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IPFS News Link • Political Theory

Politicians Will Always Be Damn Rascals

•, by Jim Bovard

Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg proclaimed that Trump was guilty of taking steps with "the end of keeping information away from the electorate."

Cue the casino scene from the movie Casablanca, with the French officer lamenting that he was "shocked, shocked" to find gambling on the premises.

Lying is practically the job description for politicians. Economist John Burnheim, in his 1985 book Is Democracy Possible?, wrote of electoral campaigns: "Overwhelming pressures to lie, to pretend, to conceal, to denigrate or sanctify are always present when the object to be sold is intangible and its properties unverifiable until long after the time when the decision to buy can be reversed."

A successful politician is often merely someone who bamboozled more voters than the other liar running for office. Dishonesty is the distinguishing trait of the political class. Thomas Jefferson observed in 1799, "Whenever a man casts a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct." One carpetbagging Reconstruction-era Louisiana governor declared, "I don't pretend to be honest. I only pretend to be as honest as anybody in politics."

A lie that is accepted by a sufficient number of ignorant voters becomes a political truth. Legitimacy in contemporary democracy often consists merely of lying to get a license to steal. Candidates have almost unlimited prerogative to deceive the voters as long as they do not directly use force or violence during election campaigns. And once they capture office, they can use government power against those they deceived.

Trump is being legally hounded eight years after a presidential campaign that was a bipartisan farce. Americans recognized they had a choice of scoundrels. A September 2016 Gallup poll found that only 33% of voters believed Hillary Clinton was honest and trustworthy, and only 35% trusted Trump. Gallup noted, "Americans rate the two candidates lowest on honesty." The combined chicanery of Clinton and Trump made "post-truth" the Oxford English Dictionary's 2016 word of the year. But according to prosecutor Bragg, Trump's alleged payoff to Stormy Daniels was a greater sin against democracy than Hillary Clinton deleting 30,000 emails from her time as secretary of state that a congressional committee subpoenaed in 2015 and her lying to FBI agents in July 2016.