Face it: The American economy has improved over the last eight years. In fact we now know that for 75 straight months, jobs have grown. The economy continues to improve. The Affordable Care Act gives a promise of coverage for pre-existing conditions and the right to insure your offspring through age 26. It gives help with premiums depending on income. Millions have insurance now who didn’t before its enactment, and millions continue to avail themselves of it despite the Republican commitment to repeal the law.
Yet the president-elect will be sworn into office on Friday after castigating President Obama and swearing to finally “Make America Great Again”. He’s nominated cabinet member after cabinet member with no experience in government or the area governed by the agency which they will lead, like Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy and Ben Carson for HUD.
So I have asked myself over and over this tortured and burning question: If things are going so much better — slowly but surely — why would 64,000,000 people fall for a pitch to “Make America Great Again” from a crass television entertainer whose businesses have failed a half dozen times, who won’t pay his creditors, and who can’t pick a better cabinet than a handful of rich people with no experience?
Do we just need someone to tell us lies? Does lying not bother us? Does the fact that everybody lies play into this equation?
I thought about what people didn’t like about President Obama. This one poses more difficulty for me since I like him very much. He’s helped our nation, he seems to have a good marriage and be a good father. His youngest daughter missed his last formal speech as President because she had a test the next day! That fact alone raised the Obamas in my esteem — Barack and Michelle as parents; all four of them as a family.
Unquestionably, the president-elect distorts the truth. He lies. No question. No question. The press exposed him time and time again. He does not seem fazed but nonetheless, we know he lies. So how is it that 64,000,000 voters gave him their faith? How is it that so many wanted him to lead our nation?
“The lies that we accept from politicians right now are lies that are seen as acceptable because it’s what we want to hear,” like a spouse saying that an outfit flatters you, Robert Feldman at the University of Massachusetts concluded in a study of students who lie.
Or perhaps we feel that lying is necessary.
“People want their politicians to lie to them. The reason that people want their politicians to lie them is that people care about politics,” said Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. “You understand that Washington is a dirty place and that lying is actually very helpful to get your policies implemented.”
I found myself looking at Barack Obama and Donald Trump in a different light. I asked myself, What is different about these men?
Obama: Composed, measured, careful, studious.
Trump: Loud, flippant, impetuous, casual.
The two men couldn’t be more different. I would expect President Obama to tell truth no matter how difficult. He spoke that truth of racial divisiveness in his farewell speech, though some say “too little too late”. For someone like myself, who appreciates honesty and directness, Obama presents as the logical choice to lead us.
On the other hand, I definitely assume President-elect Trump will lie. Since I value the truth and appreciate someone who tells the truth, he’s not my candidate. If I were the type to rub my hands together in glee and chortle over a guy who’ll sling arrows, kick butt, take no names, and get the job done regardless of what it takes, he might appeal to my gut instincts about what makes a good leader.
To accept him, I have to overlook his crassness, his misogyny, and his proclivity to take advantage of those in weaker positions. Perhaps tolerance of these defects seems more possible for those who want their politicians to get down and dirty to advance their agenda.
Or maybe his voters just hate women, minorities, poor people, and immigrants. It’s one or the other. Or both. I know this for sure: If we let him proceed unchallenged, he and his team will lie about anything, apparently because they feel empowered to lie to us.
But consider that Americans want to know that elected officials can lie to get what they want or what they think their voters want. Trump’s election makes a bit more sense viewed in that light.
The need for all this arm-chair psychology sickens me. If it doesn’t sicken you, then all I can say is: Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.