I admit it. I find the discussions surrounding Donald Trump’s penchant for the big lie and the pathological need of both Trump and his allies to spin every fact beyond recognition to be exceedingly frustrating. There’s really nothing to be discussed. There are only truths – let me say it again, Truths, like in the Declaration: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident…”
Our system of government, to run properly, relies, at each respective level on truths. The public cannot reasonably judge candidates for election unless it has access to the relevant information concerning those candidates. The premise of the electoral process is that the public has sufficient information to make that judgement. Our system of laws, regulations, and judicial process rests on the ability of judges and juries to ascertain, fairly, what is true. Witnesses are sworn, under penalty of perjury, to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” We allow for subpoenas, and depositions, and search warrants, because proper government demands access to, and respect for truth. In defense of those truths, we impose penalties for perjury and award damages for libel and slander. To ensure access to those truths, we guarantee a free press. We protect the right of free speech so that where truth is uncertain, the matter can be freely debated.
Do you follow? An elected official, be he Alderman, or Senator, or President, is bound by his duties, by his loyalty to this system of government, to pay honor to reality as best he can determine it. While there are obvious exceptions that have been made in time of war, or for other national security matters, an official who otherwise deliberately misrepresents or conceals important truths is subverting our system. I’m not trying to be a Puritan about this, or naive. I recognize that your average politician is factually challenged on a good day. Most of us carry around disturbing pockets of ignorance. We tolerate white lies and puffery and succumb to urges to make ourselves look better. I think our system should and does look past a good deal of that.
But the big lies – the one’s crafted for a purpose, that play on the public’s ignorance, those lies subvert our democracy. For example, claiming without evidence that a sitting President was born in Kenya, crafting that lie and then repeating it and repeating it because it took hold, that variety of malicious lie is, in my view, disqualifying, in and of itself. We don’t need more to judge that person. The lies are made explicitly to subvert. Alleging without evidence that large scale voter fraud occurred, claiming that there was proof of that fraud when there is none, and doing so for the purpose of making it more difficult for minorities to vote – those lies subvert our democracy. When an official lies as a matter of routine, insists those lies are true, and then makes policy based on those lies, it is time for the official to be called out and held responsible. It is not sufficient for that official to claim as justification “that I won.” As I said above, Mr. Trump, there’s really nothing to discuss.