Are All Politicians Liars?
I can’t tell you how many times I have been assured by people on my conservative side of the political spectrum that “all politicians are liars.” It’s a common riposte when I encourage people to get involved in the political process and vote or when I flag the flagrant untruths uttered by the Democrat pantheon of political liars (the Clintons, Gore, Kerry, Kamala, the Bidens, Schiff, Pelosi, Schumer, the MSM, etc., etc.) to my friends on the Left. For many, it seems, it is an excuse to accept the status quo and embrace inaction.
Well, in fairness, we Republicans have hardly been without sin, especially now that we must deal with an obscure, newly elected-fabulist congressman from Long Island, George Santos. Because Santos is a Republican, his lies aren’t as acceptable to the Left as those of a Democrat would be for Democrats and their media flacks. But should they be acceptable to us on the Right? I admit to a certain degree of schadenfreude seeing a Republican capture high office using the same tactics used by our Democrat opponents; as Saul Alinsky noted in rule #4 for radicals, “make the enemy live up to their own rules.”
Here is the problem, though: once we accept the premise that “all politicians lie”, we lower the bar for all politicians; we establish lying as an acceptable criterion for politicians. I don’t accept that premise: I know plenty of politicians that are stand-up individuals and not liars.
Now, by a “lie,” I don’t mean the Democrat definition thereof as it applies to their opponents, which is basically anything they don’t agree with, along with exaggerations, and honest mistakes uttered in order to gain ground against one’s opponents. Come to think of it, the Democrat justifications for lying track closely with the Islamic concept of “Taqiyya,” where dissimulation is deemed perfectly okay as long as it advances the faith.
No, by “lie,” I mean a material lie uttered deliberately to hide malfeasance or advance one’s agenda. We should never accept this.
The late psychiatrist, M. Scott Peck, author of People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, devoted his career to understanding the roots of evil. He concluded that, starting with the Biblical story of Genesis, at the core of all human evil rests a lie. Peck described a dynamic whereby people begin as small children telling small lies that, if not called out, metastasize into bigger and bigger lies.
Liars, like all criminals, eventually justify their vice by claiming that “everyone does it,” so why shouldn’t they lie? And, because “all” people lie, no one can trust what other people say.
At some point on this trajectory, liars begin to lie to themselves, and that is where their worldviews depart from reality. There are all kinds of lies…lies of commission; lies of omission; lies of deflection, gaslighting….
Look around our country today and note the scale of damage that a culture of lies has done to our once-healthy Western society. Look at our social, news, and entertainment media and note how lies are celebrated for their brazenness.
Consider how much humor is wrapped into celebrating the brazenness of lies. Just look at our youth entertainment, even in such iconic youth movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (to cite just one example).
What on earth have we been teaching our kids? In much of our society today, lies are celebrated…as long as you get away with it. Really good liars become cultural and political icons.
Only 75 years ago, the United States, like most of northern Europe, was viewed as a “high-trust” society, where a high level of social trust allowed for healthy transactions between individuals to occur, buttressed by robust legal, political, and informational systems. This was a big factor that helped fuel our economy.
While some countries (e.g., the Nordic countries, Switzerland) still qualify as high-trust societies today, the past decades in the U.S. and many European countries have witnessed a breathtaking collapse of trust in our most important public and private institutions. I live in an area of our country where many transactions are still done with a handshake. Sadly, my county and others like it are the exception in America, not the rule.
Our moral and ethical collapse will continue as long as we accept that it is okay for others, especially politicians and institutions, to lie. The consequences are serious: low-trust countries and economies usually qualify as global laggards plagued by poor economies, social and political oppression, and internal conflicts.
Want an example? Look at Russia and the disastrous decisions it made vis à vis Ukraine, decisions that were founded on the web of lies interwoven throughout its security establishment. Russia faces disaster because it lied to itself and created an alternate reality built on falsehoods. We cannot hope to maintain our global leadership as a country if we devolve into a society of liars that lie with impunity.
The right response to our continued decline is for Republicans and conservatives once again to stand athwart our road to perdition, as conservative icon William F. Buckley once did, and yell, “Stop!” We should never allow ourselves to accept that lying is OK. If we do, then we become complicit in a long and painful decline to third-world status.
It is not for Democrats to pass judgment on Rep. George Santos; they have no standing to do so. Neither is it the purview of Congressional Republicans to remove Santos, as he was duly elected by his constituents. But he can be sanctioned in other ways: shunned, humiliated, and otherwise disgraced. The sanctioning of Santos should be done very publicly, in-house, by Republicans and other conservatives, as an example for all the world to see because there is so much at stake.
Danny Lemieux, a pseudonym, is a retired industry executive living the good life in rural Virginia.