I know that there are controversies about how reliable political fact checkers are, and I know that they certainly have their own bias that influences what facts they say are true and false. However, I think we can agree that both candidates misled the audience a lot on Monday night.
Of course, many people will come back and say that their own particular candidate was less dishonest than the other, but since when does that become the standard that we used to define acceptable behavior especially as Christians?
That is one definite thing I took away from this debate on Monday night. We expect our coworkers to be honest, our family members to tell the truth and our children to grow up learning that honesty is the best policy. Then, we apply a different set of standards to the people who are running for president. Why do we do that?
I’m not really sure, but part of this makes me think back to the “noble lie” of Socrates in the Republic. Essentially, he speaks about the creation of a national mythology that justifies the creation of the class system in the ideal city that he is outlining. Even though that story would knowingly be false, Socrates believes that the good of the city being organized in a certain way justifies the lie that has to be told.
Is that similar to what we see from political candidates? Maybe they don’t mind bending the truth if necessary because the end of their victory justifies the means of getting there. They know that they will do good for the country, and they know that the other person will be awful. Therefore, it is better for society overall if they lie in order to bring about the better outcome.
Perhaps their motivation is noble, and perhaps their motivation is not noble. I am not going to go down the road of psychologically evaluating our presidential candidates. However, it would not be hard to believe that a presidential candidate could believe something quite a bit like Socrates. Assuming they are relatively decent people, if they are going to lie, I would hope that they have something else at stake rather than simply their own selfish interests.
That isn’t good enough for me however. It concerns me one we fall into a situation of trying to justify dishonesty from our presidential candidates.
Let's say that I was the least honest person in the world, and you are the second least honest person in the world. It would be entirely true to say that you are less dishonest than me, but that still doesn’t make you a good person if some 7 billion other people are more honest than you are.
As Christians then, we ought to look for a higher standard than this. We are people who are after all trying not to bear false witness as outlined in the Ten Commandments. Why don’t we demand the same from a politician? Wouldn’t that revolutionize American politics if we actually demanded that candidates need to earn our votes by being honest as a baseline?
Before we even consider other positions, the candidate needs to be honest. I don’t think that would be a bad litmus test. Maybe we ought to demand that candidate earns our vote rather than simply being the lesser of two evils.