A Romney aid famously said last week that the Republican Convention will not be controlled by facts or fact checkers. This was ironically one of the few truths stated at the Convention. I can not recall another political convention at which the veracity of the nominees speeches was so universally questioned. If you are reading this blog you are already aware of the many casualties of the truth found in those speeches. But it isn’t just the speeches at the convention that raise questions. It is the entire thrust of the Republican campaign that is of concern. The widespread voter suppression laws approved by Republican controlled state legislatures to solve a voter fraud problem that doesn’t exist is another example. It has been called a solution in search of a problem. The blatant lies in the TV adds and in the stump speeches are other examples.
I won’t take the time to discuss the disturbing question of the candidate’s character this raises. These are obvious. However, I do want to spend a few moments raising issues regarding our system of Presidential selection and the extraordinary availability of information. Never has there been a Presidential election process in which there is so much information available from so many sources. Never has there been a Presidential election process in which there is so much money spent on providing that information. On the face of it, we should be delighted that there is so much information available to the voter on which to base his or her choice. After all, Jefferson said that democracy is dependent on an informed electorate.
We have all heard the famous dictum that if you tell a lie enough times, people come to believe it. What if a recent Supreme Court ruling has made it possible for you to have unlimited resources both in outlets and funds to tell that lie? What if the science of communication through polling and focus groups, has helped to determine the best words and phrases to use in telling that lie? What if the desire to win supersedes all others? What if the targets of these lies are not very well informed of the facts, and are unable to differentiate lies from truths? That is exactly what the Republican Party is depending on. If that sounds cynical, it is. But it is not my cynicism, it is the cynicism of the Republican Party.
How can we confront this and fight it. That is the challenge of the upcoming Democratic National Convention and the campaign they run afterwards. Because there are so many information outlets today, they have become specialized, each with its own version of the truth. Newspapers have always had an editorial bent. But it was always obvious and taken into account. However, we now have numerous outlets trying to obliterate the distinction between fact and opinion. I am not suggesting any kind of control over the printed or spoken word. Censorship is not the answer. Knowledge is the antidote to lies.
I am concerned that our current electoral process has not kept up with the new realities of the information explosion. We need to work harder than ever to make sure that the despicable and cynical campaign being waged by the Republicans will prove to be a failure so that the integrity of our system is sustained.