Wednesday, December 7, 2011

True or False: Politicians NEED to Lie

Politicians lie, and often the biggest liars are the most successful politicians. Why? There are several reasons, the greatest being that politicians must tell us what we want to hear or we won't vote for them. The general public is not interested in long lectures about why the deficit is so large, why unemployment is rampant, why Wall Street needs a bailout...what we want to hear is that it will get better.

In order to appeal to a majority of the people, politicians must identify their target voters and tailor their message to suit them. Currently, the Tea Party has become a very vocal group within the conservative demographic. The Tea Party agenda drove the narrative that determined the outcome of several key congressional races during the last election. As a result, presidential hopefuls in the Republican Party are engineering their platforms to emphasize cutting taxes, reducing the deficit, and cutting spending. The hard truth is that it's not possible to do all of those things at the same time without serious cuts to popular programs such as Medicare and Social Security or to defense spending. Mathematically this can be proven, but voters don't care for a tutorial on economics.

Politicians must take a firm stand on issues of morality that are important to their constituents. Abortion and gay marriage are two subjects that must be dealt with for the successful candidate. Though the politician might not have strong feelings either way, or see shades of gray, voters tend to support the person who views the subject as they do. A candidate will be penalized for ambiguity on such issues, so he will pay lip service to popular opinion.

The media and corporate sponsorship of political candidates have served to make electoral seasons almost like a sports event. Voters choose sides and root for their team. Slick ads have taken on the appearance of blockbuster movie trailers. Debates are modern gladiatorial theaters where opponents eviscerate each other to score points. The battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination was bitter. Who could predict that Obama would then appoint Clinton as his Secretary of State? This illustrates the fact that campaigns are indeed political theater, not real life. All issues and differences are magnified to the point of caricature. While this presents an entertaining spectacle, is it what is best for the country?

In the real world, individuals of all races, religions, and political persuasions must cooperate in order to function. In politics, however, nothing is at it seems. The public doesn't hold its leaders to the same standards and rules that the rest of us must follow. Honesty is rarely rewarded. No one enjoys being given bitter medicine. So politicians don their flannel shirts and hop in a pickup truck to tour the heartland. The Harvard Law grad is transformed into a barbecue-eating good old boy. The populace is once again lulled by promises that will not be kept, because they don't have to be.

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