Can honesty be a policy, please?
Last night’s Republican candidate debate kicked off what is sure to be a long election season of bold claims, political promises, and high-flying rhetoric.
But, as the New York Times reports, many of the candidates got their facts simply wrong or exaggerated and took out of context many comments when criticizing each other and their Democratic counterparts.
The use of rhetoric to try to sway an audience has been around since at least the time of the Greek sophists; understandably, candidates of any political party running for any type of office try to say things that will win votes, and statistics can be manipulated and interpreted to support virtually any claim. It’s disheartening that misusing statistics and stating with authority claims that are blatantly false (or even mildly misleading) in order to gain power has become engrained in our culture.
Constituents have a right to be told the truth when making choices to inform who they want to speak as their representative in our government, and to have these truths come directly from the candidates themselves. Though keeping informed is a display of good citizenship, we shouldn’t have to turn to websites such as factcheck.org or politifact.com to validate the claims made by or about political candidates.
Also troubling is that these people seeking to represent us in the government often seem to lack an understanding of U.S. history – recent examples of Sarah Palin’s muffed description of Paul Revere’s ride and Michele Bachmann misplacing the battles at Lexington and Concord come to mind. What gets recorded in history is arguably subjective and imprecise, but basic tenets can be agreed upon and verified, including that the “shots heard round the world” took place in Massachusetts, not New Hampshire. These prominent figures have even tried to pass off their errors as the truth, rather than accepting that they had made a mistake, just as all humans being inevitably and repeatedly do.
Wouldn’t it be great if honesty became the policy best employed by our present and future policy makers?