Monday, 19 December 2016

Trump exposes the "truth" myth

One of the most common comments voters make about politicians is "I wish they would just tell us the truth." If only that were true. But it isn't. Voters don't want to be told the truth, they want politicians to say what they, the voters, want to hear, things that reassure them in their prejudices.

One of the few favours Donald Trump has done us is expose that fact. Trump is a flamboyant liar. He lies with gusto and glee. He is a showman and like any good showman, he plays to his audience, telling a crowd whatever it wants to hear. And yet Trump supporters insist that their hero "tells it like it is." Actually, he mostly tells it like it isn't. Climate change, for example, according to the Donald, is a Chinese hoax designed to undermine the American economy. Bullshit yes, but it carried him to victory.

One refrain that political audiences especially like to hear is that they aren't responsible for their problems. "They" are responsible. In Trump's world, "they" are immigrants, or Muslims, or the liberal media, or the Chinese, anybody but old stock white Americans. His audiences love every bit of it, truth be damned. Perhaps no demagogic strategy is more effective than scapegoating, no appeal more compelling than an appeal to the tribe.

But Trump's "deplorables" aren't alone in their need for reassurance at any price. Unfortunately, citizens across the spectrum appreciate a little rabble-rousing from time to time. Any politician who cleaves too closely to the truth puts himself at a disadvantage. Successful politicians are inclined to say what pleases their audience, usually with a great deal less dissembling than Trump, but nonetheless something less than the truth. And that, unfortunately, is exactly what we want from them. We do, indeed, get the politicians we deserve.

1 comment:

Pamela Mac Neil said...

I think many people choose their political parties the way they choose their sports teams, with the difference being that they don't show up at their political rallies with paint on their faces.