It’s part of the sport of electoral politics that we want our side to win, and thus we each and all will do whatever we can to ensure victory. More often than not, “doing whatever” means facts, evidence, and reality are all taking a back seat to encouraged fears and reinforced beliefs which too often bear—at best—tenuous connections to the real world.
Beliefs matter. They often matter more when grounded on falsehoods of one sort or another. Politically-ignorant nonsense—either urged upon supporters or meekly accepted by them—drives deeper wedges between truth and belief.
Assessing the truthfulness of the 2016 candidates’ campaign statements, PolitiFact recently calculated that only 2 percent of the claims made by Trump are true, 7 percent are mostly true, 15 percent are half true, 15 percent are mostly false, 42 percent are false, and 18 percent are ‘pants on fire.’” Adding up the last three numbers (from mostly false to flagrantly so), Trump scores 75 percent. The corresponding figures for Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton, respectively, are 66, 32, 31, and 29 percent.
How many of us get away with truth-telling 25% of the time? [Try that out on your significant other and see how that flies.] Can we now use that as the baseline for our business dealings? Personal relationships? Athletic competitions? Just lie, mislead, or cheat and then trust that all the pieces will nonetheless fall neatly into place so that the desired outcome arrives with no muss, no fuss?
Reality doesn’t work that way. Shouldn’t that be obvious to … everyone?
WHY DOESN’T ANY OF THIS MATTER?
While attending a conference earlier this year, and on two separate occasions involving different groups with whom I was engaged in small talk, one businessmen at each gathering offered—without prompting—that he had had a long history of business dealings with Donald Trump. In nearly identical terms, each man then volunteered that Trump was absolutely “the worst human being” either had ever dealt with. It was rather stunning, given that we had all just met and had not been actively discussing politics. Neither man seemed concerned that anyone at the table might have had a different opinion about Trump.
An anecdote worth whatever value one might assign to it, but a strong indication that his campaign had already stirred powerful feelings and concerns. That hasn’t changed….
Trump has blithely offended women, veterans, African-Americans, Mexican-American, and disabled people. Who’s left?
Every single Republican who looks the other way, who continues to excuse this insanity, will spend the rest of their political lives defending their supine inaction. With Trump we are well beyond typical political cleavages. As Vox’s Ezra Klein put it, this isn’t ‘simply Democrat vs. Republican, but normal vs. abnormal.’
Let’s be clear: None of these criticisms matter if the person making them still endorses Donald Trump for president. The rhetorical contortions won’t work. You can’t say, on the one hand, that Trump is a ‘textbook racist’ who doesn’t reflect American values and, on the other, say you’re supporting him for president of the United States. This is more than a contradiction. It’s cowardice.
There has to be a line. Politics has to give way to basic decency.
Shouldn’t we expect minimal human decency from a candidate? Why place our reliance on those who day in and day out demonstrate their near-total disregard for integrity and honesty?
Given his campaign theatrics—let alone the public notoriety he has gathered over the course of several decades—many wonder just what disqualifying offensive act or comment would suffice to finally persuade supporters that Trump is far more dangerous than entertaining, and thus no longer deserving of their votes. The Access Hollywood videotape seems to have done the trick, but why did it take so long for it to dawn on most rational adults that the man was indeed “the most awful” candidate we’ve ever had?
One assumed that whatever might finally have persuaded at least some of his supporters to turn would have had to have been extreme, since Trump had covered all of the lesser offenses. [An early candidate for “extreme” would have been his appalling August 9 comment about a Second Amendment solution should Hillary Clinton be elected; followed by the cheating Pennsylvania voters comment; followed by.…But none of those did the trick.]
Aren’t we well past the point where those voters should have long ago been at least a bit embarrassed and ashamed at what their support for him says about them? Unfortunately for them and us, introspection seems in short supply.
Perhaps that’s no longer the case….We can only hope.
~ My Photo: Cape Ann [MA] Sunrise © 09.15.16
Looking Left and Right:
Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows
Be the change you want in the world – Gandhi
The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm, but because
of those who look at it without doing anything – Albert Einstein
~ ~ ~
As I state in the “About Me” section, I’m driven by an intense commitment to learn why those on the conservative side of the fence view so many matters of great importance to us all so differently than do those of us on the progressive side. Those contrasting behaviors, beliefs, and ideologies are contributing factors to the very problems we’re trying to solve—the ones we must solve if our own ambitions and our hopes for a peaceful and prosperous world we leave to our children are to be well-served.
If we don’t recognize and accept that bitter partisanship is not always the wisest or most beneficial strategy, the goal of a better future will forever be as far away tomorrow as it is today.
The late Senator Paul Wellstone’s observation continues to hold far more truth and power than we give it credit:
We all do better when we all do better
Why make setting up inevitable and enduring conflict the primary objective of policy and planning?