Here we are, caught in between that time between the two national conventions of the major political parties. Perhaps even more saddening is the fact that we are caught between two major candidates that we don’t really like. It’s no secret that in this election, the two major candidates are as about as popular as such things as rabies and pneumonia. In fact, these two candidates are probably the the least liked candidates in the history of electoral politics.
The common refrain from opponents of these candidates is their inability to tell the truth. Whether we like it or not, Mrs. Clinton is someone who at worst, bends the truth to her own advantage, or at best, participates in games of revisionist history to make the past transgressions not seem so important or at least trivial. Mr. Trump also has his own issues with the truth; the website politifact has shown that 59 percent of his statements are either “False” or “Pants on Fire” (which is the website’s saying it’s worse than false).
And while both these candidates struggle with the truth, I have noticed that there are significant contrasts to how they practice their own brand of deceivery. Mrs. Clinton’s falsehoods come from a place of where she is telling a new story on previous actions or facts. Mr. Trump on the other hand, tells falsehoods about others or other things. In a simplistic sense, Mrs. Clinton is one who would vehemently deny that she ever had her hand in the cookie jar. Mr. Trump on the other hand, would claim that they weren’t cookies.
All of this really hurts me, because as society votes in November, we know we are going to elect someone that has serious character flaws. And it hurts because I almost feel that I have to play a game of balancing moral and ethical equivalency. Is there more or less moral implications of someone who bears false witness to themselves, like Mrs. Clinton, or bears false witness to someone else, like Mr. Trump. It’s a dangerous game to play and it puts us in judgement of others. This election almost makes it sound like one brand of falsehoods is somehow superior to another.
So, what exactly does all this mean? Why is the ability to tell the truth so important? Perhaps it’s not the truth in itself we look for in our political leaders, rather it is a sense of predictive trust. In my mind, predictive trust is the sense that we know the actions that someone will take. Truth becomes a barometer of that predictive trust. If we know someone and we believe them to be truthful, we have a good idea on the actions they will take.
When we think about Mrs. Clinton, perhaps there is no truth, but there is a sense of predictive trust. Many people believe that Mrs. Clinton will take action in a way that may cause her to explain her actions later in a manner that will whitewash facts or re-write history. In the same vein, many people believe that Mr. Trump has no sense of predictive trust.
Mr. Trump’s blunt demeanor shows a no-holds-barred approach that makes it seem that Mr. Trump would and could do anything if elected. To some that is a new and refreshing approach to national politics. To others, that approach is so scary it can’t even be accurately described.
As a country, we still have three months to go through this election season and it’s too early to determine which candidate will be successful and which candidate will not. But, we all know over the next dozen or so weeks, we will be bombarded with more television advertisements, direct mail pieces and our social media feeds will be filled with either passion or vitriol, depending on how you look at it.
We are going to be tested time and time again as our emotions and our thoughts will be pushed to the edge as we read and think about this campaign. Above all else, I hope that we can at least exercise patience and understanding with one another. We can disagree without being disagreeable.
William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at [email protected]