We’re all liars; we’re not all racists

So, I had an amazing time speaking to the whole 5th grade at my son Evan’s elementary school yesterday.  And, yes, I did teach them all about the electoral college, the power of partisanship, and even motivated reasoning.  Evan’s class is roughly 75% minority, many of them immigrant families, so suffice it to say they were not exactly Trump fans.

They had so many good questions.  The most interesting, “is Donald Trump a racist.”  I said that we couldn’t say for sure, but that racists loved Donald Trump, he strongly appeals to “white ethnocentrism” (I told them they were getting a little bit of college for the day), and that even Republicans had criticized him for making “racist comments.”

Anyway, that said, a depressing comment came from a student who mentioned a family friend who was voting for “neither the liar nor the racist.”  Ugh.  How about not voting for the racist liar?  This is so frustrating, of course, because Donald Trump is surely the most dishonest presidential candidate in modern times, if not ever.  Dara Lind:

It takes a certain kind of stubbornness to lie about things that are easy to verify.

Donald Trump does it all the time.

On Monday night, during the first presidential debate, he interrupted Hillary Clinton to deny that he had once called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.

He had. It was on Twitter. It was stupidly easy to track down the proof. But instead of letting Clinton make the claim, he felt the need to butt in and deny something that everyone with a computer and 15 seconds could find out was true.

This is the point. Donald Trump lies. All the time.

He doesn’t just stretch the truth in the way most politicians do: selectively citing facts that make them look good, deliberately omitting ones that make them look bad, overstating or understating the probable impact of the campaign promises they make.

No, he just says things that aren’t true. And he knows it. Sometimes it’s something big — a conspiracy theory to excuse his global-warming denialism. Sometimes it’s so minor that its unnecessariness makes it all the more infuriating…

It almost seems like it would be easier for Trump to tell the truth. But lying certainly hasn’t hurt him yet.

Even though factcheckers deploy their forces on Trump regularly, he never apologizes or retracts. Calling out his lies doesn’t make his supporters any less loyal to him. People consistently find him more “honest and trustworthy” than his opponent. He still has a reasonable chance of becoming the 45th president of the United States…

Donald Trump lies. It’s what he does. And it’s not hurting him at all.

His nonchalant dishonesty is horrifying. The fact that much of the American public simply doesn’t appear to care about his dishonesty — or that they don’t consider it a deal breaker for a potential president of the United States to tell several lies even on his most honest days — is more so…

We are looking at an existential threat to a key principle of democratic discourse: People can only debate and persuade each other if they agree on the basic facts of the world around them. They are entitled to their own opinions but not entitled to their own facts.

Every single time Donald Trump lies, that principle gets a little shakier and harder to maintain.

Politics isn’t poetry. A statement that is facially false but that hits at an emotional truth is still facially false. And it makes it all the harder for people who respond to the emotional truth to talk to those who don’t — they have no shared basis on which to discuss.

Shared facts should be the bedrock of democracy; Trump is turning it into a Jenga tower.

And, yet Hillary is the liar?!  Sorry, but cannot say anything but, “thanks liberal media” for that.  Of course Hillary has lied.  More than most long-time politicians?  Maybe, but not by more than a standard deviation.  Maybe less.  Meanwhile she is regularly portrayed as “the liar” against the most dishonest candidate ever?!

But, here’s what I said to the students… “raise your hand if you’ve ever lied.”  Of course, they all did.  We all lie.  Some more than others (ummm, Trump), but it’s part of the human condition.  Actually having automatically-activated racial stereotypes is part of the human condition, too.  But  being a racist definitely is not.  Even if this dichotomy were accurate, I would have to take the liar over the racist.  We’re all liars; we’re not all racists.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

2 Responses to We’re all liars; we’re not all racists

  1. Jon K says:

    Hillary Clinton will never overcome the distaste that the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy has instilled in many voters about who Hillary Clinton is and what she represents. Of course, her personal inclinations towards secrecy, equivocating, and reinforcing those beliefs don’t help her cause. After all, she is responsible for using her private email server and deciding to not disclose having pneumonia.

    Talking to kids at that age about politics is also enlightening because at that age they are largely just repeating what they have heard adults say about politics.

  2. R. Jenrette says:

    Why is Hillary supposed to be so secretive when it’s Trump who won’t disclose his income tax forms? That’s in the playbook for “How To Run For President 101”.
    She’s the dishonest one? We can’t even count all the lies he has been delivering.
    She’s the corrupt one? He’s the one who gave money to the Florida AG who then decided to stay out of the investigation of Trump U. the very “U” being one of the lies.
    The Clintons have been targets of a very real right wing conspiracy because they could win elections and so were dangerous opponents to those who want to keep their power and wealth intact.

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