Donald Trump’s campaign strategy, while innovative in many alarming ways, didn’t invent the notion of lying. For years politicians and presidential candidates have bent the truth to garner public support.
Yet it seems now that public acceptance of political lies is at an all-time high. So how do we, as voters, respond to these lies? One solution has taken shape in the overwhelming number of debate fact-checks that accompanied this past debate.
Making up facts has been the backbone of Trump’s platform. It has been a year of forged truths, deleted tweets and denial, and the debate was no exception to this pattern. From suggesting the United States should have just taken Iraq’s oil — an illegal act under international law — to saying that Hillary Clinton has been fighting ISIL her entire adult life, you have to sift through all of Trump’s statements to find any thread of truth.
While it’s easy to place the blame on a former reality television star who takes credit for letting the public know that our president for the last eight years was born in the United States, Trump isn’t the sole player in this fact-checking phenomenon. The public opinion of Clinton’s untrustworthiness shaped her entire campaign — and career. Throughout the debate, Clinton, also fell into a pattern of avoiding the truth.
Trump, though, created a distinct form of lying during his campaign. His distance from the political world grants him the privilege to fashion a persona in which lying is the norm and acceptable. Rather than just dancing around the truth, Trump blatantly lies and denies ever having done so. By appealing to citizens who are not familiar with the facts, Trump’s lies set a dangerous precedent for lying in popular politics. The fact that he is a presidential candidate of a major and established party only cements this new acceptance of lying.
The response to this new form is an abundance of debate fact-checks. NPR, PolitiFact, The New York Times and many other news sources had online live fact-checks annotating every fabrication a candidate said. Even Clinton mentioned the fact-check on her own campaign website that ran live during Monday’s debate.
At what point did it become acceptable for candidates to fictionalize the issues to reach supporters? While our political system has never perfectly addressed the issue of staying true to their word, blatant disrespect for truth should not become the norm.
The voter’s responsibility lies in educating themselves on the issues and the candidates’ platforms in order to form an opinion on who to vote for. It is the candidates’ responsibility to tell the truth. When either of these two variables does not do its job, our political system begins to lean toward dysfunctional. Fact-checks are only a tool voters can use to inform themselves. The question is: Will they?
Rebecca Klar is a senior majoring in English.