Dishonesty in Politics

Being truthful: is it really that hard?  Some might say yes, and others no. For politicians, this seems to be an especially hard thing to do.

 

Anyone who’s even glimpsed at a newspaper or a television playing CNN or FOX News has surely seen some sign of dishonesty in our government and the people vying for positions in it.  Politicians and politics in general have quite possibly the worst reputation (with defense attorneys being one possible explanation) of any of what one may think of as the “common professions” (i.e. the sorts of jobs that are the first to pop into your mind when you think of the word “job” or “occupation”).  Why is this so?

 

To put it lightly, the reputation of politicians for being shady characters is not applied to them without grounds. If the corruption in our government that we have been made privy to as the public (which is likely only a small proportion of the corruption that exists and permeates through the bureaucratic system) is any indication, many politicians deserve to be called “shady” or “dirty” and much worse.

 

Of course, this by no means applies to all politicians. I am not trying to draw generalizations here or make the claim that every politician you see is a money-grubbing, close-fisted, good-for-nothing. I am merely trying to explore the reason for why our government appears to be such a fertile breeding ground for dishonesty.

 

This dishonesty is perhaps nowhere more prevalent than in a candidate’s bid for election. No matter what the office in mind is, whether it be the presidency or House of Representatives seat for Rhode Island, election campaigns seem to attract all sorts of deception and dishonesty. Why would a candidate lie in a speech or add something to their platform that they don’t truly support?

 

The simple answer: votes.  Let’s face it. Whatever a politician may define his or her personal goal or job, he or she very likely cannot accomplish that goal without being elected into a position of power.  And what does one need to get elected into such a position of power? You got it: votes.

 

But where’s the connection between lying and votes? It’s really pretty simple. The easiest way to get the most votes is to appeal to the widest variety of people as possible and convince them that you are concerned about the same things they are concerned about, and that if enough of them vote to put you in office, you will do something significant about that issue that they care about, whether it be education, taxes, foreign affairs, etc.

 

Here’s where the lying comes into play. Realistically, no one person can feel the same way as the majority of the voting populace does about every single thing, and even if you could, it’s not very likely that upon getting into your desired office you can make significant advancements towards solving or improving every single issue that you claimed to care about in your campaign speeches.

 

Part of this is due to the fact that our government’s structure makes it almost impossible for one person to affect significant change all by himself (but this is a whole different issue for another day), and another part of this is due to the fact that the politician who promised you that he felt just as passionately as you do about a lot of those issues doesn’t really care.

 

More likely than not, he or she was just saying that the issue was important, when in reality, they have no concrete plans for bringing about the change you wanted. This is the game of politics.

 

So if you ask the question, “Is it necessary for politicians to lie in their campaign speeches?” I would venture that the answer is “yes,” to a degree.  If the politician wants to be elected, then it may very well be necessary for him or her to lie to some degree about what he or she intends to when elected.

 

Of course, it’s always possible that there are some completely honest politicians out there, and I’m sure that there are. They just might not be very successful.

 

This issue of honesty in politics raises an interesting point given the recent current events in politics: Specifically, Obama’s assertion that he supports gay marriage. Does he really feel this way? Or is this claim just another desperate attempt to rally a few more voters to his side before election time? I suppose that we can never really know, but it’s definitely something worth thinking about.

 

Spencer Grimes is a fourth-year English major. He can be reached at sgrimes@uci.edu.