Why Lying Doesn't Matter

There's been a lot of press over this past week about how one of the presidential campaigns has been lying repeatedly, about things it doesn't even have to lie about, even though these lies have been debunked over and over again. You may have noticed that this hasn't really harmed that campaign's poll numbers very much. This is confusing some opponents of the campaign.

From having spoken to a lot of people who seem likely to vote for that campaign, I can tell you why the lying doesn't seem to matter. See, these people believe that all politicians lie. These people believe that all politicians are dirty, and have scandals hidden in their background. It doesn't matter if they can't point to any specific lies or to any specific scandals, because it just means that we haven't uncovered the lies or the scandals yet. Their faith in the fallibility of politicians overrides any evidence or lack of evidence. Being a politician in the first place is enough evidence to prove that a person is slime.

Who can blame these people, really? Time after time we have been lied to by politicians. Even politicians who have fought hard for real reform and achieved it have sometimes fallen eventually. Even politicians who do good have been shown to have been doing bad things to put them in a position to do that good. Even politicians who have professional lives full of success have been shown to have personal lives full of failure. The problem with being a cynic is that you're too often right. If you think all politicians are lying all the time, you just make your choices based on whether you think they're lying in the direction that sounds good to you.

Is it naive to think that one candidate might be for real? Possibly. You must admit that it's possible. Are voters who choose the honest-seeming candidate simply abused spouses choosing to believe the lie that, "this time, baby, it will be different"? That could be. Our national black eye still hasn't healed, and the pain makes it hard to think straight.

So anyway, that's why the lying doesn't matter to most people. Myself, I choose to vote for the candidate who is, at least, the more convincing liar, the one who can keep all the lies straight and present a coherent position, or at least a coherent sentence. I choose to vote for the candidate who apparently doesn't need to lie about his past, even if he might be lying about the future. The more times lies for the future are repeated, the greater the likelihood the liar will be stuck trying to make them true. The more assiduously somebody asserts something, the more they must anticipate facing consequences if that thing turns out to be a lie. The stronger a case somebody makes that something should be true, the more we might come to agree, and the more likely we are to try to make it true, regardless of the messenger.

2008.09.18 at 12:00am EDT