Political lies: A tool, a tactic or a threat to democracy? (2024)

Opinion

Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the interpretation of facts and data.

  • Grace Bellinghausen,The Times
  • 0

Political lies: A tool, a tactic or a threat to democracy? (1)

Grace Bellinghausen,The Times

Lying: a sin to some, a tactic to others.

Political lies: A tool, a tactic or a threat to democracy? (2)

In 1800, the biography of America's first president, George Washington, recounted a story of him chopping down a cherry tree with a hatchet he had received as a gift. When his father came home, he was initially upset with young Washington but proud of his honesty when the young lad said, "I cannot tell a lie... I did cut it with my hatchet."

This story was a fabrication by the author, Mason Locke Weems. Nevertheless, for centuries it served as proof of Washington's private virtues, which supposedly led to his public greatness. When done correctly, deception can be a powerful tool.

Watching the first presidential debate last week resembled an episode of Bravo's franchise: 'The Real Housewives of D.C.,' more than political discourse. Fueled by bullying, slander and lies, the world watched as democracy took a familiar form—dividing the American people, normalizing name-calling, and most importantly, misguiding citizens with a string of falsehoods.

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Populism is, "a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups." Under populism, which has been apparent in many presidencies from Andrew Jackson to Donald Trump, there is an "othering" of dissenters.

In Trump's case, this includes all people who do not subscribe to MAGA, those who fight for women's rights to abortion, and immigrants— to name a few.

The more a populist candidate rouses the American people to be upset with these groups, the more they could "other" them and gain votes. Both parties have been known to use slander and hearsay to put down one group for the sake of making theirs party look better.

One hour after the debate, following the collective sigh let out by prospective voters as they powered their TV off and went to bed, CNN's Daniel Dale fact-checked the Presidential Debate between current President Joe Biden and Trump, finding 39 total false or misleading statements made by both candidates during the debate.

While I won't be covering all of Trump's30 lies CNN fact checkers reported, I chose a few stated by Trump during the debate and divided them into four categories:

Misrepresenting policies and legislation

Political lies: A tool, a tactic or a threat to democracy? (3)

Incorrect claims of events that occurred under Trump's administration

Misleading statements about Democrat politicians

Political lies: A tool, a tactic or a threat to democracy? (4)

  • “What he’s (Joe Biden) done to the Black population is horrible, including the fact that for 10 years he called them 'superpredators.'”
    • Hillary Clinton said this in1996 at a campaign eventsupporting a 1994 crime bill. While the wording was ambiguous at the time, it contributed to the mass incarceration of black communities. Biden did sign this bill at the time but later apologized in 2019 for his part in its passing. There's no record of him ever using the term "superpredator."
  • Referring to the Jan. 6 2021, insurrection he stated:“Because I offered her (then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) 10,000 soldiers or National Guard and she turned them down.”

Economic and trade inaccuracies

While I also won't cover all nine lies, Biden's false statements can be divided into threecategories:

Policy misrepresentation

Political lies: A tool, a tactic or a threat to democracy? (5)

  • "It's $15 for an insulin shot, as opposed to $400."
    • The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act that Biden is referencing capped out-of-pocket insulin prices for Americans on Medicare at $35.The studyhe's referencing also stated that adults with Medicare pay $450 yearly before the law, not monthly.

Inaccurate facts and figures

Political lies: A tool, a tactic or a threat to democracy? (6)

Exaggerations

Political lies: A tool, a tactic or a threat to democracy? (7)

  • He stated that the Border Patrol"endorsed (his) position,"but he was referencing his bipartisan border bill, not his presidency which the language suggested.
  • "Many people were dying. All he said was it's not that serious, just inject a little bleach in your arm. You'll be all right."
    • In May 2020 he said: "I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that." While he didn't outright tell people to do inject disinfectant, his comments are still worrisome.

Whether it's a hatchet or a headline, lies have always been a tactic in politics. Yet, democracy thrives on truth, and while falsehoods may win battles, it's honesty that ultimately sustains the trust and integrity needed for a functioning society. A democracy built on lies is like a house of cards—impressive in the short term but inevitably destined to collapse.

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Political lies: A tool, a tactic or a threat to democracy? (2024)
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