At an early age we learn the power of words. We are warned against the use of certain invectives when describing our siblings. We are told in no uncertain terms that certain words have no place in our house. And most importantly, we learn how to use words to plead our case when we want something from our parents. Words, we learn, are one of the primary currencies of power. When combined with wealth they are an exceedingly formidable adversary. The use of wealth to promulgate words can create “new truths”. Sometimes these “new truths” have no connection to fact. Rather, they are rooted in opinion and wishful thinking. Listening to the “new truths” spouting from the mouths of the GOP candidates is like looking through Alice in Wonderland’s looking glass and hearing George Orwell’s Newspeak.
Let’s look at just a few of the more troublesome examples. The passage of laws in dozens of states that restrict access to abortion are always couched in terms that imply concern for and protection of women’s health. As we experience steady and positive economic growth, following the Bush disaster, we hear the candidates describe an economy that is in shambles. As state after state passes laws that limit access to the ballot box, they are described as protection against voter fraud. The ACA has created the lowest level of uninsured Americans in our history and has slowed the growth of healthcare cost at record rates. However, the candidates refer to this law as a disaster that is destroying healthcare in our country. As the candidates decry the chaos in Iraq and call on President Obama to do something, they abhor the thought of a major American military commitment that would include “boots on the ground”. The candidates are shocked by the gun violence that we seem to experience too regularly, but see no connection to easy access to guns and a lack of background checks. In a rather interesting twist, the candidates are opposed to the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage on the grounds that it is an encroachment on religious freedom. It is not even worth dealing with the nonsense that Trump has been shoveling for the past couple of weeks. However, what they all have in common is the lack of facts and truth.
Our attitudes are based on our values and our life experience. It is therefore possible to view an event or a problem and see it from two entirely different perspectives. But it is necessary to base those perspectives on fact, not fiction. Honest differences of opinion can and do exist. But the basis of those opinions must be anchored in the same sea of facts. To deny the facts and create a “truth” that is entirely based on opinion is fundamentally dishonest. It creates a fantasy land in which anything is possible as long as it conforms to the opinions of the land’s creator. The danger in this is twofold. First, it takes advantage of the ill-informed and keeps them ill-informed. What kind of electorate does that create? Second, it presents solutions to fictional problems and sustains Washington’s ability to remain incredibly irrelevant. For example, we know that the ACA is successful and providing healthcare and protection to millions. Yet the entire 2016 GOP class of candidates talks about the need to repeal it. This is, of course, after some 50 unsuccessful votes in the House over the past few years to achieve this. It is a solution based on fiction supported by the ill-informed electorate.
The role of money in today’s campaigns combined with the power of the word allows the candidates to present a looking-glass perspective using Orwell’s Newspeak. It is dangerous and corrupts our system of elections and governance.