Our public square is plagued by habitual, brazen lying. This isn’t entirely new — there have always been some politicians who lied — but I do not believe this country can long survive if the public concedes in advance that people in government do not need to be consistently aiming to tell the truth. In other words, it’s one thing to elect someone who ends up lying to us after the fact. (That’s terrible.) But it’s another thing entirely to conclude in advance that they are both liars, and simply shrug and elect them anyway. That does something to the national soul that tears at the fabric of who we are.
By the way, this is a good time to say that if you really think one of the two presidential frontrunners is genuinely trustworthy, then fine, you should vote and sleep soundly. Sadly, I do not regard either of them as worthy of our trust. This matters a great deal, because before I can vote for someone, a minimum-bar prerequisite is that I must believe that, on January 20, 2017, he or she would be taking the oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution” and actually mean it.
Today, I do not have this confidence about either of the current frontrunners. I think one of them does not even know what the Constitution is about, and the other doesn’t care.
If we shrug at public dishonesty — if we normalize candidates who think that grabbing power makes it okay to say whatever they need to in the short-term — then we will be changed by it. Given what we now know about them, choosing to vote for these two individuals is in some ways less about them than it is about us. I’m not sure how we come back from that.