Politicians lie. We all know it, we all expect it. We’ve all heard the jokes. “How can you tell Politician X is lying? His lips are moving.” They also make promises they never intend to keep, they do everything they can not to answer questions that paint them into corners, and they wordsmith every utterance to cover their asses. As George Orwell noted,

Political language [is] designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable.

They lie because they get away with it. They lie because they rarely suffer the consequences for lying. Sure, corrupt politicians get busted from time to time, but punishment for the liars is up to the voters, not the government.

Today, both major parties have nominated liars to run for the Presidency. And, sure as the sun rising in the morning, people are finding ways to defend one while condemning the other.

It’s easy to denigrate a lying politician. After all, lying is what they do, and that makes for a target-rich environment. It’s harder to defend a lying politician, when the lies are out there, plain as day. Oh, sure, many of them have been carefully crafted to afford the willingly blind a path to plausible deniability, but it takes a good deal of tendentiousness and intellectual dishonesty to walk that path.

Sadly, millions of people do exactly that. As Election Day draws near, the defenses and excuses that people offer for their preferred liar are coalescing into a couple distinct categories.

First, there are the deniers. They refute the accusations outright, claiming that their candidate is fundamentally honest, and that the accusations of lying are baseless partisan attacks and are themselves lies and fabrications. These folks are often single-news-source readers, whether that source be the NY Times or Fox News. Many of them genuinely believe this nonsense, and as far as I’m concerned, they’re lost souls when it comes to politics. They are Orwell’s sheep.

Next are the equivocators. They’re not as doe-eyed as the deniers. Deep down, they recognize the problems with their candidate’s lies, but they don’t want to face those problems, so they grab onto the candidates’ camp’s “clarifications” and wordsmithing. They look to weasel out of their candidate’s lies with tortured logic.

Then there are the relativists. They accept that their candidate has told lies, but offer tu quoque arguments about how the other candidate is a bigger liar. Or, they simply loathe the other candidate so much that they don’t care about their candidate’s lies.

Next are the connivers. They might act like deniers, or they might act like relativists, but deep down they welcome the lies. They believe that politicians must lie to fool the morons on the other side of the political divide, so that they can get elected and do good. They, somehow, know what their candidate is really thinking and planning. Or, they’re simply tribal partisans who put their team’s victory, at any costs, ahead of the actual job of representation and governance.

Finally, there are the tacticians. They’ve got some of each of the first three categories in them. They’ve chosen their side, declared for their team, and have gone all-in for their candidate. The only thing that’s left is managing their own cognitive dissonance and publicly fronting for their candidate in a way that sells. The tacticians lead the way for everyone else by providing the techniques and narratives that others repeat.

All these categories are found among the ranks of both Presidential liars, but the mix and the tactics are rather different at this stage of the election.

Trump’s supporters don’t care about his lies and impossible promises. They’re voting for a personality and a vague promise. As for the details? He’s smart, he’ll get smart people working for him, he’ll make it work. They are, in this fashion, very much like Obama’s supporters in 2008, and it’s the same empty Best-and-Brightest argument that progressives have been cleaving to without fruition for decades. His lies don’t matter to them.

Clinton’s supporters, on the other hand, are reactionary these days. They are flabbergasted, as she is, that she’s not ahead by 50 points. The endless drip-drip of her scandals has forced them to confront her lying ways, and they’re doing so with a mix of denial, equivocation and relativism.

Lately, some been playing a numbers game. They’ve been applying precision fallacies by citing that “Trump lies every X minutes.” This is a nifty little way to say “well, Clinton may have told some lies, but Trump is REALLY a GREAT BIG LIAR.” This may very well be true, but it’s not a defense. It’s a misdirection tactic, and it does nothing to exonerate Clinton’s lying.

The rest? Deny, deny, deny, and pretend that inconvenient facts don’t exist. Instead, make over-the-top, highfalutin declarations. I share two I recently came across:

evil hypocrisy??? How in the world can you substantiate this statement? Hillary is a brilliant accomplished, experienced, politician who has shown a passion for public service her whole life…evil hypocrisy? There is nothing evil about this woman.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton! She is the only candidate qualified to be our next President!

This is as absurd as Trump’s supporters’ assertions that he’s the only one who can fix the the nation and “make America great again.”

Barring a SMOD-like event, either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be our next president. Either way, we end up with yet another liar governing us. When the failures to deliver start accumulating, the excusing behaviors will roll around yet again, with people blaming their candidate’s failures on the other side rather than having the honesty to accept that they themselves made this happen.

There are politicians who aren’t serial liars and empty promisers. There are, from time to time, good people running for office. We don’t value them the way we should. We often hold them up to higher standards and single-point dismissals because they don’t promise us the sky. The current state of politics is our fault. We chase dreams, we lie to ourselves when we support those who offer dreams, and we turn nasty to those who’d actually deliver some good but don’t promise dreams. Only when we stop being deniers, equivocators, relativists, connivers or tacticians, and instead demand truth and punish lying, will we get a government that actually does its proper job. Until then? If you’re supporting an unrepentant liar, you deserve what you get.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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