Mero Moment: Weary of Lies

Like many of you I’m tired of this political season. Mentally tired of all of the lies – yes, lies. I don’t know if it’s possible for a presidential candidate to run for office without lying. Sometimes the lies are purposeful, like Obama on Benghazi, and sometimes they’re simply part of survival, like all of the flip-flopping by Romney.

Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote, “To tell the truth, rightly understood, is not just to state the true facts, but to convey a true impression.” I like that standard of honesty, but it’s a standard not met by many candidates. Campaign ads exist to paint mental pictures for voters about opponents. When Congressman Jim Matheson ran ads saying that Mia Love unjustifiably raised taxes as mayor of Saratoga Springs, he portrayed Love as a big spender. In reality, Mayor Love and the city council were tasked with raising taxes for a rapidly growing community – someone had to do it sooner or later. That didn’t make Love a big spender; it made her a leader.

In Salt Lake County, departing Mayor Peter Corroon just proposed raising property taxes 17.5 percent. The announcement came two days after the election for a new mayor, a seat won by Corroon’s Democratic friend Ben McAdams. Certainly county voters might have had some concerns with Democrats if Mayor Corroon announced his intentions prior to the election. That’s dishonesty in my book.

And it’s not like Republicans don’t lie. They do. Lying is the only truly bipartisan aspect of politics today. Even the media lies if we define honesty as conveying a true impression.

I’m tired of it all. I’m tired that lying seems to be so accepted in our political culture. But for many people seeking political power, the ends always justify the means. I was just re-reading a book about the homosexual campaign for public acceptance. Titled After the Ball, it was written in 1989. After arguing that flamboyant homosexuals go back in the closet while others, more mainstream-looking, fight for “gay rights,” the authors write,

The objection will be raised … that we are exchanging one false stereotype for another equally false; that our ads are lies; that that is not how all gays actually look; that gays know it and bigots know it. Yes, of course – we know it, too. But it makes no difference that the ads are lies; not to us, because we’re using them to ethically good effect. …

Evidently everyone’s cause is now so important – too big to fail – that an election, a campaign, an argument is the moral equivalent of justifiably lying to hide Jews from the Nazis.

America has changed significantly over the last two decades. It’s a land of fewer personal consequences. Politicians get away with lying because voters lie to themselves – they think they’re free even as they cry for more entitlements; they think they’re enlightened as they approve the casual use of mind-numbing narcotics; they think they’re tolerant as they encourage public expressions of private sexual behaviors; and, they think they’re fiscally responsible as they vote for candidates who pass mountains of debt onto future generations. Of course our politicians are going to lie to us! We beg them to lie to us.

What might be worse is that those voices trying to fill the void with truth are often void of truth themselves falling on platitudes from our Founding Fathers and extolling the virtues of selfishness as a political philosophy. Folks, it’s time for us to be honest with ourselves: If there’s a problem in our life, usually we’re the problem. First hold yourself accountable for your choices and then you’ll find it easier to hold accountable your elected officials.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.