not able to accord either of the current candidates the respect they seem to demand. Is respect owed or earned? Does having made a bejillion dollars or served in public life for 40 years automatically earn you the right to lead the nation?
I do marvel at their tenacity, their stamina to pass through the political gauntlet and emerge still standing. I wonder at their willingness to answer rude, often shallow, insulting and routinely ridiculous questions by a “something passing for news” media that is perhaps less respectable than the candidates themselves.
It is not that I don’t give them their due for what they have accomplished. A life of public service and even a modicum of success in business are no mean feats—even if meanly accomplished.
It is that they have chosen to engage the American people in a dialogue fraught with falsehoods and fallacies. A dialectic that replaces credibility with credulity—that plunges rather than soars.
In the lexicon of lies these are not just strategic ambiguities, differences of interpretation, simple errors, run-of-the-mill spins or white-faced. No, these come under the headings of bald-faced and bullshit.
When caught they try to convince us they are putting cookies in the jar. They won’t even apologize and move on. They keep the lies alive by explaining them. Lies are like jokes--if you have to explain them, they’re not funny.
What is worse, the invocation of such invectives as have flown between the candidates, their surrogates and their apologists are going to leave scars on the political landscape. If gridlock in Washington wasn’t already bad enough, these inter- and intra-party fights are likely to make civil discourse much more difficult in the future.
None of this bodes well for the next four years. I suppose the election might come out so lopsided that the party of the president will be a majority in Congress, although I doubt it. It is even possible that before this whole thing is over the politicians and the people will be so horrified by the incivility that the campaign will prove cathartic and we will learn to cooperate. I doubt that even more.
To be sure, the Republican candidate has exhibited a more pronounced propensity to make things up as he goes along than the Democrat. Neither, however, should have felt free to cast any stones. They both use numbers the way a drunk uses a lamppost—all support and no illumination.
I remember when I was first drawn to politics as a kid. I was in the 5th grade, when my teacher was going on and on and on about the Russians. He was on one of his rants about how they lie. To prove it, he told us about a news story that had appeared in Pravda. The story read that the Russian track team finished second in a recent meet, while the Americans came in second to last.
I was not alone in my failure to understand what was dishonest about the announcement. So I asked him. His answer: there were only two teams competing. I was a twisted child and thought it a sensational spin on the truth. Then and there, I was hooked on politics.
I am no more. I am angry that our leaders trash talk each other. They are setting the wrong example for the rest of us. They speak of unity, of cooperation, of accomplishing more together than divided. They practice polemics.
Polemics spreads like a virus. It is infecting the body politic. We the people ask for bread and are given circuses—complete with clowns. Somewhere along the line our political process has turned into a made for TV game show.
The blame is not all theirs, I suppose. Over two-thirds of us don’t trust either of the candidates, yet we do nothing about it. We accept it. What is there about us—we the people—that allows us to lead our everyday lives while allowing ourselves to be led by a pack of pundits and politicians more interested in poll numbers and ratings than real solutions?
I wish I had an answer to that question. I am unfortunately convinced that there is little we can do about it between now and Election Day. Voting for a 3rd party will not solve the gridlock. Not voting not only is a vote over which we no longer have control but defeats our right to bitch about the inputs and outputs of the system.
Although like many in November I will be voting for Secretary Clinton, Donald is just too a frightening and divisive to believe. I would like to see formalized what in Colombia is referred to as a voto blanco and in Nevada as the None of These Candidates option. Having the opportunity to my no-vote of confidence in the system counted would certainly make me feel better.
Whether or not it would prove an effective alternative I don’t know. It would depend on scale, I suppose. At today’s level of dissatisfaction such an option could prove extremely problematic. What would happen if 2/3 of voters cast their votes for no one? Would no one then become President of the United States? Would no one be better than any one of the current candidates? I don’t honestly know. I am willing to think about it though.
Final note to the reader: As this article is about the liars and not the lies, I will let you find various fabrications for yourself. I highly recommend checking out the Pulitzer Prize winning site http://www.politifact.com.
Joel B. Stronberg
Joel Stronberg, MA, JD., of The JBS Group is a veteran clean energy policy analyst with over 30 years’ experience, based in Washington, DC.