Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom. ~Thomas Jefferson
Thanks to the highly charged nature of our elections, there has been a great deal of conversation in the public discourse that is simply untrue. Barack Obama is a Muslim bent on taking away our guns. The Affordable Health Care Act is a socialist take over of healthcare. There is significant voter fraud in this country. All lies and half-truths that can be easily proven false by a quick review of the facts. Sadly, there are those who despite the obvious invalidity of these statements continue to assert them as fact. This blatant disregard for the truth has disturbing consequences for society.
Lying about our elected officials undermines their ability to craft quality policy. Say what you will about the U.S. President, but he has accomplished a great deal since coming into office. Not the least of which, was the Affordable Care Act. Sadly, this law has been unfairly characterized by its opponents as a “job killing” socialist take over of the healthcare system in America. Never mind the fact the bill was actually evidence of reaching across the aisle and taking reform ideas from there very same people who are now calling for its repeal. This blatant dishonesty makes it increasingly difficult for elected officials to craft and push policies that should be overwhelmingly supported by their constituents, but are instead bogged down by a campaign of misinformation aimed solely at discrediting the credibility of those who hold an opposing view to those spreading the disinformation.
Dishonesty increases partisan division. A great deal has been said about the divide between the two major political ideologies in America. One of the major reasons for this is both sides present claims that are in direct opposition to one another. While I would argue one side tends to rely more on facts and logic when crafting their arguments, the reality is the right and left tend to stretch or flat-out ignore the truth when it is to their advantage. Furthermore, thanks to the internet, it is easy to find sources that will reinforce our preconceived notions: no matter how untrue they may be. This encourages a rigidity in ideological ideals that loses sight of the realities of policy, which further exacerbates the already divisive climate of our current political discourse.
As the dishonesty of rhetoric increases it is difficult to determine what is true and what is fabrication. With so many politicians, analysts, and other experts making assertions with little basis in fact it becomes increasingly difficult to wade through the murk to ascertain the true nature of things. Couple this with the fact there is always another politician or expert willing to disagree with something regardless of whether there disagreement has any basis in reality, it is no wonder so many people are turned off by political discussion. It is hard to have a civil discussion, when at least one side must not be telling the truth. Furthermore, as I’ve mentioned before, the media in their attempts to remain unbiased are hesitant to call a spade a spade when it comes to blatantly false statements leaving the citizenry to either take the words of those they already agree with, or spend countless hours they probably do not have doing the in-depth research needed to ascertain the truth.
The dangers of dishonesty in the public discourse undermines our elected officials ability to create policy, leads to increased partisan division, and makes it increasingly difficult to determine what is and is not true. It is our moral imperative as society to work towards reversing this disturbing trend. We must do our best to vet any statements made by digging just a bit deeper when researching the things public officials say. Not allowing assertions that are obviously untrue to go unchallenged. Anything less does a disservice to the democratic process and the validity of those we elect.