Bill De Blasio, mayor of New York for another two and a half years, then (thankfully) term-limited into the history books and (hopefully) ignominious obscurity, is continuing his (farcical) quest for the Democratic Presidential nomination by engaging in rhetoric that’s pretty bald-faced even for him. Speaking before the National Education Association (i.e. the public school teacher’s union front), he railed against purported “efforts to privatize” public education via charter schools.

One teensy-weensy problem: Charter schools are publicly funded. I guarantee you he knows this. This makes the entire basis for his assault on them a front for the real agenda: the threat they pose to teachers’ unions and their public education monopoly. His isn’t a lie of exaggeration, omission, or obfuscation – things almost all politicians do as easily as they breathe. Nor is it something that could be deemed a campaign promise – again, something politicians routinely make and break. It’s a lie. Not a huge one – in the language of the Church, such qualify as venial sins, ones that won’t doom you to eternal damnation – since it’s selling to the converted and merely advancing an already-overt agenda.

It is, nevertheless, a blatantly false statement, told to people who know it’s blatantly false, but who (I’m sure) applauded it anyway.

Why tell such a lie? Because we’re at a stage of politics where many who hitch their wagons to a particular horse seem to feel obligated to believe, or at least go along with, whatever comes out of that horse’s mouth. This is how Trump can offer up absurdities like “Mexico will pay for the wall” and have people actually expect him to deliver on it. Yeah, yeah, the wall thing probably counts as an unfulfilled campaign promise, but it stretches credulity past the breaking point.

And it’s unnecessary. Trump’s supporters didn’t need to be told that to bolster their wall-affinity – they’ve been all-in on a wall since the primary season.

The problem lies in our continued tolerance of venial lies. This weakens our resistance to the big ones, the lulus, the “mortal lies” that can cause real and lasting harm to the nation and to our living standards.

Consider climate change action and the Green New Deal (which has drawn varying degrees of support from nearly every single Democratic presidential candidate). Its proponents’ rhetoric elevates climate change to the level of imminent and existential threat, yet so much of the Green New Deal and other remediative proposals are chock-a-block with extra “stuff,” like housing, health care, and a litany of other big-government, socialistic things. If global warming was as big a threat as they say, why cram their proposals with things that might slow their enacting?

Every so often, a liar gets caught in a moment of candor. We had one such, a few years back, when someone blurted out that the UN’s climate blueprint was “rigorous backing to systematically dismantle capitalism.” And, we just had another: Congressional it-girl Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff revealed that “we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”

Politicians lie. Mostly, they tell venial lies, often in careful and artful ways, but sometimes blatantly. We’ve grown inured to them, often conflating them with promises. The latter, being aspirational, can be excused in non-fulfillment, under some circumstances. The former, however, are on us. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me a hundred times, well, now I’m stuck in a position of defending my gullibility, which makes me even more susceptible to lies. That’s how “useful idiots” are created: they aren’t stupid, they’ve just been caught in a consistency trap. Dance around a few lies, and now you’ve got a harder time calling out the next ones.

This is where the Big Liars seize opportunity. Many of the Democratic candidates simply want to be President, to (starry-eyed naivety) bring their wisdom to managing the nation, or simply because it feeds their ego. But, some have grander aspirations. They want to fundamentally change the fabric of America. They are the mortal liars, the ones who are peddling a “cure” for a problem they’ve been emphasizing (with ever-shifting doomsday deadlines) for a few decades, that won’t “cure” anything, but will give them unprecedented power to implement a deeply destructive economic transformation. Make no mistake, as one former president loved to say, the Green New Deal won’t do squat to remediate climate change. It won’t even achieve its stated goals of decarbonizing our economy (which wouldn’t make a dent even if we did, without world wide participation (HAHAHAHAHA!!!!)) It’s a not-so-secret power-grab, a way of semi-nationalizing much of the economy and engaging in the massive redistribution of wealth that unrepentant socialists and their naive acolytes still fantasize about. It’s being pursued via a mortal lie, one even bigger than the “If you like your doctor” deceit that sold so many on Obamacare and had so many frantically spinning and dissembling after its fallacy was exposed.

Trump loves his exaggerations and lies. Fortunately, most of them are of the venial variety, and in actual governance, he’s been relatively pedestrian. That’s not to absolve him. Oh no. We do the right thing when we push back against the ones that carry some import (unfortunately, there’s so much blather that few who don’t already hate every fiber of his being have the energy to push back against them all). We perpetuate the problem when we don’t, or when we play whataboutism (the most common response to any criticism of the Untethered Orange Id, in my experience). While many of his loyalists love his combative style, they’re already in the wagon. It’s the skeptics and those who weigh Good Trump and Bad Trump across issues who matter, and a less “wild-man” approach would benefit him going into the election.

Those aspiring to be his opponent are doing no better. In fact, they’re being pushed by the rabid leftists who have seized control of the dialogue into making declarations and promises they’d rather not, and at least a couple of them are supporting an agenda couched in a mortal lie. And, they’re relying on the willful foolishness of the public when they tell that lie.

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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