Transparency and secrecy: How honesty might decide this election

The 2016 presidential election cycle has been a strange one, to say the least.  With unconventional candidates, unexpected developments, and disappointed voters on both sides of the political fence, American citizens are wondering what factors will be the turning point for this contentious and volatile election.

Unfortunately, as with most elections, it’s unlikely that a simple evaluation of plans and issues will decide the popular vote.  Instead, this election may come down to which candidate can provide a better sense of trust and security.  As Security Baron points out, Americans are becoming increasingly obsessed with personal security and transparency, with camera control and other technologies becoming more commonplace in residential areas.  Accordingly, the victorious candidate may simply be the one who produces the most trust.

Honesty and Transparency

Honesty – telling the truth when questioned or provoked – and transparency – willingly admitting and exposing information, rather than hiding it may be the keys to winning voter trust and securing this election.  But why are honesty and transparency so important for presidential candidates?

  • Security.  First, candidates who are open and honest provide a greater sense of security.  They seem more in control, more in charge, and better equipped to handle dangerous or volatile situations.
  • Fear of deception.  Second, candidates who are transparent and honest have nothing to hide.  Politicians are frequently (and often correctly) assumed to be hiding things to further their political careers but what they hide could have devastating consequences, such as hiding a political belief or covering up a major scandal.
  • Role modeling. The president also serves as the leader of our nation and a role model for our citizens.  In some ways, an honest, transparent president can encourage the development of a more honest, transparent country.

So how are candidates Trump and Clinton doing with the “honesty and transparency” angle?

Clinton’s Scandals and Health

Presidential candidate Clinton has been struggling to build trust among voters since the beginning of the election season.  The email scandal revealed several months ago illustrated that the candidate may have something to hide from voters or may not be able to be trusted as much as a presidential candidate should.  Her further efforts to cover up, dismiss, or refuse acknowledgment of the scandal only heightened prospective voters’ distrust.

The problems have been growing worse, as Clinton’s recent health turmoil has cast doubt over whether she’s truly physically fit as a presidential candidate and why she’s going through such trouble to cover up her potential health issues.  The combination of these factors is making it difficult for Democrats and Republicans to trust Clinton.

Trump’s Refusals and Dismissals

All this would make Trump seem like the more trustworthy candidate by default, but Trump is having his own problems achieving a degree of honesty and transparency with voters.  Perhaps the biggest sign of mistrust is his inability to spell out a position on practically any issue unambiguously.  Trump strives to leave room for malleability, and possibly even reversal, when disclosing his positions.  Rather than adopting a clear opinion, he cultivates an air of unpredictability, making it difficult for voters to know exactly what his plans are.

The trust problems for Trump are growing worse with his outright refusal to publish his tax returns.  One of Trump’s greatest advantages as a candidate is his ability and success as a businessman; the fact that he’s withholding his tax information suggests there’s something he doesn’t want the American public to know about his dealings.

A Path Forward

If Trump wants to win this election, the best thing he can do is show that he’s a more honest, transparent, and trustworthy candidate than his opponent.  That might call for the publication of records, the admittance of wrongdoing, or simply a more candid demeanor.  Though many voters have already made up their minds, one candidate making the reach for more trust could be enough to persuade the undecided voters who still remain.

Watch carefully how each candidate develops trust in the population, and I can almost guarantee you’ll be able to guess who comes out on top in November.